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Alliance of American Football debuts with viral hits, hashtags—and a real ballgame

A helmet-flying tackle ushers in a new chapter of pro ball.


Ramon Ramirez


Posted on Feb 10, 2019   Updated on May 20, 2021, 7:29 pm CDT

SAN ANTONIO—The Alliance of American Football kicked off Saturday in San Antonio with a 22-yard slant from Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside to slot receiver Mekale McKay. One week after the Super Bowl, there was football.

In the Alamodome, 27,857 fans came alive a drive later when former Arizona State QB and San Diego Fleet starter Mike Bercovici lost his helmet on a sack by Shaan Washington. In this league, which emphasizes player safety with rule tweaks like no kickoffs, the defense can only rush five players at a time. It was more than enough on the Commanders’ way to a 15-6 win.

On Twitter, fans noticed familiar faces: There was former New York Giant Tiki Barber in the booth for CBS and Dallas Cowboys legend Daryl Johnston served as general manager for the Commanders. The nascent league, enjoying a national broadcast showcase, offered fast-paced, entertaining gamesmanship—even if the QB play is a work in progress and neither signal-caller was able to lead a touchdown drive through three quarters of ball.

All the same, Twitter’s #JoinTheAlliance hashtag was full of engagement and the league became a real-time trending search on Google. People gambled and drafted players like Denard Robinson in fantasy football—a football-obsessive American populace had something to do.

“I was just told walking up that we have 11 of the 20 trending topics on Twitter in the United States,” league founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol said in a postgame press conference.”Our app is No. 2 in the Apple Store right now and we’re No. 1 in the Google Play store.”

Ebersol’s league was responsible for five of the top 10 trending Twitter hashtags in the U.S. on Saturday night, according to Trends24. The exec also expressed gratitude for the city of San Antonio and was moved by its instant fandom: “I was surprised that they were booing the away team. They’d been their opponent for all of 45 seconds.”

Atlanta Legends kicker Younghoe Koo put the first points in league history on the board with a 38-yard field goal shortly before 9pm ET—that team was simultaneously facing Steve Spurrier’s Orlando Apollos. The Apollos won big, 40-6.

Back in Texas, the game day experience aimed to pass for the pomp, circumstance, and blockbuster scale of the NFL. A giant American flag covered the field for the national anthem. AAF Head of Development and Pittsburgh Steelers hero Hines Ward brought out the game ball. A commander mascot on a horse rode onto the field amid puffs of flames.

Super Bowl-winning coach of the Fleet Mike Martz, who pioneered the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams in 1999, said he was eager to play again after his offense stumbled due to an overwhelmed offensive line and QB, Bercovici, who was pulled in the second half.

“We did make a change at QB and we’ll stay with the change,” he told reporters of presumed new starter Philip Nelson.

Martz also applauded AAF’s “fatiguing,” uptempo pace: “You’re more concerned about conditioning because you’re gonna run a lot more plays.”

He also likes the new league’s tweaks to special teams: “I like not having a kickoff and kickoff return … As a former head coach in the league, I know two-thirds of our injuries on our roster were on kickoff and kickoff returns.”

Longtime NFL VP and AAF co-founder Bill Polian was frank but optimistic postgame about his product.

“Obviously, hard-fought football,” Polian said on the podium. “We didn’t pick up stunts very well on the offensive line, and that’s to be expected … and we got a little bit ragged on the blitz pickup for both teams.”

The AAF may have adjustments to make, in other words, but its fundamentals proved sound and plenty watchable.


Alliance of American Football Week 1 schedule:

  • San Antonio 15, San Diego Fleet 6
  • Orlando Apollos 40, Atlanta Legends 6
  • Memphis Express vs. Birmingham Iron, 4pm ET (CBS Sports Network)
  • Salt Lake Stallions vs. Arizona Hotshots, 7pm ET (NFL Network)

How to watch Alliance of American Football online

The AAF has scored a broadcast deal with CBS Sports. The inaugural game will be broadcast on CBS’ main network, as will the championship game in April. The CBS Sports Network will air one AAF game per week. And the games will take less time to watch. That’s because there will be no TV timeouts and 60 percent fewer commercials, and kickoffs and extra point attempts will be eliminated.

1) CBS All Access

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CBS All Access

The weekly contests will be streamed on the CBS All Access app, the network’s new standalone app, which costs $5.99 per month for streaming with ads and $9.99 a month for streaming without. CBS All Access opens up the channel’s entire catalog of on-demand programming, letting you watch all of your favorite CBS shows, exclusives like Star Trek: Discovery and the forthcoming Twilight Zone reboot, and live TV. (You can also add CBS All Access as an Amazon Prime channel.)

