If the AAF Folds, Spring Football Will Never Successfully Happen Again
Maybe Spring Professional Football isn't as good an idea as we all thought?
The first of two Spring Pro League's to start play, the AAF has had a really difficult season one and it isn't even over yet.
After a successful Week 1 in February, when the TV audience surprised most observers and the league itself, things have been---well, a bit rocky.
Week 2 began with headlines the league needed a heavy dose of cash from an investor---they found one when Tom Dundon stepped in and made a huge investment and summarily being named the Majority Owner of the league for it.
The cash was needed to meet payrolls and other expenses for league employees, including the players.
Now comes word from Dundon, the league is in danger of folding if the NFL Players Association won't allow NFL Practice Squad and fringe players from participating in the AAF.
Part of the league's premise was that of a "Developmental" program for the NFL. Essentially Dundon says the league wants to be the equivalent to AAA in Baseball.
The NFLPA has concerns however, and I do understand them. The Union says they want to limit the injury/health risk to NFL players. If a player gets injured in an AAF game, they likely are out for the NFL season. Also, it's one thing to play a 16 game NFL season, it's another to play another 8 full games.
Remember the NFL has been slowly ramping down the amount of contact and practice time for years, this would for certain players completely shoot that out of the water.
There is middle ground here and I suspect by speaking out, Dundon is trying to push the NFLPA in that direction.
But what does this say about viability if the AAF is already threatening to fold? And what does this mean for the XFL which is supposed to start in the summer of 2020?
If the AAF can't make it as a surrogate league for the NFL, how is the XFL going to survive with even fringier players?
How do you justify 8-10 teams of 40-50 players making $50-$100K each, never mind staffing and operational costs if you don't have a big TV contract and multiple sponsors? How many people actually will stop their Spring Weekends to sit in front of a TV to watch an AAF or XFL game? How many would pay to go see them play in person?
Football has been the most popular game in America for a long, long time. Between the NFL and College, it dominates headlines and TV ratings and has for a generation. Clearly the audience is there in the fall and winter. There's never been a question about it.
The NFL has tried for a long, long time to keep themselves in the headlines and conversation year around by making the Combine a big, loud, hype-fest, the Draft at the end of April keeps the attention of talking heads for months---dare we say year around. And when the Draft ends, OTA's and other acronyms relating to practice begin.
Which leads us back to the question at hand....is there space for more Professional Football? Or should there be more space.....
The answer isn't that simple.
The NBA and to an extent Major League Baseball have their own audience which impact NFL headlines and compete agains the "Spring Leagues". That's a problem.
Talent and depth is a bigger issue as there are only so many guys capable of playing watchable football.
I guess what I'm saying is this: In MY Opinion, there is not enough room for the AAF and XFL without a tie in to the NFL. The XFL will never do that as Vince McMahon will never bow to Roger Goodell. Ever.
The AAF is the best idea of the two easily. However the costs don't necessarily make it viable. And at the end of the day, that's going to be the problem. Too much cost, not enough return.
And it means we'll be talking about the AAF and XFL in the past tense sooner rather than later.