A brand new league

Questions about the Alliance of American Football ahead of debut

Steve Spurrier might be the biggest name in the AAF. Getty Images

Pro football hasn't been gone for long and we have the newest incarnation hitting our television screens this weekend. Now, they might have benefited from waiting until the post-NFL feelings of depression really set in but they are here and these are questions we need to have answered.

Can the rule changes make that much of a difference?

No more kickoffs is a welcome addition. The NFL kickoff has been watered down and rarely is it worth more than a few extra yards. Forcing teams to go for two instead of extra points will be awesome. The play clock is five seconds shorter and the onside kick is convoluted but it in involves the running of an offensive play instead of kicking the ball.

The goal here is to get the game shorter and this, along with less commercials and fewer TV timeouts, should help. The goal is a broadcast that runs two and a half hours and they should achieve that. Knowing football won't stretch into nearly four hour marathons is a nice notion. If the game stinks though, it won't matter how long it takes to play the game.

Will it look slow?

Inevitably the NFL is the fastest version of the game of football. They hit the hardest and the they move at top speed. Some big college games look fast but even a large portion of the college game looks slow compared to the worst NFL game. If this game is slow you will notice it.

The few weeks away would have done them good in this sense. Even with some former NFL talent on the field it is still going to be a drop off from the NFL. The speedy players will stand out and have a decent advantage over the others on the field. If the rules and styles of offense keep the game moving and hide the lack of speed they could have an appealing project.

Who will we recognize?

Well, we will recognize some names. There aren't a ton of NFL games played among the players of the league but there are some names you will recognize from their college success and bouncing around the NFL. The coaches have some star power associated with their names. Steve Spurrier (Orlando), Mike Martz (San Diego), and Mike Singletary (Memphis) will all be patrolling the sidelines.

Former Browns top pick Trent Richardson has plenty of name recognition as he plays for the Birmingham team. Matt Asiata was a frequent fantasy touchdown thief in the league. A few of Houston's finest Cougars will suit up in San Antonio with Greg Ward Jr., De'Marcus Ayers, and Kenneth Farrow all appearing as Commanders. Kennan Gilchrist and Kurtis Drummond are former Texans players who are on the team in San Antonio as well. Longtime NFL kicker Nick Novak will kick in this league as well.

The quarterbacks will be the most interesting names. Josh Johnson is fresh off his few weeks quarterbacking for the Redskins. Christian Hackenberg and Zach Mettenberger, he of J.J. Watt Selfiegate, battled it out to see who will take snaps for the team in Memphis. Former college standouts Aaron Murray and Trevor Knight are quarterbacks for the Atlanta and Arizona franchises respectively.

What will success look like?

I am not sure what the Alliance of American Football will deem success but this one seems a lot like the threshold test for obscenity in the landmark Jacobellis v. Ohio case from 1964: I know it when I see it.

It is really that simple. Almost from go we will know if this is a viable entity worth our time and eyeballs, and eventually our money for fantasy sports and gambling. If it isn't we will see right away. If the answers to the three previous questions are no, yes, and nobody then the league is doomed. They have big backing but no one likes to lose money. This opening week will catch plenty of eyes but after it isn't on CBS anymore and it is filtered to the various other ways to watch, will it hold up?

We will know when we see it. And I know we are going to see live football on our screens this weekend.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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