I want the team to be called the Birmingham Battalion and their color scheme should be Army green, black and silver.
Right now I’m thinking Army green helmets, but then again, silver hats always look nice.
Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Birmingham today became the seventh city to land a franchise in the fledgling Alliance of American Football, joining Atlanta, Orlando, Memphis, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and San Diego.
It already introduced its coach (longtime NFL assistant Tim Lewis) but soon the team will need a name and colors and I’ve already provided those.
Of course more than that, the team and league will need a lot of luck, and about all I can do toward that end is send my well wishes, promise to buy AAF-branded apparel, and hope there are plenty of four-leaf clovers in their path.
The eight team league (there is one more franchise still to be named) will start play next February, the week after the Super Bowl. And for a Birmingham boy, this will be the sixth outdoor pro football team I’ll be able to call my own.
And I hope it beats the odds, because my hometown teams have had extremely short shelf lives.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
It’s no secret that the Birmingham Americans (1974) of the World Football League were my first and greatest love. As a 13-year old kid, I didn’t know it was a business – I thought all these guys loved me so much they wanted to show up at Legion Field and play for me whether they got paid or not.
Of course the WFL limped to the finish line that year, and even though the Americans won the World Bowl, the bloom was already off the rose by the time the season ended.
The WFL actually folded after its first season, but reorganized as New League Incorporated (doing business as the WFL) for 1975.
The Americans were replaced by the Vulcans, which had new ownership but the same colors and many of the same players. My dad even owned $25 worth of stock in the franchise, so I felt like a big shot.
I felt like less of a big shot when the WFL folded for good in October, 1975.
Then came the Birmingham Stallions (1983-85) of the United States Football League, a good team in what, in my opinion, was the best non-NFL league to be formed since the American Football League.
It had big names and big talent, and its spring schedule meant it didn’t have to go head-to-head with pro football’s ultimate juggernaut.
New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump convinced the other owners to move to the fall and put all the USFL eggs in an antitrust suit basket.
It won the suit, collected three dollars in damages, and never played again after July, 1985.
I like to think the USFL would’ve survived and thrived had it stuck to its original plan, but it was killed by stupidity. And once it folded, I was pretty jaded about leagues that didn’t have “NFL” as their acronyms.
Having been a New York Jets fan since I was seven, I figured I’d just stick with Gang Green the rest of my days and not get emotionally involved with any of these fly-by-night circuits that parachuted into the Magic City.
That didn’t mean I wasn’t curious – and sometimes even quietly hopeful.
By the time the World League of American Football (1991-92) came along, I was already working for a newspaper and actually covered the Birmingham Fire. Since the league was funded by the NFL I thought it had a chance, and it did live on for years as NFL Europe (and later NFL Europa).
But American cities were only around for two seasons and, quite frankly, it never captivated me. I don’t recall a single memorable game or performance.
Now when the CFL expanded to the United States and the Birmingham Barracudas were founded in 1995, I did allow myself to get excited. Not only was I a longtime fan of the Canadian game (with a rooting interest in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats), but the CFL was an established league.
I was sure its foray into the Lower 48 would be a great success and the Cudas – while sporting a ridiculous nickname – would give me a “home” team in the “Longer, Faster, Wider” circuit.
Except for the Baltimore Stallions (reborn as the Montreal Alouettes) the CFL’s expansion in the U.S. was a failure, and Birmingham was one and done.
And that was when I basically washed my hands of pro football in The Ham.
When the XFL came along in 2001 I didn’t care, and when the league folded after one season I still didn’t care. I covered the Birmingham Bolts but can’t say I particularly enjoyed it; I thought the league as a whole was a sleazy misfire.
Now, however, I’m retired from sports writing and have time – once again – to formulate kinships with teams.
So I’ll give the AAF a chance.
I’ll embrace its rule changes (no kickoffs, no PAT kicks) and trust that the league will stock its rosters with the best available talent.
And when AAF officials explain how this league will work even though all others like it have failed, I’ll listen politely and hope they’re right.
And then I’ll wait patiently for the announcement of the Birmingham team’s nickname.
I’m really looking forward to going to Legion Field and yelling, “Charge, Battalion, charge!”