Dude’s Update On Pro Sports Return

Okay so are the professional sports league going to finish their seasons or not? Since the COVID-19 pandemic caused professional sports leagues to stop playing, the speculation has been when and if the leagues were going to play again. Now that we are nearing July 4th, we wonder when they will start.

If I have to be honest with you, at this point and with the COVID-19 numbers spiking once again, I would rather that leagues not try to finish their seasons and just wait until next year. Regardless, here are the latest updates:

Major League Baseball (MLB) is finally set to begin a 60-game schedule to start the end of July. The schedule will feature 40 games within the division and 20 inter league games against teams in corresponding regional divisions. The league has given each club the permission to decide how they will manage fans to coincide with local restrictions. The restart of “spring training” has already begun. It was also announced this week that MLB cancelled all minor league seasons in 2020. The league also ruled that spitting will not be allowed.

National Hockey League (NHL) is set to open training camps on July 10th. The league is planning to restart with a 24-team tournament to be played in two “hub cities”. The latest word was that Toronto and Edmonton were being considered as the hub cities.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is planning to revive their season with 22 teams playing in Walt Disney World with no fans in attendance. The spike in COVID cases in Florida has raised some concern but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is still comfortable with the league’s plan to restart the season. There have been reports that NBA players will wear smart rings which will monitor their temperatures and other vital signs to ensure safety of their players.

Major League Soccer (MLS) is set to start playing again with what they call “The MLS is Back” tournament beginning July 8th in Orlando, Florida. Just this week, six players from FC Dallas have tested positive for the coronavirus. Teams will participate in group play much like they do in the World Cup.

The pandemic is already impacting the start of the National Football League (NFL). The league cancelled the Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers which was scheduled for August. The league also cut down the preseason schedule from four to two games. There are still talks of shortening the regular season.

College football has been weighing their options but nothing has been decided. Players from Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee and other major colleges have tested positive. Coaches are navigating these issues while trying to prepare for the upcoming season. The season is still scheduled to begin on August 29th. There has been some talk of pushing the start of the season to February of 2021. I’m not sure about that one.

While we have been deprived of our professional sports teams, sports is really not the most important thing right now as the nation finds itself fighting the rise in coronavirus infections. Leagues shouldn’t return to playing just to play but do the smart thing even if it means they might not play at all. The end of the official seasons for the NBA, NHL or MLS shouldn’t be cheapened by some thrown-together tournament. Whoever wins the championship will be tagged with an asterisk anyway. As much as I love sports, let’s just hit the restart button when a full season can be played.

Are You Watching The Pro Bowl?

pro bowlYeah, I know how funny that sounds.

The Pro Bowl.  The worst all-star game of major professional sports.

In case you don’t know, the Pro Bowl is the National Football League’s all-star game which features the best players not participating in the Super Bowl playing for their conference.  It is usually as exciting as watching kittens play football.

The NFL has had a problem with what to do with their Pro Bowl game.

The first official Pro Bowl was played in January 1951, three weeks after the 1950 NFL Championship Game (between 1939 and 1942, the NFL experimented with all-star games pitting the league’s champion against a team of all-stars). Between 1970 and 2009, the Pro Bowl was usually held the weekend after the Super Bowl. Since 2010, it has been played the weekend before the Super Bowl. Players from the two teams competing in the Super Bowl do not participate.  Between 1980 and 2016, the game was played at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii except for two years (2010 and 2015).  On June 1, 2016, the NFL announced that they reached a multi-year deal to move the game to Orlando, Florida as part of the league’s ongoing efforts to make the game more relevant.

More relevant?  Now that’s funny.

The advantage for the players is that they will get an additional $74,000 for winning the game and $37,000 if they suffer the embarrassment of losing the game.

In the first Pro Bowl played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1951, the American Conference defeated the National Conference 28-27.  Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Otto Graham was the game’s most valuable player.

Since the AFC-NFC merger, the AFC leads the series 24-22.

Again, who cares?

Well the NFL tried to change it up from 2013-2015 when they scrambled it up with former players picking their teams.  That was a mess.  We cared less about Team Rice beating Team Sanders or any other teams.