All four weekly games will also be available to stream on CBS Sports Network on the live TV streaming services DirecTV Now, Hulu, FuboTV, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV. Each service differs significantly when it comes to what other channels are offered, which devices you can use to stream, and how much each one costs. (You can click the links on each service name to learn more about each one.)

2) The AAF app

You can reportedly stream AFF games through the league’s official app. According to the AAF website, the app will work with the following devices:

iPhones: 6, 6 Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, XS. The app may also be compatible with other iPhones, but it has not been optimized for those devices. Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8 Plus, Galaxy S8 Note, Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, Galaxy S9 Note. The app may also be compatible with other Android smartphones, such as Google Pixel, Motorola Moto, and LG smartphones.

The AAF official app should also available on iPads and Android tablets, but beware that the “user interface has not been design[ed] or optimized for these devices.” You don’t need a subscription to access the AAF app.

3) NFL Network

Only eight days before the start of the season, the AAF  announced NFL Network will broadcast 19 games in 2019. Beginning on Feb. 16, the network will broadcast two games per weekend, all of which will start at 8pm ET.

“NFL Network understands the mission and vision for The Alliance and what we are trying to accomplish,” Ebersol said in a statement. “This partnership will now keep professional football in its primetime television spot, allowing fans to continue watching America’s most popular sport well into the spring.”

Here’s the NFL Network schedule.

  • Sunday, Feb. 10 – Salt Lake Stallions at Arizona Hotshots
  • Saturday, Feb. 16 – Arizona Hotshots at Memphis Express
  • Sunday, Feb. 17 – Atlanta Legends at San Diego Fleet
  • Saturday, Feb. 23 – Memphis Express at Orlando Apollos
  • Sunday, Feb. 24 – San Antonio Commanders at San Diego Fleet
  • Saturday, March 2 – San Diego Fleet at Memphis Express
  • Sunday, March 3 – Atlanta Legends at Arizona Hotshots
  • Saturday, March 9 – Salt Lake Stallions at San Diego Fleet
  • Sunday, March 10 – San Antonio Commanders at Arizona Hotshots
  • Saturday, March 16 – Arizona Hotshots at Orlando Apollos
  • Sunday, March 17 – Birmingham Iron at San Diego Fleet
  • Saturday, March 23 – Salt Lake Stallions at San Antonio Commanders
  • Sunday, March 24 – Birmingham Iron at Memphis Express
  • Saturday, March 30 – San Diego at Salt Lake Stallions
  • Sunday, March 31 – Arizona Hotshots at San Antonio Commanders
  • Saturday, April 6 – San Diego Fleet at Orlando Apollos
  • Sunday, April 7 – Birmingham Iron at Arizona Hotshots
  • Saturday, April 13 – Atlanta Legends at Memphis Express
  • Sunday, April 14 – Arizona Hotshots at San Diego Fleet

NFL Network is available on FuboTV, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now. All of those streaming services include a free trial.

4) TNT and B/R Live

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In addition, TNT and B/R Live will broadcast one AAF regular-season and one playoff game through the length of their multi-year agreement, and one regular-season game per week will be streamed on B/R Live.

5) FuboTV

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With more than 85 channels in its basic package, FuboTV includes almost everything you’ll need to watch AAF games—CBS Sports Network, NFL Network, and TNT—and a ton of other specialty sports channels, including beIN Sports, NBA TV, Big Ten Network, Pac-12 Network, and even a 4K FS1 channel. It’s a dream package for international soccer, but there’s truly something for everyone, with news (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC), entertainment (FX, Lifetime, AMC), and plenty more. Of note for sports fans, FuboTV offers automatic three-day replay for games and 30 hours of free cloud DVR. (Here’s the complete FuboTV channels list.)

New to cord-cutting? Here are our picks for the best movie streaming sites of 2018 and free live TV apps and channels. If you’re looking for a specific channel, here’s how to watch HBO, Showtime, Starz, Sundance TV, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, Willow, AMC, FX, Fox News, Freeform, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, FS1, TBS, TNT, Tennis Channel, Golf Channel, Syfy, HGTV, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Bravo, Lifetime, Discovery, PBS, the CW, BBC, CSPAN, NBA TV, MTV, Comedy Central, Food Network, TLC, HLN, A&E, Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Weather Channel, the History Channel, and NFL RedZone without cable, as well as free movies on YouTube. If you’re on the move, here’s how to watch Fox Sports Go and live stream NBC Sports.

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*First Published: Feb 10, 2019, 1:52 am CST