AAF: First Impressions
Reaction to the new league’s Opening Night
*Listen to Three Point Stance Magazine‘s AAF show – FlipOff – hosted by Brandon Rush and Justin Day, every week on Anchor*
So with a split national audience on CBS, the AAF debuted to country full of football fans near and far who miss football season immediately after the Super Bowl ends. Two games into their inaugural season, here is my take on what I saw, what I liked, what I didn’t like, and where it can improve.
First off, lets talk about the product on the field. Honestly, I had a pretty good feeling as to what we were going to see in terms of player talent, television production and presentation, and the actual play on the field. So none of what I saw Saturday night surprised me.
What I Saw
Having spent almost a decade working in minor league football, its understood why guys are there. The players are fringe NFL guys who often times are training camp or preseason cuts, working back from injuries, victims of numbers at a position, salary cap casualties, or problem children who are their own worst enemy, all trying to prove they belong in the league. Breaking down the rosters when training camps opened clued us in to what we were going to see, and the play on the field mirrored that. Flashes of quality, but nothing that overly impressed.
Defenses are always ahead of offenses early in the season, and considering these players and play callers have only been working together for a month or so, terminology, timing, and just natural chemistry will be slow evolving. I fully expect Sunday’s games to be equally sloppy and inconsistent.
Pace of play was an adjustment for everyone involved. The 35 second play clock forced teams to turn playcalls over quicker, forcing teams into their huddles allowing less time for trash talk between plays. Despite that, there were not many delay of game penalties.
CBS hardly cutting away from the game, even during timeouts was a new twist. Rarely did we not see someone on screen in a helmet. Watching other leagues, you can forget what you are watching when you see the same Red Lobster or Bud Light commercial for the 27th time and flip away. With the picture in picture, you can’t forget you are in a game.
What I Liked
Compared to other start up leagues we have seen, XFL, UFL, The Spring League, etc., the AAF is leaps and bounds ahead of every other new thing we’ve seen in the last 30 years. The CBS game presentation, announcers, graphics were on point. The league’s branding, uniforms, everything, is better than some leagues that have been in existence for decades.
GETTING TO SEE AND HEAR the replay official conversate with the Referee was phenomenal.
The fans in attendance seemed to buy in. Announced figures were 20,191 in Orlando and 27,857 in San Antonio. Despite a rainy night in Central Florida, and the fans doing the wave inside the Alamo Dome when their offense had the ball, they seemed engaged and both fan bases went home victorious.
The officials let the kids play! Hard hitting, hand fighting downfield, no gift calls, no make up calls, no phantom holding penalties. Almost like its supposed to be.
The game is fun. The two point conversion is a new twist and far from automatic, and throws a lot of interesting math and gameplay into the mix when a conversion is missed. I did not miss having kickoffs, however I was hopeful we would get to see the onside conversion play. Hopefully Sunday.
Also, the stream of the game (for me was Orlando vs Atlanta) was very, very good.
What I Didn’t Like and where improvements can be made
Having live stats on your website and app is a must. We have become a spoiled viewer, and as a stat nerd myself, I need to know how the numbers stack up, in real-time.
Not having a live box score on your website and app is almost criminal. Those of us media who aren’t at the game don’t get the live stats, so that delays what we can write, publish, and share about the game. Thankfully to the rescue came NoExtraPoints.com, a fan created site, that had box scores up within 30 minutes of the conclusion of the game. As of publishing of this article, no major media outlet, team, or the leagues website had any of that information posted.
The idea of the predictor game in the app is fantastic. There are a ton of bugs to work out as at times was the app was a full play ahead of the TV broadcast (and up to 90 seconds ahead of the online stream). I knew what had happened on my phone before I did on my TV. Got to find a way to sync those up. Also, my predictor game didn’t work, curious to know if anyone else’s did.
Also, I was a little stunned there was no live stream or even a Periscope or Facebook live stream of coaches post game press conferences.
Lastly, no replays of games available online? Luckily I DVR’d the SA/SD game, but I like to go back to rewatch games a few times looking at certain matchups, trends, situations, play calls/design, and currently cannot find it anywhere. If the league is going to stream games, there should be an option to watch it any time.
All in all, it was a solid debut. Originally on twitter I gave it an 8/10, but after seeing the lack of info readily available after the game, I bumped it down to a 7/10.
I am all in on this league just as much as I am the NFL and CFB, so I am not going anywhere. I don’t think many diehards are walking away, but with a few tweaks, I’m confident the casual fan will stick around beyond this weekend.