So what can be done about the Pro Bowl.  I have a few ideas of my own:

#1 – Don’t play the Pro Bowl.  It’s the worst all-star game so just end it already.  Put it out of its misery.

#2 – Bring back the “Playoff Bowl”.   The Playoff Bowl was a game played from 1960-1969 between the teams they lost in the playoffs before the Championship or Super Bowl.  Some called it the losers bowl and hated it.  I think it might be a good option and make it where the proceeds from the game is donated to a charity or disaster relief needed at the time.  For instance, this year this would be the Green Bay Packers playing Tennessee Titans.  Hey, it’s better than the Pro Bowl.

#3 – NFL vs. College All-Stars.  Put the best of the NFL against the best players from college football.  This is probably not going to happen since college players don’t want to risk injury and their chance of playing in the NFL.

#4 – College Bowl.  Schedule college football’s national championship game to be played the week before the Super Bowl.  They are almost playing it this late now.  Call it the “college bowl”.

#5 – NFL skills competition.  Instead of playing a game.  Have the players face-off in a skills competition.  It’s got to be better than playing flag football.

#6 – NFL vs. CFL.  Now this is an idea I like which would be the most competitive.  Have the NFL stars play stars from the Canadian Football League and alternate which league hosts the game so that NFL players would be forced to play by CFL rules which would be pretty interesting.  This might also help the CFL too.

For now, we have the game being played this weekend at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.  The AFC will be coached by Jim Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens) and the NFC will be led by Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks).

Hopefully you can find something else to do.

 

 

 

 

 

NFL Teams Moving To London?

londonI read today that there is a rumor that the Los Angeles Chargers are considering a move to London.

So what’s up with the National Football League (NFL) and a London-based team?

Probably nothing until the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is done and it is very unlikely that the Chargers are moving to England with the new $5 Billion Stadium being built in Los Angeles which is set to be the home of both the Rams and Chargers in a 20-year lease agreement.

The last talk of an NFL team possibly moving to London was the Jacksonville Jaguars.  I always thought that the Jaguars would be a pretty good bet to move to London if any existing NFL team had thoughts of relocating.

While the NFL has played regular season games in London for many years, it is possible to put a permanent team there but there are some obstacles.

It helps that the NFL is a sport that only plays one game per week but travel will still be demanding on players to travel to/from London.  One way to help with that would be to add another bye week in each team’s schedule.  The biggest obstacle for a team in London would be financial.  A London franchise would have some issues matching the dollar in paying player salaries.  Currently, the pound equals $1.28 U.S. dollars.  A owner would need some deep pockets to keep a London team from being a financial drain on the league.

Instead of an NFL team based in London, I would propose that the NFL establish an European league with teams not only in London but in other countries where American Football is popular such as Germany, Italy and France.  The NFL attempted a summer, developmental league years ago when they formed the World League of American Football/NFL-Europe but it was never able to gain any success as an NFL minor league.  Why not make a European league an equal extension of the NFL and have some inter-league games?  The leagues would be under the NFL but separate entities.  While it would be interesting to have a “World” championship between the two leagues, it might be better to replace the Pro Bowl with a game between NFL and Europe stars.

Personally, I’m not a fan of NFL teams playing games in London.  That takes away one team’s home game during the season.  I think the NFL is dragging their feet in doing something to capitalize on expanding the NFL into Europe – not just London.  In a recent poll by American Football International, there are more NFL fans in Germany than England.  In their poll, Mexico leads all countries with NFL fans outside of the U.S.  It would seem that an NFL team in Mexico would make a lot more sense logistically.  The NFL needs to take advantage of their global exposure.  While the NFL isn’t as popular as the rest of the world’s version of football (soccer), they have the opportunity to go global.

In the early 1970s, the National Football League (NFL) was already looking to promote its product abroad with plans for the Intercontinental Football League. The league had sent players to tour American military bases and hospitals during the Vietnam war. On May 27, 1972, forty-two NFL players (including Dan Pastorini, Bob Hayes, Jim Kiick, Jan Stenerud, Alan Page, Matt Snell and Merlin Olsen) had demonstrated “le rugby Americain” before 8,000 in Paris. NFL Bleu beat NFL Rouge that day, 16-6, in a game that closely followed a script. Two years later, interest in overseas play was revived.

