Cameron's Commentary: Arena football comeback could prove difficult in recession
Back in 2008, the Arena Football league was truly the fifth major sport. It had an ESPN contract, a 13,000-plus average attendance across the league (which is better than Texas State’s), 17 stable franchises and more than 20 years of credibility.
Too bad it was swimming in debt. Reports confirmed former commissioner David Baker put the league in debt because he tried to make it a fifth major sport, when in reality, that’s just not what it was. It was a fan-friendly sport that brought football closer to middle-class eyes.
The AFL is now gone and with it are all the coaching, player and arena staff jobs in the league. But it’s trying to make a comeback.
Arena Football 1 is 2010’s attempt at rejuvenating the diehard arena football fan base. Many people believe arena football could potentially be the answer for the NFL minor league situation.
However, the minor league possibility is a long way away. For those who say the United Football League is the answer, light blue, bright green and silver will never draw in a terrible four-team league.
Some people, including myself, thought arena football could make it as a college sport for all the players who didn’t make the football team. I still believe it can.
However, the economy is killing the sport. To take a chance on a brand new league, you have to invest money, which no one wants to spend right now. It is just a bad time for arena football and the fan base is fading fast. The AFL offered jobs, talent and something a family could do on a Saturday night. It offered entertainment where you least expected it. It offered sports dreams that many football players thought they would never have again. College-cut players found their home on teams and stars were made famous in sports history. Four players from the Southland Conference made rosters in 2009.
Celebrity owners brought the league down as well. Jerry Jones, Jon Bon Jovi, Bernie Cosar and John Elway were the main figureheads. They were just another “black hat” that did not want the AFL to play and try to get out of debt in 2009. It was a business for them — not a hobby.
But arena football is a hobby for most people and that is when it succeeds — when owners invest in a team, not because they want to make money, but because they love the sport. However, the days of finding people like that are over (thank you to all the people who put the United States in a recession).
The AFL had been running longer then the MLS. What’s sad is not many people knew about the league. Teams like the Philadelphia Soul, the New Orleans Voodoo, San Jose Sabercats and the Chicago Rush had some of the most proud fan bases in sports history, but no one knew.
Rest in peace, arena football. We hope you make a comeback. I just wish you would have never tried to get the name out and just let it get out by itself. If I ever win the lottery, I’ll be ready to invest in my team for the love of the game.