The modern incarnation of the United States Football League pulled off that rarest of feats; not only did the made-for-TV spring/summer circuit survive its inaugural season, it was renewed for a second.
In 2022 all eight teams were based in a Birmingham hub, so the Birmingham Stallions were the only squad that actually played in the city bearing its name.
The New Jersey Generals, Tampa Bay Bandits, Houston Gamblers, Michigan Panthers, New Orleans Breakers, Philadelphia Stars and Pittsburgh Maulers never once suited up in New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Houston, Michigan, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
This coming season there will be four hubs; Birmingham will host the Stallions and Breakers at Protective Stadium; Detroit’s Ford Field will be base camp for the Panthers and Stars; the Memphis Showboats (replacing the Bandits) will share Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium with the Gamblers; and home for the Generals and Maulers will be Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
Yep, fans in Ohio will be asked to cheer for a New Jersey and/or Pittsburgh-branded team.
While league officials plan to eventually get all teams in the actual markets they represent, I think that’s secondary in the grand scheme of things. The USFL is a television series as much as it is a sports organization, so its owner – FOX – is more concerned about eyeballs watching the TV production than fans watching from the stands.
Good Triple A football presented in a major league way resulted in solid ratings from first week to last, meaning this USFL might’ve cracked the code when it comes to building a sustainable alternative football league.
Thus, they gave future football league founders a blueprint for success. And the way I see it, if it’s possible to identify teams with a city, state or region without actually having them play in that city, state, or region, why not go galactic?
Therefore, I respectfully request that the next person/group/business/corporation/network that decides to jump into the sports startup game forms the Interplanetary League of American Football (ILAF), which will compete in a single Earth-based hub for its first few thousand years of operation.
Each of the eight planets in our solar system will have a team to call their own, and to save you all time and effort I’ve taken the liberty to select nicknames for them. Please give a warm, alt-football welcome to the Earth Wind & Fire, Jupiter Auroras, Mars Rovers, Mercury Messengers, Neptune Voyagers, Saturn Rings, Uranus Probes, and Venus Flytraps. (Ideally, inhabitants of each planet would participate in a name-the-team contest, but that’s at least a millennium or two away).
Keeping with the interplanetary theme, the hub should be placed in an area known for space travel. To that end I suggest Brevard County, Florida, home of Cape Canaveral. A quick Google search shows that Rick Stottler Field is located on the Florida Tech campus in Melbourne, so that should do.
It’s primarily used for soccer and lacrosse and seats only 750, but that’s not a problem. The key is getting people from around the globe (and eventually, beyond) to watch on their TVs or mobile devices.
Who should be the ILAF’s broadcast partner?
The USFL has the FOX and NBC family of networks, and XFL 3.0 will be beamed via Disney’s ESPN, ABC and FX. If you’re looking at traditional, “major” networks, then CBS would be the logical choice.
But I’m not logical, and I choose to stick with a theme.
Therefore, Pluto TV should televise all the ILAF games.
I mean, it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Pluto is a dwarf planet and the ninth-largest known object to directly orbit the Sun (and of course I’m referring to the trans-Neptunian object and not the network … the network is located on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, which is roughly 91.525 million miles from the Sun. I’m not sure about its square footage).
It’ll be fun to see Drew Barrymore do commercials for the ILAF, although Pluto advertisements tend to haphazardly break into programming. That could prove to be irritating, especially in the middle of a play.
The more I think about it, though, the more I think it could work.
Put together some good logos, uniforms and color schemes, and I guarantee people would snatch up T-shirts, hoodies and hats repping ILAF teams.
In addition, a league of planets lends itself to catchy slogans.
“Mars Attacks!” could tie in to both the 1996 Tim Burton movie and the high-octane offense of the Rovers.
Saturn could go with, “Saturn: We run rings around the competition.” A secondary theme might be, “Saturn: We stopped building cars so we could build champions.”
And T-shirts that proclaim, “Jupiter … it’s a gas, gas, gas,” and “They’re not Uranus, they’re OURanus” would fly off the shelves.
However, one big difference between the ILAF and USFL involves the timeline of franchise placement. I’m confident that if the USFL takes root, it’ll migrate to local markets. When it comes to moving ILAF clubs to their home planets, though, league officials will have no choice but to play the long game.
The desire to have the Rovers ply their trade in a domed stadium near scenic Olympus Mons must wait for colonization of the Red Planet as well as a combination of public and private funding for the venue. The holdup might be whether to use New Republic Credit (Star Wars) or Energy Credits (Star Trek) to pay for it.
And the temperature on Venus is anywhere between 820 and 900 degrees. Thus, just about all the Flytraps’ home games would have to be played at night.
Plus, Venus is more than 141 million miles from Earth, so that’ll make road trips exhausting for the Wind & Fire. It’ll be even worse if they try to cut costs and travel by bus.
Oh, and one hour on Mercury is equal to roughly 58 hours on Earth. You’ll want to stock up on plenty of beer and snacks for Messengers home games (and hope they never, ever go into overtime).
But we can worry about the minor details later.
For now, let’s concentrate on spreading alt-football hub love throughout our solar system.
And if the TV ratings are good enough, ILAF expansion in the Milky Way Galaxy might happen sooner than you think – possibly within the next 10,000 years.
Earth and Kepler-186f would be one heck of a gridiron rivalry.
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