At the 1974 press conference at NFL headquarters in New York, the teams of the IFL were announced. The IFL was to be divided into two divisions of three teams each. The likely organization would have been for the teams from German speaking nations (Munich, West Berlin and Vienna) to be in one group, and the southern teams (Barcelona, Rome and Istanbul) in another.

The NFL scrapped plans for the league because they still did not feel that Europe was ready for American football as well as their own issues with an NFL player’s strike looming.

Here were the proposed teams planned for the league:

  • Munich Lions (Germany)
  • Vienna Lipizzaners (Austria)
  • Berlin Bears (Germany)
  • Rome Gladiators (Italy)
  • Barcelona Almogovares (Spain)
  • Istanbul Conquerors (Turkey)
  • Paris Lafayettes (France)
  • Copenhagen Vikings (Denmark)
  • Rotterdam Flying Dutchmen (Netherlands)
  • Milan Centurions (Italy)

The World League of American Football was founded in 1989 to serve as a type of spring league. Seven of the ten teams were based in North America, and the other three in Europe. This format lasted for two seasons, with no league in 1993–94.

The WLAF returned in 1995 with six teams, all in Europe, and in 1998 the league was rebranded as the NFL Europe.

The league’s squads were predominantly assigned by NFL teams, who wanted these younger, developmental players to get additional game experience and coaching. The NFL assumed the expenses of players and coaches living in Europe. The European six-team format was maintained for 12 seasons, from 1995 to 2008, but by 2008 five teams were based in Germany. Making a reported $30 million loss per season, and with teams such as the inaugural league champion London Monarchs having gone defunct, on 29 June 2008, the NFL announced the end of the league.

The failure of the WLAF/NFL Europe also makes the NFL tentative of placing any NFL-based teams in London or other European cities. I don’t expect the Chargers or Jaguars to make the move across the pond in the near future.

From Falcons to Titans: One Fan’s Transition

Falcons-TitansFor most of my life my favorite NFL team was the Atlanta Falcons.  I think you can clearly pick out the key word in that last sentence.

Since moving to Nashville, Tennessee in 2014, I have slowly transitioned to having my allegiance changed to the Tennessee Titans.  My allegiance was confirmed yesterday while I was watching the Titans-Falcons game yesterday.  I could sense I was pulling for the Titans.

The Falcons have been a disappointment.  I think the final straw was the historic collapse in Super Bowl LI when the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead to lose to the New England Patriots.  I sensed my loyalties making the shift after that game.

There were some good moments – but there were many disappointments.  Before the stunning failure in the Super Bowl, the lingering pain was from the 1980 NFC Divisional Playoff game when the Falcons folded against the Dallas Cowboys.  Unlike SOME fans, I was never a “fair weather” fan.  With the Falcons you couldn’t be one of those because there wasn’t much “fair weather” to enjoy anyway.  There were many lean years but I hung in there with them.

There were a few happy moments such as the 1998 NFC Championship Game when the Falcons stunned the heavily-favored Minnesota Vikings for their first trip to the Super Bowl.  I watched the game from the conference room at the office where I worked because my former in-laws were visiting that weekend and they did not want to watch a football game so I decided that I needed to “work” that day.   When Morten Anderson kicked a 39-yard field goal in overtime to win the game, I was laid out in the floor overcome with emotions.

Another highlight that stands out in my memory was in a game between the Falcons and New Orleans Saints.  It was in 1978 and the Falcons were down 17-13 with 19 seconds left in the game.  Falcons’ quarterback Steve Bartkowski aired what they call a “Hail Mary pass” down to the end zone.  The ball was tipped by Falcons receiver Wallace Francis into the hands of his teammate Alfred Jackson to give the Falcons a 20-17 victory.  That win propelled the Falcons to their first playoff appearance.

