Washington's introduction first step to "Make the AFL Great Again"
The city of Washington D.C. is known for its politics, so it's only apt to make a political comparison on the day Washington AFL officially became a thing.
Donald Trump is very likely going to win the Republican nomination for the POTUS by running on the premise that he's going to "Make America Great Again." It took over a year of being on the job, tons of vetting of poor ownership groups and teams which just didn't fit with the best model going forward and a lot of criticism, but with Wednesday's announcement of Ted Leonsis and Monumental Sports & Entertainment officially joining the Arena Football League family, Scott Butera can finally stand at the top of the AFL's equivalent of Capitol Hill like a man who just won his first state primary and proclaim that the first step has been taken to "Make the AFL Great Again."
The casual observer of the AFL can't be blamed for seeing nothing but doom and gloom on the eve of the 2016 season to kick off here in a couple weeks. The San Jose SaberCats are no more. The Portland Thunder have been assumed by the league and rebranded into the Portland Steel. The New Orleans VooDoo and Las Vegas Outlaws are now things of the past. The Spokane Shock left the league, rebranded and became the Spokane Empire of the IFL.
It's hard to see how all of that could be construed as a good thing. It's true that Butera probably never envisioned losing four teams in his first full offseason on the job while having to take over a fourth team, but he knew all along that this ultimately a part of the plan. The vetting out process might not totally be complete, but finally, after around a year of hearing that the future of the AFL is having NBA and NHL owners owning teams across the country, we have a man in Leonsis who owns both now amongst the AFL's elite.
And kudos to Butera for not feeling rushed to make this announcement and to make the Washington TBDs to play this season. The Jerry Kurz era will largely be remembered for failed teams, but almost all of the failures, particularly in the last couple seasons, came from teams being rushed into play that had no business kicking off when they did. Granted, nothing was saving that disaster of a situation in Sin City, but had the Outlaws waited until 2016 to play, they might've ultimately been salvaged with a full year of help from Butera and his staff.
There are still dominos to fall into place for sure. Washington D.C. can't be the only new market in the AFL if this league is going to sustain itself, but no one believes that this is the end. There's still a question as to whether the Trail Blazers will ultimately buy the Steel and whether Vivek Ranadive will make the jump to purchase a team in Sacramento. The San Antonio saga has been ongoing for quite some time, and it's anyone's guess when we're officially going to hear more details about a deal with Univision in Mexico with at least one, if not two or three new teams south of the massive wall Trump might ultimately really put up one day between the U.S. and Mexico.
(Hey, admit it. You never thought that Trump would ever get to the point that he actually will probably win the Republican nomination.)
Many of the old AFL fans who loved this league prior to the 2010 re-launch yearn for the day where virtually all of the league's games were on some sort of television, and attendance under 10,000 at a game anywhere across the country was considered to be a disappointment.
There's still no guarantee that the AFL is going to get over the hump and truly become a national sensation once again, but this is certainly the first tangible step in the right direction for fans and Butera to hang their hat on.
If the C. David Baker days were known as the AFL v1.0 days and the Jerry Kurz era was the AFL v2.0, we could very well look back at the day the Washington TBDs came into the league as the start of yet another newer, brighter era for the sport of arena football.