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What if the AFL Never Existed? (Part 4)

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A very good Sunday morning, Uni Watch readers. I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend and you all had a good Saturday.

I’m back once again with Chris Diamond, who has shared with us another set of his wonderful “What if…” think pieces — What if the AFL Never Existed (Part 1) and What if the AFL Never Existed (Part 2), and finally What if the AFL Never Existed (Part 3). Chris is back today with the fourth, and final, part, and like his previous installments, this one is fantastic. Enjoy!

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What if the AFL Never Existed, Part IV
by Chris Diamond

In Part I of this piece, I posed the question “What if the AFL Never Existed?”. Starting in 1959 I followed the evolution of the NFL to 1970 when it expanded by four teams. In Part II, in the 1970s a rival WFL challenged the NFL and eventually the two merged in 1980 to form a 32 team NFL. In Part III, a version of the USFL arrived, not to challenge the NFL but to exist alongside in the spring/summer. In the final part I look at what might have happened in the 21st Century.

By the turn of the century, the USFL and NFL have been existing side-by-side for 20 years. The NFL has remained stable within this period at 32 teams, not affected by franchise moves or expansion. The USFL has gradually expanded to 20 teams and is looking to grow further. The league decides to try expanding to Canada (in the same way that the CFL expanded to the US in the mid-90s in our reality), announcing franchises in Toronto and Montreal for the 2001 season. The USFL season only overlaps slightly with the CFL one, but the CFL is in financial trouble and they and the Canadian Government see the USFL as a threat to the sport. The USFL offer to merge with the CFL and give financial payments to each of the CFL teams to help shore them up. So the newly named North American Football League (NAFL) begins play in 2000. Both codes are kept with the home team specifying the version (so CFL rules in Canada and USFL rules in America). The two CFL divisons are simply added to the Eastern and Western Conferences as the Canada East and West Divisions.

The merger payments help stabilize the Canadian teams and the NAFL looks a bit like the modern day NHL in terms of team distribution. In 2005 the NAFL decides to add four more teams to bring the total to 32, the same as the NFL. The league re-aligns to four eight team divisions. As the NAFL plays a 20 game schedule it means 14 of the teams games are within the division making that the most important. Unlike the NFL where only 6 games out of 16 are within the division.

The league brings back the Ottawa franchise and due to popular demand names them the Rough Riders! They also bring back the awesome flaming interlocked RR logo helmet from the 90s team.

The real-life Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks of the WLAF had one of the best uniforms, and so I’ve resurrected them here for the alt-reality USFL. But I’ve dropped the Durham and given them to Raleigh entirely as trying to combine the two never really worked.

The real-life USFL had the Arizona Outlaws so I’ve also brought that franchise back here. But I’ve given them an Arizona copper shell and a variation of the design I did for my other alt-reality piece on the NFL-USFL merger. They feel they can do this because the El Paso Wranglers changed to a metallic red shell in 2003 so copper will still be unique!

Milwaukee in our reality has never had a major league football team apart from borrowing the Packers for a few games a year until 1994. As Wisconsin is the Badger State they take that name. The logo is a badger head where the negative space forms an “M” for Milwaukee.

By 2010, although the NAFL has been successful commercially, the two codes have never really worked together. As the ex-CFL teams are now on a better financial footing the NAFL agrees to de-merge back in to the USFL and CFL. The USFL decides to add three teams to balance out the missing Canadian teams. They also update the league and conference logos – I’ve adapted the ones from the USFL2.

Jacksonville was one of the better supported USFL franchises in reality, so it’s reasonable to assume that the same might be true here. The Jacksonville Bulls live again! I’ve used the modernised version of their logo that I created previously.

Both incarnations of the USFL in our reality have a Pittsburgh franchise and this version has one too!

Sacramento had the Surge of the WLAF who became the Gold Miners of the real CFL in 1995. So it seems like a good call for a Sacramento team here.

In this time the NFL is stable with only helmet design changes to note. The Niners change to their “modern” look. The Rams flirt with the past by going back to the blue/white helmets of the 60s/70s and the Giants also go back to their classic logo. The Lions modernise, but don’t go BFBS like our reality adding a dark grey instead. The Cards, Vikings, Seahawks and Falcons update their logos to modern versions. The Eagles change their wings, but stick with Kelly Green as Jeffrey Lurie and his wife aren’t in this reality! I’ve also updated the league and conference logos to something more like their real world modern versions.

