Hey Commish…Explain This…
First, some positives….
EA Sports: The video game from all accounts seems to be a vast improvement over the Midway debacle from five years ago. In fact, if you’d believe the AFL’s revisionist history (and as we all know, they are an expert at revising their own history) via the articles being written about the game, there wasn’t even a game five years ago, as most of the articles state this is the League’s "first video game". Something about a tree falling in a forest and nobody (or next to nobody) around to hear it I guess.
In any case, the EASports.com website has the AFL game at the top of their front page, which is giving the League great exposure among the young, hard core sports/gaming fans that EA Sports caters to. Just getting the game up there is good to spur some people to bring back the sport into their consciousness. Maybe getting a little "Watch week 1 on NBC" blurb below the graphic would help out too.
Sports Websites: Apart from us at ArenaFan, who you know will be covering the AFL with gusto, the sports websites offerings are sparse. A few stick out as doing more than the rest. Most surprisingly are the guys at CBS.SportsLine.com. They actually have the new teams listed on the AFL teams page, and "Arena Football" is the top option under the "more" menu on their main menu bar.
Then, the negatives….
So, why is something as simple as getting the teams listed correctly two weeks before the season begins such a big deal? It’s because, just about every other website has not done this yet.
Now, this is to be expected from websites without any connection to the League (which is why CBS’s website getting it right seems even more amazing). Yahoo, SI.com, and ESPN.com all have either no AFL sections or still reflect last year’s teams.
What you shouldn’t expect, and should be demanding some answers from the League about, are why NBC and FSN’s sister websites so shoddy about the AFL only two weeks before the season begins? It’s not like the AFL needs to be demanding NFL level, or even NHL level coverage. Just something that shows they exist.
Let’s start with NBCSports.com. In 2003 when the partnership began, NBC had some heavy promotion with the AFL on their website. Fast forward to today; the League has nothing on the front page, or directly on the menu. In fact, all that you will find are a few links under "Other Sports", including one which brings you to a drop list of teams from the 2004 AFL season. That’s TWO seasons ago. Yes, the writing seems to be on the wall to many that NBC might be on their way out, but, the League still should be trying to get some action from their partners.
Speaking of that, now we go to FoxSports.com, which as far as anyone can remember, has NEVER had an AFL section on their website. This, despite the fact that even before the official FSN deal last year, more than a few FSN’s were covering AFL teams. And since last year, the AFL has an official working deal with FSN, including the AFL Weekly program. You would think as part of this, FOXSports.com could acknowledge the League with a simple AFL area containing standings, schedules and stats.
The League’s website doesn’t get off scot-free here either. For some reason, they have been very tight lipped on their website about the TV schedules, even though the magazine has the NBC schedule in it and various FSN dates have been found online in various sources. So, the schedules are obviously available to be promoted. True, the NBC schedule this year is probably something that can’t be heralded as in the past, but, it’s what you got, so, you might as well promote it.
The Commish has always been a great ambassador for the AFL in trying to expand its horizons. The increased exposure with NBC, EA Sports, and ties with people like Mike Ditka, John Elway, Jon Bon Jovi, Tim McGraw, and others have brought more attention to the League. He has always had his first foot forward in promoting the game to newcomers. Hopefully, he can take a tiny step and address some of these other issues for the "old timer" fans as well.
Dave Carlson is the Technical Director of Arenafan Online. Dave graduated with a degree in Computer Information Systems, and has been a member of the Arena Football Internet community since 1991. He is currently a professional web programmer, and has a history in programming sports statistics. Dave is married and lives in Indiana.