Arizona’s AAF debut draws a sparse crowd


Three of the AAF’s opening games were played in cities that don’t have nearby NFL teams. One was played in Tempe, Arizona, which is only 10 miles from Phoenix. Which is where the NFL’s Cardinals play.

And hardly anyone showed up for Sunday night’s debut of the Arizona Hotshots. Of the four AAF games played this weekend, Salt Lake at Arizona was the only game for which attendance wasn’t announced.

I’m so thankful for the people who were here,” Hotshots coach Rick Neuheisel said after the game, via dead-bat-in-the-press-box-dodging Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “This was a hastily put-together deal. In terms of the marketing in the individual cities, that’s a relatively Johnny-come-lately deal. Hopefully, as the old saying goes, they’ll tell a friend.”

Well, Johnny-come-lately, there’s a new kid in town. To whom no one is paying attention. And that could have something to do with the fact that the town is already serviced by the NFL.

If so, that doesn’t bode well for the AAF’s Atlanta Legends, who were blown out in Orlando on Saturday night and who make their home debut in two weeks. It also doesn’t bode well for the XFL, which deliberately selected seven NFL cities for its eight franchises under the assumption that the existing NFL fanbase will translate.

In Arizona, it didn’t. And it may not get any better.

34 responses to “Arizona’s AAF debut draws a sparse crowd

  1. I live in Tempe and went to ASU, had season tickets for ASU and attended plenty of Cardinals games back when they were at Sun Devil Stadium. I’m literally minutes up the road and this is the first I’ve heard of this game.

  2. Cardinals don’t play in Phoenix. They’re about 20 miles away in Glendale. They’re also about 30 miles from the college stadium. That’s almost like saying the 49ers play in San Francisco. And when was the last time the Jets or Giants played in New York (Buf not incl).

  3. If anyone thinks that a league of players not good enough for the NFL will survive they’ve got another thing coming. Or maybe there’s an excitement based on the fact that the Pats are not in this league.

  4. rohinaz says:
    February 11, 2019 at 9:03 am
    Maybe the fan base will grow mr. Negativity


    That isn’t how business works. People check you out early because they are curious. If your early showing is weak it usually means that you won’t get much more chances to show off your product. If your product is weak you won’t bring back those that where curious. You watch these games? Tell me why anyone would tune in next week?

  5. I live in the Phoenix market. I listen to sports radio every day on my commute and I didn’t know there was a home game in town this week.

  6. The on-field product is not bad. To me, it’s more watchable than college. But I’m still not going to regularly watch it for the same reason I don’t watch pre-season games or the Pro Bowl. The games mean nothing. This isn’t a farm system for up-and-comers. Sure, one or two guys might get a shot, but they’ll be stuck in line behind a new crop of rookies who represent potential that these guys never had.
    Maybe a true minor league would be interesting, where players are already under contract with NFL teams, but there are other problems with that model.

  7. It is a bad idea to place a team in a market that already has an NFL team. I don’t understand why the AAF thought that would be a good idea.

    As a Philadelphia Eagles fan who resides in Utah, I am rooting for the AAF to succeed and become the Minor League feeder to the NFL but why they thought a team in an NFL market would draw fans is a mystery.

    Minor league baseball figured this out long ago: a AAA team wouldn’t succeed in a Major League market.

  8. If multiple people are commenting that they had no idea there was even a game being played in Phoenix, looks like the AAF/Arizona Hotshots shot themselves in the foot. If people don’t know you’re playing, they ain’t just going to show up..

  9. Baseball also returns to Phoenix with spring training starting in a week or so — more bad news for second tier football.

  10. kamthechancellor says:
    February 11, 2019 at 9:44 am
    Typical Arizona fans.>>>

    Typical Eh? Would you be speaking of the same “Arizona Fans” That have sold out every single Cardinals home game since 2006?

    It’s called a lack of marketing.

  11. Good point about it being an iffy proposition to put an AAF team in a city with an NFL team. The enthusiasm level in the other cities looked pretty high. And those cities are used to hosting minor league teams. Where I live it’s at least a two-hour drive to see an NFL game, but we can see minor league basketball, baseball and hockey locally. If we had an AAF team here (which we wouldn’t because we’re in the north), turnout would be very strong.

