The Arena Football League’s death spiral has been delayed, a little.
With Twitter not renewing its deal to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games, the social-media giant will stream at least five Arena Football League games in 2017.
The new comes during the AFL’s 30th’s anniversary season, a season that has seen the league shrink to a mere five teams: Philadelphia Soul, Tampa Bay Storm, Baltimore Brigade. Washington Valor. Cleveland Gladiators.
The 50-yard indoor game, still played on green cement, has at times provided live reps for future NFL players like Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner. At most other times, not.
The league launched in 1987 with four teams, maxing out at 19 in three different seasons. In 2009, the AFL didn’t operate due to bankruptcy. But the league returned in 2010 with 15 teams. Eighteen played in 2011, and then the slide began — despite the arrival of celebrity owners like Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and Vince Neil (pictured).
From 18 to 17 to 14 to 12 to eight and now only five.
Maybe this minimum-of-five-games streaming package is just what the AFL needs. While the NFL badly could use a developmental league (especially since it abandoned NFL Europa a decade ago), the nation has a limited appetite for non-NFL professional football. From the NFL to college football to local high-school games, the saturation point has been reached.
On one hand, that’s a shame. On the other hand, it’s a reality that’s been baked in to the last four decades, as non-NFL professional league after non-NFL professional league has tried and failed. The NFL surely would operate its own minor league if it were deemed to be potentially profitable, and not a drain on the parent company’s primary product.
Here’s hoping the Arena Football League once again becomes a viable developmental option for the NFL. But as the saying goes, wish in one hand and do something else in the other and see which one fills up first.