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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
Are you ready for some (minor-league) football?
Some spring football in the Liberty Bowl?
Are you ready for another Memphis professional football team to follow in the sometimes dazzling and sometimes dubious cleat-steps of the Memphis Southmen/Grizzlies of the WFL, the Memphis Showboats of the USFL, the Memphis Mad Dogs of the CFL and the Memphis Maniax of the XFL?
That's not counting the Memphis Pharaohs of the Arena Football League or the Memphis Xplorers of the af2, which actually lasted longer (six years!) than any of the other teams.
But anyway, are you ready?
Maybe, if it's a particularly sunny day, you have nothing better to do and Riley Ferguson somehow winds up as the Memphis quarterback?
That could happen because former NFL receiver Hines Ward announced Friday — in an oddly informal video, with Ward sitting in a barren office, wearing a V-neck white T-shirt — that Memphis will join Orlando and Atlanta as the third franchise in the Alliance of American Football, a new league that will begin play in February 2019.
"That's right, Beale Street, here we come!" Ward said. "I'll be in Memphis next week to help unveil your new head coach so I can't wait to see how amazing the community and fans embrace our Alliance Memphis team!"
I can't wait to see, either. I especially can't wait to see if Memphis gives a flip.
To be clear: I'm all for Memphis getting new things. A new IKEA. A new Trader Joe's. A new pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi. A new state legislature. Oh, wait, that didn't happen. A new minor-league soccer team.
The Alliance of American Football has some things going for it, too. Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian is co-founder and head of football.
CBS has agreed to televise the inaugural game and the championship game, and it will broadcast at least one game a week on CBS Sports Network.
Steve Spurrier already has agreed to coach the Orlando franchise. Here's betting he beats the team from Tennessee.
So I'm not ruling out the possibility that a Memphis AAF franchise could be an entertaining distraction in the springtime.
But my guess is that the city is weary of another alphabet franchise, that the parade of minor-league football teams that preceded this one will dampen the civic enthusiasm.
Not that some of those teams weren't successful.
The WFL Southmen/Grizzlies were so wildly popular that when the league folded in the midst of its second season, 40,000 Memphians put down deposits to try to persuade the NFL to add the Memphis team.
The USFL Memphis Showboats didn't do badly, either. When they made the playoffs in 1985, the Showboats were supposed to travel to play the Denver Gold in a road game. But ABC executives moved the game to Memphis because they knew the Liberty Bowl crowd would look better on TV.
But all that was during the aspirational days, when Memphis was fighting to prove it was major league. The CFL Mad Dogs and the XFL Maniax each lasted one year. Even though they were well run.
The XFL folded less than three months before the Memphis Grizzlies' first NBA draft in the city, when Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Jason Williams and Lorenzen Wright arrived to change everything.
Now Memphis is a major-league city. With a successful college football team, a resurgent college basketball team, a golf tournament that is about to become one of the best in the world and a Triple-A baseball team that plays in one of the prettiest ballparks in the universe.
Is there a hunger for a minor-league football team?
Is there room for a minor-league football team?
It'll be interesting to see.
Especially because the new Memphis AAF franchise will start play the same spring as the new Memphis United Soccer League franchise.
May the best football team win.
Or, never mind that. May they both win on the field and at the gate.
I hope both teams are successful.
At the very least, they'll give us some stories to tell.
Like the time Charlie Rich sang the national anthem for the WFL opener in Memphis, then struck up a conversation with Elvis, who was a big Southmen/Grizzlies fan.
"That's a tough song to sing, isn't it?" Elvis said.
Rich responded: "It ain't no 'Behind Closed Doors.' "
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