The inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) begins on Saturday, Feb. 9. The new professional league, which is a re-launch of the now defunct XFL, will feature eight teams playing a 10-week schedule and culminating in championship game in April. The Alliance is not only the latest pro football league to attempt to fill the void left by the NFL during its off-season, but it’s also the first such league with no connection to any previous incarnations. That being said, there are some interesting parallels between this new league and one from way back when: The Birmingham Stallions of the original CFL from 1993 and 1994. While it’s true that every incarnation of pro football eventually failed once and for all, what remains so fascinating about these failed leagues are all those crazy characters who came along with them. From Bo Jackson’s return to the gridiron with an indoor team to Vince McMahon’s ridiculous antics on national television as he almost singlehandedly killed off his own creation; there have been plenty of memorable moments in pro football history that we may never see again. But for now, let’s take a look at why you should be watching the Birmingham Stallions right now…
The Game is Changing, Fast
One of the most promising aspects of the AAF is that it’s not attempting to just be a feeder league for the NFL, but a true competitor in its own right. While franchises such as the Orlando Apollos, Salt Lake City Stallions, and Atlanta Legends may have recognizable names, the league is not trying to use these as a means of nostalgia and a crutch. This league is not only featuring younger players, but also more players who just missed making it on the big stage. Case in point: The Birmingham roster features players such as running back Trent Richardson, defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, and wide receiver Chad Johnson. There are also plenty of players with great stories who are just trying to get another shot in the NFL like defensive lineman Eric Lee (who played for the Patriots in 2016), defensive lineman Gabe Holmes (who played for the Giants between 2016 and 2017), and fullback Roosevelt Nix (who played for the Steelers in 2016).
This Could be a Great Showcase for Talent
One of the great things about football is that it showcases a variety of skills and talent, from running to throwing to kicking to blocking and tackling. With that being said, the NFL has long had a reputation for being a league that is not very friendly to certain types of players, especially ones who aren’t a certain size. This league allows players like the aforementioned Trent Richardson and Chad Johnson who are incredibly talented but simply too small to play in the NFL to still get their shot at a professional career. It also allows players with unique skills such as wide receiver Demarcus Ayers (who is the league’s only player who also played in college in the state of Alabama) to showcase their abilities that normally would be overlooked.
It’s A Good Chance to Support Football in a Dark Time
One of the craziest aspects of the AAF is that it’s premiering on the heels of the most contentious CTE report ever released. The report, which found that 99% of deceased NFL players’ brains had the degenerative disease, was a devastating finding that could mean the end of the sport as we know it. Whatever the findings of the report, football is now in a very dark place. It’s hard to recommend that your child play the sport. It’s hard to ignore the headlines and the downward spiral the sport is on. This league, though, is not just an exciting new chapter in pro football history, but also an opportunity to show support for a game that has been a part of our culture for decades. There is a good chance that this league will provide a good outlet for kids to play football. There is a good chance that this league will allow players to showcase their talents and earn a decent living without the looming threat of CTE. There is a good chance that this league could rejuvenate football in the American conscience.
This is Going to Be Good Football
Another important aspect of the AAF is that it’s being helmed by people who actually know what they’re doing. People like Bill Polian, the former general manager of the Buffalo Bills, will be crafting the game’s rules and regulations to ensure that the league is being played the right way. The league will be using a modified version of the Canadian Football League’s rules, meaning that there will be no kickoffs, two point conversion attempts after touchdowns, and a 12 players on each side of the ball on the field at all times (as opposed to 11 in the NFL). Another thing to keep an eye on is that the ball will be slightly larger than an NFL ball, which could lead to some interesting seams on the ball and a different flight pattern on kickoffs.
The Birmingham Stallions are going to be a fun team to watch in the AAF. They have a good blend of veteran talent and some exciting young prospects, and it will be interesting to see if they can parlay that into some wins. It’s hard to say how this league will be received, but for now it’s safe to say that it will be a breath of fresh air at a time when football is under fire than it’s ever been before. The AAF is not a league to simply be a feeder to the NFL. It’s a league that’s here to stay, and it could be the start of something great.