Spring football: its time will come

DC DEFENDERS vs. Seattle Dragons in XFL 2020 (WikipediaPatricarca).

The local high school football season is over, alas. Cut short and sheared of a playoff series, it’s easy to think of what happened as almost a tragedy. But there’s a bright side to this whole picture, and that is the new possibilities for spring football in general.

A six-game season – for some schools, it was fewer than that – is not quite the last word on the subject, but there are a few things to bear in mind, here.

First off, the spring is a heck of a lot more pleasant time to play football, or watch it in person. None of this “frozen tundra” nonsense or frost-bitten fingers on wide receivers.

Second, by March (and certainly by April) fans have become hungry again for their gridiron meals. Pity poor ESPN, having to run reruns of “legacy” contests so old they have hair on them in order to have some pigskin programming to broadcast.

Third, there are a whole lot of NFL palaces that are idle March to August for the most part.  Think of all the TV revenue and concession cash that goes uncollected when the last whistle is blown at the Super Bowl.

Fourth, a spring football league could help solve the relative hypocrisy of big-time college football. At present, the Power Five conferences serve as a de facto minor league system for the NFL. The players are supposed to amateurs, but who are they kidding?

Now, you may say, Petes-y, spring football has been tried before.  The XFL and USFL tried and failed and there’s even a Spring Football League planning to open play this spring. Failure has been the pattern because the projects were underfunded, underwatched and under-led.

No league made it past two seasons and any student of Business 101 know you need at least three years to establish a new enterprise. You have to expect to lose a lot of money before you start making any.

But what if the NFL were to establish a spring league as a high-level development operation? Players drafted in April – we could certainly move that schedule back – could play for the spring Los Angeles Stags at SoFi Stadium. College stars would get a taste of pro football, and with proper promotion this could be a new niche product already associated with a first-quality brand. You have any idea how many varieties of Oreo there are?

Of course, the result would be that some players would end up playing football full-time. “Horrors! A physically demanding occupation without six months off?” Tell that to a construction worker or miner, or even a schoolteacher on her feet all day for nine months a year.

There are other possible permutations. The WNBA is a successful spring-fall league that has attracted a growing audience for a high level of play. As women move into many previously all-male preserves, who’s to say that women’s football might not be the Next Net Big Thing?

The Los Angeles Yoga vs. the Dallas Cowgirls in May. Remember, you saw it here first.

Pete Zarustica writes “Sports Monday.”


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