The Alliance of American Football is underway, and the early verdict is this: It’s pretty good.
The football was fun and fast-paced, they’re trying some new innovations like transparency on instant replay that might translate well to the NFL, the TV production was well done, the fans sounded like they thought they were getting their money’s worth, and, most importantly, it’s football at a time of year when we otherwise wouldn’t have any to watch.
The quality of play is comparable to the second halves of preseason games, with players who look like they’re about good enough to be on NFL practice squads. That might sound like a product you wouldn’t want to watch, but the players on NFL practice squads are better than most college football players, and tens of millions of fans watch college football every autumn Saturday.
The difference, of course, is that college football has a long history and tradition that makes those tens of millions of fans feel connected to it. The AAF doesn’t have that. But the fans in the two home stadiums, San Antonio and Orlando, seemed to be into it. The AAF will obviously have to grow its fan base, but the fans it has now seem enthusiastic.
Both home teams won the two premiere games on Saturday night, with the Orlando Apollos beating the Atlanta Legends 40-6 and the San Antonio Commanders beating the San Diego Fleet 15-6. Neither game was particularly close or competitive, and in both games we saw breakdowns on the offensive line and with quarterback-receiver communications that led to some shoddy offense. Fans like high-scoring and close games, and neither of the first two AAF games were that.
Still, this was a solid start. Saturday night won’t be the last time I watch the AAF.