    I don’t know what kind of commitments the AAF has for stadiums, but the fact that ownership is at the league level, not the team level, means that they should be able to move teams to different cities pretty readily if they’re underperforming. But yeah, actually publicizing would help.

    The other thing is that the Arizona and Florida teams should be marketing to snowbirds and the folks who go to spring training baseball games. Until we ran into a scheduling problem, we had planned to go to Arizona to see some Cubs spring training games and an AZ Hotshots game.

  12. Don’t the Cardinals also have a history of marginal attendance? Why put a team in a market that doesn’t really care all that much about the NFL?

  13. I’m a little surprised. Like Florida, Arizona has a lot of wintertime residents. It seems a lot of area residents didn’t know there was a game. That’s shocking and a total lack of marketing. The AAF product is quite good and very entertaining. Time to step up to the plate Arizona. I also think you need to change the name of the team from ‘Hotshots’ to something more Arizona!

  14. Pro sports fandom in AZ is a joke. No one is from there. Nearly every game in every sport has more opposing fans than homes fans. Snow birds come to AZ and bring their rooting interests with them. Really bad choice to put a team there. Same thing happens in Florida and will happen in Las Vegas.

  15. Orlando was half empty also, I was there – they were giving kids free tickets at the local elementary schools (with adult ticket purchase). Which is the only reason we went. The presentation at the stadium was decent at best, as well. Our family decided it was “meh” and probably won’t go back.

    This is also not football season…fans DO get burnt out, and one allure of football is that FALL IS FOOTBALL. Diehards will watch and follow, but that’s not enough to fill stadiums year-round.

    The AAF announcement was successful, but since then it’s been all downhill and I don’t expect them to make it to Year 2. Which should give some of these players notoriety heading into NFL training camps and practice squads before eventually falling back off of those rosters and landing in the XFL next season.

    One reason the XFL may make it: Vince McMahon knows better than anyone that STARS sell. It’s what he does in wrestling. WWE is a machine that creates “Superstars” that bring eyes to TVs and puts butts in arena seats week-in, week-out. Their signing of Bob Stoops was a major indication that they understand this with the XFL also: this isn’t bribing Steve Spurrier, who can barely walk, back into football. Stoops was a major get. I think they’ll continue along that path, and I would be absolutely shocked if they don’t sign Tebow, knowing his star power…and maybe even Kaepernick. They know it’ll get people to watch, buy merch, and go to the big stadiums they’ve booked. I also think their branding and marketing will absolutely trounce the AAF’s, who really dropped the ball in promoting the start of this season in each local market.

    Anxious to see who their next coach/GM announcement ends up being. AAF is meh, but XFL gives us hope for entertaining spring football.

  16. I live 10 mins away from the stadium and didn’t know about it till I heard about the two games on saturday, even after that I had to go on the AAL website to figure out that there was going to be a game Sunday night in Tempe. If I had known about it at least a day before I would of tried to checked it out. There was zero advertisment here at least in the east valley.

  17. When I lived in Tampa, we all knew the Bandits could beat the Bucs. So did the Bucs, which is why they refused all offers to play that game for charity. I believe the Hotshots could beat the Cardinals just as handily.

  18. Because Arizona, an organization that struggles to get enough interest to sell out a playoff home game. 🤷🏻‍♂️

  19. cobrala2 says:
    February 11, 2019 at 5:27 pm
    Because Arizona, an organization that struggles to get enough interest to sell out a playoff home game. 🤷🏻‍♂️

    The Cardinals have sold out every home game since the current stadium opened in 2006.

    Living in Phoenix, I can tell you that while people here are aware of the team, there was practically zero marketing to let anyone know that there was a game this week.

    As for “Hotshots”, that name is about as Arizona as it gets. It is an homage to the 19 City of Prescott Firefighters (aka the “Granite Mountain Hotshots”) who died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.

  20. purpleguy says:
    February 11, 2019 at 11:47 am
    Don’t the Cardinals also have a history of marginal attendance? Why put a team in a market that doesn’t really care all that much about the NFL?>>>>

    Most of you who don’t seem to do much traveling from whichever cold places you live should research a little more. The Arizona Cardinals have in fact, sold out every single home game for the last 13 years. I doubt more than a handful of other NFL Franchises share that same sellout level. Phoenix is now the 5th largest city in the country, much more here than retired folks and cacti now Just FYI.

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