This is typically the time of year when most Americans put football in the rearview mirror. So far in February, however, the new Alliance of American Football is not allowing that to happen. It may have been a Week 1 fluke, but nonetheless the AAF on CBS beat a marquee NBA on ABC matchup (Rockets versus Thunder) in the TV ratings on Saturday night.
Charlie Ebersol's new league seems to be checking all the boxes on how to survive the early turbulence that sank the XFL in 2001 and the USFL over 30 years ago. They are trying to partner with the NFL, not compete against it, and they eventually want to become something of a farm league to Roger Goodell's behemoth. Many AAF games will be broadcast on NFL Network in the coming weeks.
The league also runs only 10 weeks, wrapping up before the thick of the NBA and NHL playoffs.
There are also familiar faces in the league to lure in the casual fan. Offensive gurus like Mike Martz and Steve Spurrier are finding new coaching lives in the AAF. Spurrier's Orlando team even ran the Philly Special play Saturday night in a 40-6 of Atlanta.
Sportsbooks across the country are already seeing a ton of action on the AAF, as bookies are just as clueless as you or I when it comes to wagering on the fledgling league. Ebersol and the AAF are well aware that more people bet on the NFL and college football than all other sports combined. They think they can take advantage of this little February gap in the traditional sports betting calendar.
"Two hundred million watch college and pro football compared to the 130 million combined that watch the other major sports," Ebersol recently told the NY Times. "We don't need to get all of those football fans to tune back in, but I like our chances of getting a significant chunk of them."