Monday, September 25, 2006

Football 101: aka "Can You Fight NFL Hall?"

Watching Monday Night Football again, mostly to see the return of football to New Orleans. Lots of emotion, and a great storyline to follow. As with Houston, football belongs in New Orleans, and I'm glad it's back.

Getting back on topic from earlier...

The first thing a new league would have to do is establish its size and first-year cities. With a new league, I think you've gotta go after a combination of big media markets and cities that will be likely to pack the house - not one or the other. Also, you've gotta start off manageable in size - ironically, that's one of the few things the XFL did well, since they had just 8 teams to start. 8 is a good number. I like it - it's even, and it's an easier number of teams to maintain financially without worrying about a bunch of teams going bust (which other leagues, like the USFL and Arena Football League, have been plagued with).

So here's where I go football dorkish (too late). I'm going to drop a list of ideas for cities for this new league, along with available stadiums in said cities. I'll group 'em in two categories, those with stadiums that don't have football (Definites) and those that could have football, but already have teams (Maybes). Here we go:

New York - Shea Stadium
Washington - RFK Stadium
Portland (OR) - PGE Park
San Antonio - Alamodome
Houston - Astrodome
Dallas - Cotton Bowl
Birmingham - Legion Field
Orlando - Citrus Bowl
Detroit - Tiger Stadium (Yes, I know it's getting torn down. But not yet.)

Los Angeles - LA Memorial Coliseum/Rose Bowl/Home Depot Center
Miami - Orange Bowl (U. of Miami (FL))
Boston - Alumni Stadium (Boston College)
Atlanta - Bobby Dodd Stadium (Georgia Tech)
San Francisco - AT&T Park (*)
Las Vegas - Sam Boyd Stadium (UNLV)
Nashville - Vanderbilt Stadium (obvious)
Memphis - Liberty Bowl (U. of Memphis)
Chicago - Ryan Field (Northwestern)
Philadelphia - Franklin Field (Penn)
Cincinnati - Nippert Stadium (U. of Cincy)
Seattle - Safeco Field (**)
Salt Lake City - Rice-Eccles Stadium (U. of Utah)
Louisville - Papa John's Cardinal Stadium (U. of Louisville)
San Jose - Spartan Stadium (San Jose State)

(*) Yes, I know Name-Of-The-Week Field is a ballpark. As in, a baseball park. But it hosts a college bowl game, the Emerald Bowl, every year. So it's possible.

(**) See above. Safeco Field hosted a bowl game once too - the Seattle Bowl - though it doesn't anymore.

Plus, assuming this league doesn't get off the ground for a couple of years, you've got a couple of NFL stadiums that'll be opening up as their teams move into new digs:

Indianapolis - RCA Dome
San Diego - Qualcomm Stadium
Minneapolis - Metrodome

(Giants Stadium and Irving Stadium are both getting torn down once the new stadiums get built, so they're out)

So there ya go. The next thing is to get a big-buck TV contract, which is a lot harder than you'd think. The NFL has done a really good job of locking down all of the major network media companies in some way through their TV packages - CBS has the AFC (mostly), FOX has the NFC (mostly), NBC has Sunday Night Football, and Disney (ie, ABC's parent company) has Monday Night Football through ESPN.

ABC might want to get in on the football game on Sundays, though, to add on to their sports profile. (It's worth mentioning that the reason why they dropped MNF was because of the NFL's price tag and TV programming politics, not because they weren't interested in football.) For the right price, a new league could get them to buy in to a two-game package, with games set up by region (sorta like FOX's Saturday MLB game). Then you get a cable network (ie, Spike TV, TBS, or Versus) to do a Sunday night game and maybe a Thursday night game.

Easy? No, but it could be done. Question is, would the cash from that be enough to keep a new league going? I don't know - leave that to the accountants. But the fan support would be there.

Someone needs to do this, before the NFL makes sure it won't happen.


At September 26, 2006 9:04 AM, Anonymous Mediocre Fred said...

I'm assuming this isn't a spring league? If you're going head-to-head with the NFL, I'm not sure how you plan to gain traction in cities where the NFL already has teams. Are people going to click away from the NFL to watch a second league? Well, I would.

In order for this to work, I'd privilege cities that don't already have teams (since it would be easier to get a foothold there). Here's what I'd try:

New York (because you have to)

Los Angeles
San Antonio
Las Vegas

This league alignment is weak in the northeast, so if you wanted to leave off, say, Birmingham or Orlando and add Columbus (Ohio Stadium) or maybe even Philly or Detroit, I wouldn't argue.

If your proposed set-up looks different, I'm all ears.

I really like the idea of going after broadcast contracts on networks like Spike and Versus. I think this league (particularly if it played up the hard-hitting/hyper-macho angle) would sell well to those audiences. Instead of the "No Fun League," how about a league that allows you to wear your socks any way you want, and encourages creative touchdown celebrations, instead of fining them?

At September 26, 2006 10:59 AM, Anonymous Mediocre Fred said...

Oh, and about the XFL: Much as I loathe Vince McMahon and his wrestling enterprises, his idea for a football league wasn't all bad. The city mix was pretty good (although the team names were dumb), the hype and gimmickry generated actual attention (a must for any start-up league), the central ownership model was smart, some of the rules changes (like the switch to college-style OT) were good ideas, and the bizarre only-in-the-XFL flourishes (like having a sitting governor - okay, Jesse Ventura - do game commentary) will make for a great book, if it hasn't already.

Where the XFL failed was in the quality of play (and the fact that McMahon alienated traidtional football fans by being, well, himself). That's always going to be a problem for a second football league. With 32 NFL teams, NFL Europe, the CFL, and the college system... where's the talent base coming from?

At September 26, 2006 6:36 PM, Blogger B.C. said...

Definitely not a spring league. I think a major reason why leagues like the USFL and WFL failed is that they tried to dance around the NFL by playing in the off-season (when most people don't care about football - ie, 0:01 seconds after the Super Bowl) instead of challenging it head-on. In one way, there's more risk because you risk angering the NFL and getting them to fight a marketing battle against the new league (with lots of resources). But in the other, you have a larger fan base to pull from, and more potential for a big-buck TV deal.

I'll get to city choices and the TV deal in today's post.


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