I even wrote to the Falcons years ago asking them to please change their logo from that of the Falcon with its wings in a down swing motion.  I thought that image set the tone for negativity.  They eventually did alter the logo slightly a few years ago but I’m sure it had nothing to do with my suggestion.

So, now I have transitioned to the Tennessee Titans.  Some would say it’s not much better.  Probably not.  The Titans have not been the model of consistency in recent years.  They have a record of 34-50 since I have lived here and one playoff win.  I needed a change.

I do still cheer for the Falcons when they are playing anyone else but it is no longer a dilemma when they play the Titans.

Yeah, I could probably do like most do and cheer for the Cowboys or Patriots.  It’s always funny to see the Cowboy “fans” come out when the team is playing well as if they had always been a fan of the team.  It’s easy to be a fan when a team is winning.  It’s even tolerable when they have bad seasons but it’s agonizing when they are losers more than they are winners.

It’s a game.  That’s all it is anyway.  It isn’t going to matter which team I support.

 

 

 

Will The AAF Succeed?

aaf_leagueThis weekend a new professional football league will kick off their inaugural season.  The Alliance of American Football (AAF) opens business with teams in Atlanta, Orlando, Memphis, Birmingham, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, San Diego and Phoenix.  The AAF is hoping to fill the football void now that the National Football League (NFL) season is over.  This new league isn’t the first to try playing during the NFL’s offseason.  Several other leagues have tried and failed.

The United States Football League (USFL) was probably the most successful spring football league which was not associated with the NFL.  The played three seasons from 1983-1985.  The league made an immediate impact as they signed some of the top college talent when they signed three consecutive Heisman Trophy winners Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie and Mike Rozier. Other notable players/coaches included:   George Allen, Jim Kelly, Marv Levey, Steve Young and Reggie White.  The only radical rule difference was that the USFL adopted the two-point conversion.  The NFL did not start the two-point conversion until 1994.

Most people say that the reason that the league failed was when Donald Trump became owner of the New Jersey Generals and pushed for the league to move to a fall schedule to compete with the NFL.  The USFL also filed antitrust lawsuit against the NFL and won the suit but was only awarded $3.76 in damages.  The league was not able to recover and folded before it could move to the fall in 1986.  Many football experts feel that if the USFL had not deviated from their spring schedule that they would have lasted longer.

Perhaps the most successful off-season league was when the NFL backed the World League of American Football/NFL-Europe.  The league kicked off as the World League of American Football (WLAF) in 1991 with ten (10) teams in North America, Canada and Europe.  This league served mostly as a developmental league for the NFL.  After the 1992 season, the league suspended play for two seasons.  The league had better success with their Europe franchises than those in North America so when the league returned for the 1995 season, the league focused more on the European teams.  In 1998 they changed the league name to NFL-Europe.  Unfortunately, the league was terminated after the 2007 season at the league was losing about $30 million a season.

The first edition of the XFL played in the spring/summer of 2001.  The league was the idea of WWE guru Vince McMahon.  The league only lasted one season.  The league was known more about entertainment rather than the quality of play on the field.   The XFL secured a television contract with NBC after that network lost their NFL games.  The XFL had some interesting rules such as the opening scramble instead of a coin toss to determine possession.  Players lined up at their 30-yard line and raced to recover the ball at midfield.  The XFL also eliminated the kick for point after touchdowns with the option of a one, two or three-point conversions depending on distance from the goal line.  If a punt travel at least 25 yards, the kicking team could recover to gain possession.  There was also no fair catches allowed.    After losing $35 million dollars, the league folded after one season.  The new XFL is scheduled to come back in 2020.

A couple of other leagues failed to kickoff.  One was called the Professional Spring Football League (PSFL).   The league was scheduled to begin in 1992 with ten teams.  Each team had already been in training camp and trimming down their rosters in preparation for the season.  The league folded just 10 days before the season opener.  The league’s championship game was to be called the “Red, White and Blue Bowl” and was scheduled to be played at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC on July 5, 1992.

