When the Arena Football League kicked off its 30th season two weeks ago, there was plenty of uncertainty and questions about how a five-team league would operate.
But through two weeks, league has been a ton of fun, a good sign and a great start for a league and sport that badly needed good news.
When a league essentially loses half its teams, the first thing you wonder about is the quality of play. Will players come back to a league with only five teams, or will the new guys they bring in be lesser-caliber players?
Well, through two weeks the play has been really good, and the scores of the games have been insanely close. If anything, it’s almost like dropping to five teams made the roster spots more exclusive, and has elevated the level of play.
With only five teams and four games played through two weeks, it’s a very small sample size, but the average margin of victory has been 6.5 points, basically a touchdown and an extra point, which is no gimme in the AFL, separating the teams each night.
That’s a lot of fun, and a far cry from recent years where there were 2-3 teams who were head and shoulders above everyone else, and 2-3 teams who basically trotted out whatever players they could find in hopes of just making money off people showing up.
And the average score has been fun as well, roughly 51-45 through those four games, so not only are the fans in the arena and watching on TV being treated to close games, they’re seeing a ton of points put up as well, so there’s excitement from start to finish.
And for fans who want to see teams air it out, they’re in luck too, four of the five starting quarterbacks in the league are averaging 237 passing yards or more per game, while the league’s leading rusher has a total of 57 yards through two games.
But most importantly for the league, attendance is up big time this year. Through those four games the AFL is averaging 10,818 fans per game, up more than 1,500 from last year when half the teams were around 8,000 or less. Granted some of that is from the Washington Valor’s opening game where more than 15,500 turned out, but there was also a game in Cleveland that had to be rescheduled at short notice because of the NBA Playoffs, so it’s a legit number so far.
So to add it all up, fewer teams has made for more competitive balance, making for closer games that feature a ton of points, and maybe even more fans in the arena. It’s a good start for the 30th season of Arena Football, and maybe something the league can point to when trying to lure future teams.
Now, it remains to be seen if this will keep up, the Valor probably aren’t bringing in 15,500+ at every game, but they should top the league in attendance, but the expansion Baltimore Brigade have yet to play their home opener, where another big crowd should be expected.
Regardless, it’s a good start for a league that desperately needed it, and one that will hopefully keep fans coming in the arena and tuning in on TV, and maybe even lead to new fans and new teams down the line.