Big win for AAF, as new football league posts better ratings than Rockets-Thunder

Never, ever underestimate the power of football in America.

The Alliance of American Football, a league most people probably couldn’t name one team from before this week, debuted on Saturday night. Its debut, with two games on CBS, was up against a great NBA matchup between James Harden’s Houston Rockets and Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder on ABC, a fantastic game that ended with a comeback Thunder win.

And the AAF posted better television ratings.

That’s a heck of a victory for the new football league, which generally played to positive reviews in its opening week.

AAF gets big television ratings win

Darren Rovell of the Action Network reported that, according to his sources, the AAF did a 2.1 overnight rating while a marquee NBA matchup between the league’s last two MVPs did 2.0.

There are plenty of caveats to a one-night win like that. There was certainly more curiosity about the AAF than a regular-season NBA game. Other startup football leagues like the USFL and XFL did fantastic ratings right away, and then those fizzled quickly. It’s not like the AAF is going to routinely outdraw the NBA.

But it’s a clear victory for the new league. Social media reaction to the games — San Diego Fleet vs. San Antonio Commanders, Atlanta Legends vs. Orlando Apollos — was mostly positive. Complaining about anything and everything is the easiest thing to find in 2019, yet a new football league of mostly castoffs was received well. 

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Scenes from AAF opening weekend
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Scenes from AAF opening weekend
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 09: Kenneth Farrow II #20 of the San Antonio Commanders scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Fleet in an Alliance of American Football game at the Alamodome on February 09, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/AAF/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Austin Appleby #5 of Orlando Apollos scrambles with the ball against Brandon Watts #58 of Atlanta Legends during the fourth quarter on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. The Apollos defeated the Legends 40-6. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/AAF/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA - FEBRUARY 10: Rajion Neal #34 of Memphis Express is brought down by Jonathan Massaquoi #57 of Birmingham Iron during an Alliance of American Football game at Legion Field on February 10, 2019 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/AAF/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 10: Jhurell Pressley #26 of the Arizona Hotshots scores a touchdown behind Will Davis#26 of the Salt Lake Stallions during the second half of the Alliance of American Football game at Sun Devil Stadium on February 10, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/AAF/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA - FEBRUARY 10: Water is dumped on head coach Tim Lewis of Birmingham Iron following a victory over the Memphis Express during an Alliance of American Football game at Legion Field on February 10, 2019 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/AAF/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 10: Branden Oliver #81 of the Arizona Hotshots carries the ball during the second half of the Alliance of American Football game against the Salt Lake Stallions at Sun Devil Stadium on February 10, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/AAF/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 09: Kenneth Farrow II #20 of the San Antonio Commanders celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Fleet in an Alliance of American Football game at the Alamodome on February 09, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/AAF/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Charles Johnson #12 of the Orlando Apollos misses a pass attempt against Desmond Lawrence #23 of Atlanta Legends during the first quarter on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/AAF/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Jalin Marshall #17 of Orlando Apollos scores a second quarter touchdown reception against Carlos Merritt #20 and Quincy Mauger #42 of Atlanta Legends on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. This is the first touchdown in AAF history. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/AAF/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Will Hill III #33 of Orlando Apollos takes the field prior to the game against the Atlanta Legends on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/AAF/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA - FEBRUARY 10: Quinton Patton #11 of the Birmingham Iron takes the field during an Alliance of American Football game against the Memphis Express at Legion Field on February 10, 2019 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Robbins/AAF/Getty Images)
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What does this mean for the AAF?

The challenge for the AAF will be to keep the good times rolling. Ratings will be harder when the games are on CBS Sports Network and not CBS in primetime. The novelty is great, but compelling football will be what keeps people engaged long term.

But you have to start somewhere, and the start for the AAF is a clear win. It’s more proof that football, no matter what name it is under, rules the American sports landscape.

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Frank Schwabis a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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