Another rather interesting attempt was called the All American Football League (AAFL) which was scheduled to start in the spring of 2007.  The league was hoping to appeal to college football fans with teams located in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas.  The teams would play in college football stadiums during the spring and players had to have a four-year university degree to be eligible to play.  Teams also did not have nicknames but instead adopted their home state logo for their helmets.  On March 13, 2008 the league announced that the 2008 season would not take place and hoped to begin in 2009; however, they never got off the ground.  It was reported that the league lost some of their major investors which led to the demise of the proposed league.

It is hard to say whether or not the AFF will succeed where these other leagues failed.  Many of the cities have been burned repeatedly by failed teams and leagues of the past.  It will be a difficult sell.  It is very difficult for leagues to survive the finances needed to sustain them.  With the AAF working with the NFL, this could be a significant advantage.  Places franchises in cities without an NFL franchise is also a good idea.  Only two of the AAF’s eight teams (Atlanta and Arizona) play in current NFL markets.

Personally, I don’t feel like this league will fare differently than any of the other leagues before them.  Although football is a popular sport here in America, I think most fans need a break from their sport to recover and get ready for the next season.  Mentally most fans need a break from it.  If the NFL truly wants a developmental league, they need to partner with a league which plays during the same time like minor leagues operate in the baseball.  I have always felt that an “NFL2” league could operate in non-NFL cities as a developmental league for the NFL.  The championship game could be called the “SuperCup” and played the week before the Super Bowl and eliminate the Pro Bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Anthem, Barry Trotz and Bird Scooters

trotzOkay, so let me get this straight, the National Football League (NFL) will have a new policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field for the national anthem but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer?  Yeah, that’s not a fix.  Not to sound anti-patriotic here but do we really need to have the national anthem before sporting events anymore?  This whole thing started back in the World War days to rally the country in support of our troops and the war effort.  Honestly unless you are patriotic or a veteran, not many people really care about the national anthem.  People are on their cell phones, talking or anything but being rallied so we’re going to punish players for kneeling?  The fix is to not even have the national anthem performed at sporting events.

Barry Trotz is the head coach for the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League (NHL).  Last night he led his team to a 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 to win the Eastern Conference final and advance to the Stanley Cup final against the Vegas Golden Knights.  This will be the second appearance for the Capitals in a Stanley Cup final in their 44-year history.  Trotz is in his fourth season as head coach for the Capitals.  Here’s the interesting part to this story – he was the head coach for the Nashville Predators for 15 years until he was replaced by Peter Laviolette.  Laviolette took the Predators to the Stanley Cup last year.  Wouldn’t it be a kick in the gut if Trotz won the Cup with the Capitals?

Downtown Nashville has been invaded by bird – scooters.  This is a new form of transportation downtown where you can rent a scooter and leave it at random locations.  Yes, add this to the pedal taverns, golf carts, bicycles, cars and pedestrians.  There has been controversy over these scooters not being safe and riders not using the appropriate lanes.  They aren’t supposed to ride on sidewalks or the roads unless they are in the bike lane.  People ignore the rules.  No surprise there.  In fact, yesterday I saw two bird scooter riders nearly get smashed because they were going the wrong way and crossing in front of oncoming traffic to the sidewalk.  These folks already can’t drive all these other vehicles downtown and now we have to deal with these bird scooters?

Why is it when you get on an elevator and press the button to go to the top floor that some folks feel the need to comment like “Oh, going to the penthouse huh?” or “All the way to the top I see?”   What’s up with that?  These aren’t people I know either.  Random strangers.  What compels people to comment?  I usually ignore the comment or give one of my fake laughs (as if were the first time I have heard this).  One day I responded that that is where the psych ward is located and I’m going back to my room.

Jim Bakker is claiming that Yellowstone is going to erupt into a Super Volcano which will devastate America.  Yes, I’m talking about THAT Jim Bakker.  But, not to worry, you can order emergency food buckets he is selling on his website to survive it.  My fav would be the Italian Variety Bucket for $100.  Included in the bucket are all of the ingredients you need to prepare Pizza, Italiano Marinara, Fettuccine Alfredo, Breadsticks and Macaroni and Cheese. These delicious meals are easy to prepare and, with an extended shelf life, offer your family a convenient way to enjoy a hot comforting meal during an emergency or to fulfill your Italian food cravings whenever they may arise.  So, there’s a super volcano erupting, let’s make a pizza!

