Spring Football’s Influence is Growing
Historically, football fans dread the days and weeks after the Super Bowl. Pro football used to go through a major drought where there was little football available. Now, we are in a new era. Once the Alliance of American Football formed and played in 2019, the idea of post-super bowl games has become a reality. The XFL and USFL have each formed, and now they are playing in the spring. Fans are beginning to take notice if they haven’t already been following spring ball. While there may not be a true minor league for the NFL, spring leagues are showing that they can be a great second opportunity for players. As well, it provides year-round football for the fans to enjoy.
Brief Spring Football History
The idea of playing football after the Super Bowl is nothing new. The original USFL managed to do it for a few years in the 1980’s. They ran their spring seasons successfully, but the move to the fall killed them off. NFL Europe would play their seasons in the spring, but as with the other leagues in this section, it folded due to a NFL owners opting to focus the funds elsewhere.
Several small leagues popped up and promptly failed in the 1990’s to the early 2000’s including one backed by Bo Jackson that hardly received any attention. The original XFL played in the spring… and disappeared by the end of their first and only season. The Spring League played for a while, but didn’t pay players and had varying levels of success. The AAF flopped and didn’t finish a season, and the revived XFL was cut short by a pandemic outside their control.
Anyone looking on and seeing new spring leagues may think it cannot work seeing all these failures. Too bad they’d be wrong.
New Leagues Built to Last
The new United States Football League is looking to beat the expectations set by the previous spring leagues. Keeping costs low with a “hub system” and making a product for TV have been solid moves for the league, and Daryl Johnston has been clear: He wants a successful league for years.
The XFL similarly focuses on the future of spring ball by trying to keep travel costs as low as possible and using a modified hub model which had cut costs. This should help the league play football for as many seasons. The leagues want to keep playing and providing opportunity for players and fans for years. It’s pretty clear they have an eye on the future with the business models they have put forth.
Players are getting more opportunities to get to the NFL
Historically, once a football player got out of college, they only had two good options to play professionally on the gridiron. The NFL was, and always will be, the big shot. Everyone knows about it. 115 Million people watched the most recent Super Bowl, and players are getting paid big bucks. Even Running backs, whose salaries are declining, still make millions more than the average person ever will. The Canadian Football League has always been the fallback option for players not good enough to stick on an NFL roster. If you didn’t make it there, you’d be forced to play in the unstable world of arena leagues or promises of another gridiron league, and you’d be lucky to get film and looks from NFL level scouts.
But now, more than ever, there are opportunities for players as the main spring leagues nowadays provide players the chance to play in front of national audiences, and have more scouts and film shown to the world to see. Over 130 players have been signed and/or invited to NFL camps from spring leagues. It might not be an official minor league system, but players are being given another chance and running with it.
And I’m sure the players all felt like this when they got signed.
The Alternate Football Wars Won’t Kill Spring Football
One may look at the state of spring leagues and think there is too many. USFL, then XFL, and a whole lot of arena leagues. It can be a bit daunting to follow any of them on their own, but seeing all of them? You’d have to be a true football fanatic to follow them all. And seeing multiple on at once? Sheesh! You must pick one and stick with it!
That’s the concept of alternate football wars, most commonly seen between USFL and XFL fans. Some think it’s a sign of a merger, while others think it’s a reason to fight. Here’s what I’ll say.
It’s pointless. What’s the point of sticking to your league and wishing the other one fails? Sure, some people may not fully invest themselves into all the football, but I think it’s still awesome to see players with more than one option to continue their football dreams, and truthfully, it’s stupid to limit yourself to one league’s worth of football. And let’s be honest, the alt football world is going to survive with more than one league playing. I do think the scheduling sucks with both overlapping, but there isn’t a clear-cut solution in my opinion. Just enjoy the football.
2023 was a great season of football. The XFL returned and the USFL managed to get a second season. Other leagues have shown some staying power like the IFL, ELF, etc, and the CFL is only growing in popularity. The world of football can now exist outside of the fall, and we as fans should all be excited as possible for the future of spring football.
Or you could just end up missing a pro bowler like Kavontae Turpin.
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