D.A.: The AAF's Supposed Bad News Is Actually Good

The AAF's opening month may not have been the smoothest ride, but every seemingly negative story was actually a reason for optismism, D.A. says

Damon Amendolara
February 28, 2019 - 1:30 pm

Skeptics would like to point to the Alliance of American Football's opening month and claim turbulence. News of the league enduring payroll problems, needing a $250 million infusion of cash, having its premier team forced into practicing in a different state, and being sued would appear to be all negatives. But the closer you look, the clearer it becomes. All of these stories are actually reasons for optimism. 

"The Glitch" will be Chapter 1 of the "History of AAF" book one day. After an opening weekend with impressive ratings that even topped the nationally televised NBA game, a bombshell threatened to undo all the AAF goodwill. An Athletic story cited an anonymous source, “Without a new, nine-figure investor, nobody is sure what would have happened. You can always tell people their checks are going to be a little late, but how many are going to show up on the weekend for games when they don’t see anything hit their bank accounts on Friday?”

This suggests doom and gloom for a start-up league, but the media was too quick to pounce on the easy, salacious story of immediate disaster. "Nobody is sure what would've happened" is far from a declaration that the new league was bankrupt. "How many are going to show up for games?" is a silly hypothetical. Four-hundred motivated, hungry players dreaming of their last shot at the NFL would never refuse to show up for their second game if their paycheck didn't clear. They would rather stay home than play in a league that just garnered major ratings and had national sports media leading their shows with it? It was unlikely-to-impossible these players would refuse to show up for Week 2. 

Voices around the AAF immediately had a theory. They wondered if XFL head Vince McMahon, a renegade that has built a career on slinging mud, leaked the idea the Alliance was going under. Arizona head coach Rick Neuheisel said, “This is a competitive environment we live in. There are other people out there that are trying to get a new league a year from now that are trying to try and create some negative publicity." Memphis president Kosha Irby read it as, "conspiracy meets coincidence." Irby knows the McMahon playbook all too well after working in the WWE. Add to this theory the XFL announced its biggest signing, Bob Stoops, in the days leading up to the AAF's debut, and subsequent hires every week since, and the writing is on the wall. The XFL feels threatened, needing to wait a full year as the AAF gains traction and its head start, and is trying to submarine the Alliance. You can just imagine McMahon angrily stomping his feet and cursing in his office at the good press the AAF was getting. I wrote about the great things the league reminded us we loved about football. Dirty pool has always been a McMahon staple. 

This is the greatest compliment you could pay the AAF, however. A sports and entertainment tycoon worth over $3 billion is feeling frustrated and threatened. Yes, the Alliance happily took Tom Dundon's $250 million investment. But again, this can only be seen as a positive. A self-made Dallas billionaire who had already bought into the NHL was willing to plunk down major cash to become a chairman of the AAF. Dundon cited the growth he had seen in the early weeks of the AAF, and while that might simply be PR spin, he saw enough to get involved. He's made his career on business acumen and solid financial decisions. He's great validation for the Alliance.  

It's less than ideal the league's best franchise is being forced to practice hours away from where it plays its home games. The workplace compensation bylaws the Orlando Apollos are trying to work around have been in place for years. Perhaps a more savvy, experienced league would be able to navigate them far in advance so a team isn't forced to deal with an embarrassing situation like this. But the fact that Steve Spurrier's team being pushed into Georgia became national news is again a testament to the traction the AAF is getting. Outlets like CBS Sports, Pro Football Talk, USA Today and SB Nation all reported on the story. Sure, perhaps there's some rubber-necking of a would-be crash. Everyone likes a good "DOH!" headline in their news feed. But a team needing to change where it practices in the G League, Triple-A baseball, or the AHL wouldn't register a beep on the sports EKG. The AAF makes news. 

Now there's a lawsuit launched by venture capitalist Robert Vanech against the AAF, claiming he was part of the original braintrust for the league's creation.  It's clearly an opportunist attempting to leech onto the success of a brand new league, because Vanech has had a full year since it was officially founded to bring forth the suit. Where was Vanech when the coaches were being hired last year? Or the teams were being announced? Or the TV deals were being struck? Vanech, the transparently pathetic grub that he is, chose to sue now, after nearly a month of football has been played. Sorry, no one is buying this. Vanech is the equivalent of the janitor throwing down ice, faking his own fall, and crying about a workplace malpractice lawsuit. We can see right through you, Bobby. 

It may not have been the smoothest opening month in football history, but every presumed bad story was actually a reason for hope in this spring league. The football has been better, the ratings have been stronger, and the interest has been higher than anyone could've predicted. When you've got people trying to take you down, you've already positioned yourself as a legitimate threat. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.