By Daniel Lang - Managing Director
For those who know me, it's no surprise that I am a huge American football fan.
Having fallen in love with the Madden computer game franchise as a youngster, I made it a personal mission to understand the ins and out of the game and to have a passable knowledge of all things NFL. That led to an infatuation with running back LaDanian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers.
The sun, the vibrancy, the powder blue uniforms and a bussling running back dominating the league, it was the perfect mix and I was hooked. Flash forward more than a decade and that team upped and left San Diego, ripping out the hearts of many locals and while it didn't really mean the team was any further away from me here in Australia, I pretty much bowed out in solidarity.
The last NFL season was a tough one. I no longer considered myself a Chargers fan but as they racked up wins in an incredible season, I found myself rooting for the individuals. Quarterback Phillip Rivers, so likeable for his off-the-cuff style of straight talk. Melvin Gordon, a running back I'd loved since his college days. Antonio Gates, one of the best to ever play the position. I wasn't a Chargers fan, but I loved seeing these guys do well.
Thankfully, a new upstart league run by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian gave me the chance to re-connect with the city of San Diego and to watch football from the old Q again.
So far, it hasn't disappointed.
The San Diego Fleet, a team built on the proud naval traditions of the city, has well and truly captured my heart.
They're far from perfect, in fact following a fairly comprehensive loss to the Arizona Hotshots this morning, their record is below .500 and there are plenty of questions around how to re-jig the offence following the loss of surprise packet quarterback Phil Nelson, but it's football in San Diego and the promise is endless.
Developmental or secondary football leagues have cropped up so frequently, failed so spectacularly and disappeared at such a rate that it's fair for any new venture to be received with skepticism and concern. The AAF is far from perfect in its own right and while many are trying to drag it down with needless comparisons to the billion-dollar business that is the NFL, there are plenty of us who enjoy the product and the story behind it.
Any new league lives and dies by its quarterback play, that's obvious enough and in guys like Garrett Gilbert, a former practice squad journeyman at NFL level, play from under centre has been decent enough.
What the AAF is thriving on, however, is eight well-placed, well-thought-out teams and great storylines. Whether it's the return of Johnny Manziel, the attempts of Trent Richardson to work his way back to the big show and prove he's not one of the all-time biggest draft busts or the countless other guys told they weren't good enough to make an NFL roster, the Alliance of American Footbaall is all about the storylines.
Everybody loves an underdog and there's no bigger group of rejects, has-beens and never-was players deperate to shake that tag and turn things around. It's relatable, it's raw and gritty and it's real and that's why I love the Alliance.
Down under in Australia, it's not an easy prospect but thanks to a mix of dodgy online streams, the app and Twitter, I have barely missed a game of the new league and I'm officially an AAF junkie. My Sunday mornings at home or my Monday mornings at work are not the same anymore and they probably never will be.
The secondary league market will be a little busier next year when the XFL has another crack at getting off the ground, but with a 12-month headstart, good TV exposure and initial links with the NFL, including streaming of games on the NFL Network, the building blocks are in place for an awesome experience to grow.
Bring it on.