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As many teams as we want

11.15.2007 by AndrĂ© Natta · → Leave a comment

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I sat down with a representative from the United Football League before I headed out on my trip to Las Vegas last week. It was an interesting conversation as we went back and forth about being from big cities and wondering just how the league would be accepted if we were awarded one of the eight charter franchises.

I brought up some of the challenges that would face the new league, most notably the league’s plans to play on Friday nights. Now, even though I am more inclined to wander into a high school basketball game than a high school football game to this day, I am the exception to the general rule that Friday night high school football rules the South – as well as Saturday college football.

The folks at the UFL are attempting to make it more about civic pride, about whether or not we want a team. With financial backers like Mark Cuban (who incidentally for Cub fans out there said that he was interested in buying the team when he spoke at the BlogWorld conference last week), the league could wait out long term overarching fan support if those in The Magic City decided that we could support two teams. Past studies have shown that we could support a pro football team here in town. You could have the two leagues duke it out to determine which one reigns supreme (yeah, it was an Iron Chef reference; so?)

There are a few other things to consider. Most of the professional sports teams that have worn the name Birmingham on their person did not fold due to lack of fan support. Many met their demise due to the lack of support that the league brand they were associated with received. That being said, is the city of Birmingham ready to support two professional football teams after having none for so long?

My belief is that it can support both teams, at least for a while (with or without a dome, though our mayor has promised that a facility will be built). The All-American Football League (AAFL), once a coach is hired, will be able to play on the emotional heart strings of Alabama and Auburn fans who feel that their favorite player deserved a chance to go pro but, for whatever reason, the opportunity never materialized. Playing in the spring means that they can immediately fill the void that normally exists after the bowl national championship and Super Bowl are played.

The UFL faces a tougher challenge if it plans to succeed in the Southeastern United States. The league cannot immediately play on getting young players to come out and watch since they are planning to compete with them for fans by playing on Fridays. You also face the problem of folks already planning to get in the car and drive to Auburn or Tuscaloosa probably not feeling like spending that kind of money two days in a row. Play on the heart strings of those without ties to Alabama or Auburn (both locals and transplants) and those without children old enough to play football and you have found the beginnings of a fan base.

Can it really be about pride? At this point, the only thing holding the city back is the city itself. The success of both teams will rely on the willingness of Birmingham’s citizenry to want to will it to be successful. This is something that we can control.

André Natta is the publisher and managing editor of The Terminal. To submit letters in response to this commentary or to contact for general information, use any of the methods listed on our contact page.

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