The Alliance of American Football made its debut this weekend, filling a post-Super Bowl void for fans so eager for games that they’ll watch teams they know and care little about.
Go, team in red!
But the football actually wasn’t bad.
It was like those preseason NFL games when the regulars have been benched and scrubs are fighting for roster spots, and AAF players may be competing for the same reason.
“We could be the training ground for the NFL,” Bill Polian, a Pro Football Hall of Fame executive who’s a co-founder of the AAF, said during the new league’s CBS pregame show Saturday night.
That’s the Alliance’s hope, to become a developmental league for the NFL, “developmental” sounding better than “minor.”
1. It’s not just the players who hope this showcase will get them into the NFL someday.
One senses some of the rules — such as having no kickoffs or point-after conversion — are getting NFL auditions, perhaps not for next year but down the road.
The SkyJudge — a game official stationed in the press box to cover for badly missed calls on the field — and the openness with which replay reviews were handed were big hits.
Why shouldn’t the NFL let viewers eavesdrop on what the replay official and officials on the field are saying to each other?
2. The app’s a teaser.
The Alliance’s mobile phone app, which tracks all the players on the field — even for the coin toss — was nifty.
This potential precursor to a future in which bettors might be able to wager on what would occur next on a play-to-play basis was handicapped by the lag between real time and the TV broadcast. In time, however, it could be on time and then the AAF truly might have something.
3. Does ‘Moose’ season ever end?
Bears fans surely got their fill of Daryl “Moose” Johnston, the second-tier Fox analyst who worked three of their telecasts this season with Chris Myers.
Yet there Johnston was on CBS, being interviewed on the sideline of the AAF’s Battle of the Sans — the San Diego Fleet vs. San Antonio Commanders — by virtue of his role as the Commanders’ general manager.
So maybe that was Johnston’s problem on Bears telecasts this season. Perhaps he was distracted.
Johnston said it’s his hope to show he has the makings of an NFL general manager.
If so, Bears fans would love to see him land a job someday with the Lions, Vikings or Packers. Especially the Packers.
4. Tricks are not just for kids.
Coach Steve Spurrier’s Orlando Apollos scored off a Philly Special-esque reverse-pass play in their 40-6 victory over the Atlanta Legends.
The trick move on first-and-goal from the 5 was the perfect antidote to the NFL’s Super Bowl punt-fest a week earlier.
5. A hit in more ways than one.
One reason the AAF has given for not having kickoffs is player safety.
That seemed a bit less believable when San Antonio’s Shaan Washington blindsided San Diego quarterback Mike Bercovici, pancaking him with such force on the Fleet’s opening drive as to pop Bercovici’s helmet off and knock the ball from his hands.
NFL officials this past season almost certainly would have penalized Washington for such hit, but not even the SkyJudge registered an objection.
No doubt some viewers were sold on the AAF then and there with that hit.
Changing channels: Speaking of hard-hitting, former NBC Sports star Bob Costas opened up on ESPN’s “E:60” Sunday about his stance on the NFL and brain trauma and how it led to his removal as host of NBC’s Super Bowl coverage last year.
Costas, interviewed by Mark Fainaru-Wada, was unsparing about the relationship between the NFL and the television industry — not just NBC.
“It tells you who calls the shots,” Costas said, referring to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell declining an interview with him at the Super Bowl. “The only business arrangement I can think of where the buyer must continually flatter the seller is the sports TV business.
“We’re pulling a Brinks armored truck up to Park Avenue, Mr. Goodell. It contains the billions of dollars that we’re going to pay you for the right and privilege to televise your games. But if we’ve delivered them in a denomination that does not please you, we’re terribly sorry, we’ll back the truck up, and we’ll bring it to you in 20s and 50s if that’s the way you’d prefer it.’ ”
That’s what’s known as a money quote. In every way.