Mehno: Another new league has promise

Commentary

PITTSBURGH — We are one week and one day from the start of a new baseball season.

That’s practically a holiday for hardcore baseball fans. People wax poetic about how the first pitch brings an official end to winter, never mind the snow you cleared from the sidewalk this morning.

The trades have been made, the free agents have been signed (well, some of them) and new managers have taken over. It’s a fresh start for everyone.

If Troy Polamalu has his way, football fans will be just as excited this time next year.

Polamalu, who hasn’t been seen much since his retirement from the Steelers, is one of the people working on the Alliance of American Football. It’s an eight-team spring league that plans to start play next February, one week after the NFL stages the Super Bowl.

Despite the clumsy name, this is a good idea.

More importantly, there are sane people running it. It’s a creation of Bill Polian, the former NFL general manager who has been analyzing football for ESPN.

Polamalu and Hines Ward appeared at the news conference announcing the formation of the league.

CBS is willing to carry games, and they’ll be available on other platforms as well.

Assuming the league gets off the ground as scheduled, it will get a one-year jump on Vince McMahon’s planned revival of the XFL.

The NFL pedigree is what gives the AAF a chance. McMahon made his fortune in the wrestling business. His hokum hasn’t worked in other businesses.

The USFL, which played spring football in the 1980s, was hell bent on going head-to-head with the NFL in the fall. That plan failed miserably, and the USFL disappeared.

There’s a market for football in the spring, and starting the week after the Super Bowl allows people to maintain their viewing patterns. Not everyone likes hockey or college basketball, so there’s a captive audience looking for something on the clicker.

The talent will be not-quite-good-enough for the NFL, but as long as the level is equal, the games will be competitive.

A spring league will allow players to show their talents on tape and maybe earn an invitation to an NFL training camp. It can also be a proving ground for coaches looking to either establish or revive a career in the NFL.

Will there be a franchise in Pittsburgh? There should be. Stadium availability might be an issue, but that remains to be seen.

This is an idea that can work, especially since it has smart football people running it.

The USFL may have stuck around if it hadn’t been for its suicidal plan to take on the NFL.

By the way, that idea was hatched by the owner of the New Jersey Generals. Gentleman named Donald J. Trump.

New format?

Mildly interesting that AT&T Sports seems to be going for more in-game analysis on Pirates’ exhibition broadcasts.

They’ve been throwing it back to the studio to get thoughts from rookie broadcaster Michael McKenry. Is that to help him get familiar with the job, or is it something that might carry over?

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com.

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