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Hey! The NFL wasn`t so hot by Year 16

Dave Carlson
Thursday March 28, 2002

Recently the Kansas City Star’s Randy Covitz gloated that the NFL did not get further involved with the "rinky-dink sport of Arena Football."

This came after the NFL passed on its purchase option of up to 49.9% of the AFL. Included in the non-vote were comments made by established owners of the league, such as Pittsburgh’s Dan Rooney, who said, "I’m not convinced it’s football." New NFL expansion team owner Bob McNair proclaimed, "It appears to many of us that if it was going to catch on, it would have caught on by now."

The last comment seems particularly confounding. How has the AFL not "caught on?" Because it is not as big as the NFL? Because they don’t show five games a week on national TV? Obviously some of these owners are too entrenched in their own traditions to even entertain the possibility that other owners may enjoy an offshoot of their own sport and league. Heck, it may be in their best interest to get involved now -- while the getting’s good.

Some of these old-fart owners should remember when the NFL was in its infancy. It’s well documented that the NFL was considered the red-headed stepchild of the more accepted and popular college football -- at least until the 1940’s. In fact, the NFL went through even more growing pains than the Arena Football League has suffered. Here are some comparisons to that of the NFL, circa 1935:

  • Number of franchises playing during 16th season: AFL – 16, NFL -10
  • Franchises that had folded by the 16th season: AFL – 21, NFL – 45
  • Franchise city movements by the 16th season: AFL – 13, NFL – 3
  • Folded franchises and city moves combined: AFL – 34, NFL – 48
  • Total franchises through 16 seasons: AFL – 37, NFL – 55
  • Total teams to fold DURING a season: AFL – 0, NFL – 1

    Yes, I’m sure you all remember the Frankford Yellow Jackets, right Randy and Bob? They folded in 1932 in the middle of the season. Arena Football hasn’t had to go through that.

    The NFL probably wouldn’t have lasted five years in today’s market. They were able to grow, warts and all, during a time when sports media was barely a blip on the national radar, and sports commentators and editorialists didn’t have the far-reaching affect on fans’ thoughts as they do today. The fact that the Arena Football League has lived on through 16 seasons, despite national nay-sayers like Covitz, should be a testament to its drawing power -- not something that needs to "catch on."

    Who knows, maybe in the year 2069, the AFL will be a sport on or near par with the big leagues, and we’ll not even remember that it had detractors. I’m sure Rooney would laugh at that thought. But, I’d be willing to bet that any college football administrator who said he "wasn’t convinced the NFL was real football" in 1935 would have been surprised to see the NFL eventually lead the nation as the country’s most popular sport.

    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.
  • The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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