Jack Williams is a junior journalism major and writes “Sharp Around the Edges” for The Ball State Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Jack at email@example.com.
There’s no doubt that the National Football League (NFL) is the leader in all of the United States and world in American football. Bringing in the league is not only the biggest money maker in the country, but the world.
While the NFL owns the top spot in professional football, the secondary spot has been left wide open. There have been a few attempts to fill that void, such as the United Football League, Indoor Football League and many other who have tried, but failed. On the brink of a new decade, we are now in a situation in which two leagues are looking to complement the NFL as that secondary: The Alliance of American Football (AAF) and the XFL.
One is a well-established league focused on improving the sport. The other is purely there for entertainment and nothing else. While these two duel for the top spot, it is the AAF that has the credibility and values of a professional league that the XFL will never have.
Kicking off Feb. 9, the AAF has made its establishment in non-NFL cities. The league starts up right after the Super Bowl and runs to the end of April. The focus of the league is to complement the NFL, showcase local talent and form an alliance with the fans and the players.
The league is also led by former NFL players and coaches such as former Steeler Troy Polamalu, who is Head of Player Relations, and former University of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, who is head coach of the Orlando Apollos. Overall, those in charge know what they are doing due to their experience on top in the NFL and the NCAA.
The league has done well in attendance in the first week.The San Antonio Commanders packed in 27,850 at the Alamodome in the first week according to a from the San Diego Fleet. In response, the Fleet is looking to beat that number Feb. 15 at San Diego County Credit Union Stadium, the former home of the San Diego Chargers.
At a quick glance, it looks like the AAF could be a successful counterpart to the NFL.
Then you have the return of one of the biggest franchise failures in American history, the XFL – and that’s not an abbreviation. It’s just called the XFL. The brainchild of World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon, the league was active for one season before folding in 2001 due to bad football and bad entertainment.
Much like the WWE, the league was more focused on sex and violence than good football. , dangerous rules and accusations of staging were the XFL's specialty. Fans were not interested, ratings fell and the XFL was given the X.
Now, almost 20 years later, McMahon has announced that the XFL will be making its return in the winter of 2020, becoming a direct competitor to the AAF. While the league has gained some more credibility in hiring former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and advising from former NFL coaches in John Fox and Jim Caldwell, there is still some uncertainty as to if the league will succeed or not. The league has not really emphasized exactly what they are doing.
The issue that I have here is that you have one league who is the most serious contender we’ve seen for a NFL complement in years in the AAF. Then you have a reworking of a sideshow in the XFL challenging something good. The sad part is, I can see the XFL overtaking the AAF. The aspect focused more on entertainment and less on the sport has worked many times. The WWE has a huge following and so does the degrading Legends Football League, where women play tackle football in nothing but lingerie. The only example of sports entertainment that has done well without leaving a sour taste in your mouth is the Harlem Globetrotters.
While there are some rule alterations in the AAF, the dynamic is very similar to the NFL. Unlike the XFL, if it’s like the X of past, it’s going to be purely for entertainment and less about football.
In a time where concussions are a concern of the players and women hold a position of power in sports, there is no room for the violent and sexualized XFL. McMahon’s product in 2001 saw cheerleaders wearing little to no clothes on the sidelines and players risking concussion in .
Vince, if you’re looking to rival the AAF as an NFL complement, focus on the football and not so much on the experience. It may be a circus to go to, but in the end, it’s the product on the field that people come to watch.
For the fans, value your football. The AAF offers a quality secondary to the NFL, run by players and coaches who know what they're doing. If you’re looking for a game that’s more about cheerleaders, nicknames and violence, be my guest to the atrocity that will be the XFL.