It can be hard to remember life before the pandemic. Put yourself back in time to one year ago. 2020 was just beginning. If you paid close attention to the news, you might have heard about a new virus spreading rapidly in Wuhan, China, but most Americans weren’t even aware of it.
Turn your attention to where you were at with sports. Then, like now, the NFL regular season was transitioning into the playoffs. Immediately after last year’s Super Bowl, there was a new league called the XFL. It was mildly popular. Seattle had a team, the Dragons, and was even drawing a few thousand fans to watch games in person—a pastime that none of us can now relate to.
Sure, the XFL was short-lived, and not just because “extra” professional football leagues in America have a long and un-illustrious history, if you will. The pandemic wiped away the XFL in a tidal wave that cancelled all sporting events last spring. Unlike other leagues and sports, many fans were probably happy to see the XFL go. Like most other non-NFL leagues, the games just weren’t that good, for a variety of reasons—athletes who weren’t good enough to make it in the NFL, teams that hadn’t gelled, poor coaching. The list could go on.
Fast forward to 2021. Believe it or not, this February there is a new football league starting. During a pandemic. It may not survive long term, but long-term survival is not the expectation. Let’s at least give this one credit for trying something completely different.
Say hello to Fan Controlled Football (FCF).
Yes. In this new league, move out of the way, coaches, because fans will get to pick the plays!
Yes. And it doesn’t end there. Fans will also be able to choose the team name, logos, jerseys and some of the game rules.
If it all sounds very gimmicky, it is. Will it really work with fans controlling all of these aspects of the league? That’s what we’re going to find out next month.
FCF has some big names attached to it, which should increase its cache with fans. There will be four teams, and their owners include Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman, Mike Tyson and Quavo. There are also MLB players, YouTube stars and pro wrestlers involved in ownership.
The other major departure from the NFL is that FCF will be 7-on-7. If you’re not familiar with this newer style of football, think of it as something between practice and a game. There are no pads, no tackling, and no offensive or defensive lines. Each team lines up a quarterback, a snapper and five receivers (or four plus a running back).
How will fans interact with their teams and players?
Through Twitch, of course. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, it probably should. Twitch is one of the most visited websites on the Internet. Used largely by people who play video games, think of it like YouTube but with streaming videos instead of pre-recorded ones.
The big question that many fans are wondering is who the players will be. There is scant little information available about players, but expect there to be some familiar names from college and NFL football. The one exception is the biggest name that FCF has brought on board: Johnny Manziel. Yes, Manziel will get yet another opportunity to play in front of fans. By this point he’s played in almost every league imaginable, so it’s no surprise that he would give this one a try as well.
Will this new league stick, at least longer than one season? It’s very possible that it could, in that its simpler to play from a logistics and a cost perspective, since there are less players and equipment. And for this first, COVID season, all games will be played at the same facility in Atlanta. And when you add in the Twitch and fan-controlled aspects, it might just be enough to give traditional football fans a side piece of sorts.