Trump has cancelled summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  Maybe I’m the only one but I’ve been highly suspicious of this whole summit to begin with and the sudden change in Kim Jong Un.  It wasn’t long ago that he was test launching missiles and name calling.  I’m not so sure we know the real story about what’s going on here.

I was dropping off a package at UPS last week at the Music City Center and saw that they were having the American Colon/Rectal Surgeons Convention there.  Talking about awkward.  I was only passing through but when I got on the escalator there was a banner which covered the entire side of the escalator advertising the “new” triple staple device.   Yeah, I got out of there real fast.

 

 

Friday Flashback:  Father-Son Sports Teams

Silhouette of Father and Son Playing Baseball Outside

With Father’s Day happening this weekend, let’s take a look at some of the most famous father-son sports duos.  This list isn’t ranked in any way.

Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning

It is rare enough that a father and one son make it big in sports but to have two sons to do well in professional sports is a rarity.  The Mannings have been one of the few to accomplish this feat.  Archie played most of his career when the New Orleans Saints were frequent losers in the National Football League (NFL).  He started 139 games and finished with a record of 35-101-3.  Archie was never fortunate to participate in the postseason.   On the other hand, his two sons exceeded that by both winning Super Bowls.  Peyton won with Indianapolis and Denver while Eli won with the New York Giants.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. was known as “The Intimidator” with his driving. He won 76 races in his career, achieving perhaps his most elusive victory at the 1998 Daytona 500.  Tragically, he perished on the final-lap wreck at Daytona in 2001. Dale Earnhardt Jr., then age 26, finished second in that race. In the traumatic aftermath of his father’s passing, Earnhardt Jr. won the Pepsi 400 that year in the first race held on the Daytona track since the tragedy.  A visible and charismatic figure, Earnhardt Jr. was named NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for 11 consecutive seasons. After winning the Daytona 500 in 2004, he thrilled fans by taking the checkered flag there in 2014 at age 39, his 20th career win.  They are the only father and son who ever competed directly against each other.  Dale was still racing at a high level when his son came onto the scene.  Junior was unfortunately in the race where his father was fatally killed in a crash.

Bobby and Brett Hull

Bobby Hull—nicknamed “The Golden Jet”—collected the Hart Trophy twice as the league’s MVP and led in points three times. His statue now stands outside the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks.  Brett Hull had a very high standard to aim for, and he drastically outperformed his two brothers to earn the honorific of “The Golden Brett.” He joined dad in the Hall of Fame in 2009, the first father-son duo ever enshrined. While Brett won “only” one MVP award, he doubled up his father in Stanley Cups and scored more often; they tallied 1,351 career goals between them.  Brett currently serves in the front office for the St. Louis Blues.

Bobby and Barry Bonds

They are the greatest father-son duo in baseball history. Bobby hit 332 career home runs and stole 461 bases.  He played for eight teams in 14 seasons with three All-Star appearances. Barry’s career is questioned amid the BALCO scandal, but his on-field production is legendary. The infamous steroid allegations has meant four years of Hall of Fame voting and no entrance for Bonds, but he finished his career with the records for home runs in a season (73) and career (763).

Other notable father-son teams:

  • Buddy, Rex and Rob Ryan (football)
  • Prince and Cecil Fielder (baseball)
  • Felipe and Moises Alou (baseball)
  • Cal Ripken, Sr. and Cal Ripken, Jr. (baseball)
  • Kellen Winslow, Sr. and Kellen Winslow, Jr. (football)
  • Clay Matthews, Sr. and Clay Matthews, Jr. (football)
  • Ken Norton, Sr. (boxing) and Ken Norton, Jr. (football)
  • Calvin Hill (football) and Grant Hill (basketball)
  • Brett and Bob Boone (baseball)

 

Friday Flashback:  World League of American Football

On March 24, 1991, the Barcelona Dragons defeated the New York/New Jersey Knights 19-7 in the first game of the World League of American Football (WLAF).  The WLAF was the first National Football League (NFL) supported spring football football league which not only consisted of cities in North American but also in Europe.  The league lasted for the next 16 spring seasons, with a short restructuring period from 1993-94, and served as a developmental league for the NFL.  

The teams were largely stocked by NFL teams to give younger players additional game experience and coaching.  The league was the financial support for teams in addition to the players and coaching staffs.  

The first season featured 12 teams.  They were the Birimingham Fire, Sacramento Surge, San Antonio Riders, Montreal Machine, New York/New Jersey Knights, Orlando Thunder, Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks, Barcelona Dragons, Frankfurt Galaxy and London Monarchs.

The league incorporated some new ideas such as using the two-point conversion rule before the NFL officially adopted it in 1994.  Other changes were using a shorter kickoff tee, the four-point field goal from over 50 yards and numerous technical innovations such as helmet mounted cameras, one-way radios between coaches and quarterbacks.

Average game attendance throughout the league’s existence was 25,361 but the league was not the hit in the United States that was expected.  London, Barcelona, Frankfurt and Montreal surpassed early expectations and the Monarchs won the 1991 World Bowl title at Wembly Stadium in front of 61,108.

Honestly, there aren’t any names that really stand out from the players during that season.  Stan Gelbaugh (London) led the league with 2,656 passing yards.  Gelbaugh later played 13 games with the Seattle Seahawks from 1992-1996.  He was 1-11 as a starter.  Eric Wilkerson (NY/NJ) was the leading rusher with 717 yards.  

The WLAF evolved into NFL Europe for the 1998 season with all six teams located in Europe.  The Hamburg Sea Devils won the final league title on June 23, 2007 defeating the Frankfurt Galaxy 37-28.

The Turbulent Flight Of A Falcons’ Fan


I watched the Atlanta Falcons defeat the Seattle Seahawks in Saturday’s National Football League (NFL) playoffs.  It was a lot of work.  It’s pretty sad when you can’t relax and feel confident that your team can hold onto a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter.  

That’s the plight of being a lifelong Falcons’ fan.  Frustration.  Disappointment.  Finding defeat in certain victory.  

The first season I really followed the Falcons was in 1977.  That was the first year of the “Gritz Blitz” and a defense that set a record at that time for only allowing 129 points during a 14-game season.  

There have certainly been some bright spots along the way.  

The biggest moment was when Morten Anderson kicked the game winning field goal against Minnesota in the 1998 National Football Conference (NFC) championship to put the Falcons in their first Super Bowl.  I was a very elated fan.  

That elation was soon turned to another disappointment when the Falcons lost to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. 

Other disappointments that have conditioned me to be cautious over the years:

  • Dallas Cowboys 30, Atlanta Falcons 27 (1980 NFC Playoffs)
  • San Francisco 28, Atlanta Falcons 24 (2012 NFC Championship Game)
  • Green Bay Packers 48, Atlanta Falcons 21 (2010 NFC Playoffs)
  • Dallas Cowboys 20, Atlanta Falcons 17 (1978 NFC Playoffs)

So even with the victories, the Falcons have never had that “mojo” that a team needs to win consistently – especially in the playoffs.  The image of Danny White leading the Cowboys back in the 1980 playoffs is still burned into the memories of Falcon fans.  My stomach gets upset every time I see that game. 

So forgive me if this seems a little negative.  It isn’t just negativity, it has been my reality for the past 40 years. Expect disappointment but always hopeful.  

I mean, the Cubs did win the World Series so anything is possible right?

Please don’t call Matt Ryan “Marty Ice” because that will mean a pick six is going to happen.  I try not to be negative.  Really I’m not.  

When my wife asked me if I was excited about watching the Falcons’ game Saturday, I honestly answered “No” because it’s never easy.  Watching the Falcons is a lot of work.  I was physically worn out after the game. 

That’s the life of a Falcons’ fan.  

So now after a big win over the Seahawks, the Falcons will play again next week.  I don’t care about who they play.  It really doesn’t matter.  I know it’s going to be another three hours of work.