I’ll now jump ahead to the present day. The 32 team NFL has enjoyed stability since 1980 with no franchise additions/losses or moves. Despite the failed merger with the CFL, the USFL has continued to grow and now has replaced the CFL teams to make a league of 32 as well. Rather than being in conflict, both leagues exist side-by-side and mean there is now pro football almost all year round to watch. It also means now that all major metropolitan areas have either an NFL or USFL team or both so there is very limited opportunity for maverick owners to play one city off against another to leverage new stadium deals.

The Washington Team has rebranded as the Commanders like in reality, but given their recent trademark issues I think pretty much anything else is equally as likely! The Rams have returned to blue and gold as colours. I’ve used the shades in their real 2020 rebrand but kept the original ram’s horns as I feel the new design ones are to do with their return to LA and in this reality they never left! The Giants and Oilers have both gone to metallic blue helmets, the Colts have reverted to a white facemask, but everything else is consistent apart from the change to a more modern helmet design.

The USFL has continued its strategy of placing teams in metropolitan areas nearby to existing markets but that don’t have their own team. So it added the Austin Cowboys and the New England Steamroller. As well as this, it has added teams in New Orleans (Buccaneers), Las Vegas (Silver), Minnesota (Aurora) and St. Louis (Stallions). I’ve updated the logos of the Generals, Stars and Bandits to the modern ones theior USFL2 incarnations have. I’ve also modernised the Fort Worth Cavalry logo and the Maulers have adopted Pittsburgh black and gold colours!

Austin is now the 10th most populous city, but its proximity to San Antonio and Houston has meant an NFL franchise has been unlikely. So a USFL team was added to fill that void. This reality has no Cowboys so the Austin team takes that name. I really liked the identity of the real world San Antonio Texans of the CFL (especially the snake-skin helmet stripe) so I used that here for the Austin Cowboys.

The USFL considered adding a New York team (the Generals are New Jersey) but in the end decided to place a team to cover the Connecticut/Rhode Island area which has a population of more than 4 million and no pro teams. They chose the old Providence Steamroller identity, but named the team New England as although they are based at the Yale Bowl in New Haven they also play a few games each year in Hartford and Providence. Some of you may be surprised not to see a Steamroller on the helmet, but the original Providence team had a Husky as their logo!

Las Vegas has grown incredibly since the 1950s, from just over 24,000 in 1952 to more than 650,000 now. In the real world they now have the Raiders and Golden Knights with perhaps the A’s soon to relocate there. There is no NFL team there in this alt-reality, so it makes for an ideal USFL site. The Denver team are the Gold and since Nevada is the Silver State, the team takes the name Silver. For the logo I’ve once again borrowed from the CFL’s abortive US phase and used the old Las Vegas Posse logo.

Our reality has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans is also on the Gulf Coast so it’s a suitable name for a team there. For the team identity I’ve taken inspiration from the New Orleans Voodoo Arena Team, the TB Bucs and the Shreveport Pirates of the CFL. So purple does feature (apologies to Paul!).

Minnesota is the North Star State, and that features in the identities of its pro teams. As the North Stars were (are depending on your reality!) a team, the name Aurora is chosen instead and the logo features a depiction of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).

When the real-life NFL was considering expansion in the mid-90s, one of the favourites was the St. Louis Stallions. As we know they lost out to the Carolina and Jacksonville, but it’s an interesting team identity to revive. I’ve taken inspiration from them, but also a design I did for the Birmingham Stallions from my other alt-reality piece but didn’t use. More purple again I’m afraid!

Well I’ve gone through 60+ years of alt-history and ended up with two stable 32 team pro leagues giving all-year round football. Could it have happened this way? We’ll never know of course, and I imagine fans of the AFL teams will be glad that it didn’t! But I like to think we could have ended up with a reality where most cities have their own team and there have been no painful relocations! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. 😊

• • • • •
Thanks, Chris! Another outstanding think piece and a really nice conclusion! Readers? What do you think?



Guess the Game from the Uniform

Based on the suggestion of long-time reader/contributor Jimmy Corcoran, we’ve introduced a new “game” on Uni Watch, which is similar to the popular “Guess the Game from the Scoreboard” (GTGFTS), only this one asked readers to identify the game based on the uniforms worn by teams.

Like GTGFTS, readers will be asked to guess the date, location and final score of the game from the clues provided in the photo. Sometimes the game should be somewhat easy to ascertain, while in other instances, it might be quite difficult. There will usually be a visual clue (something odd or unique to one or both of the uniforms) that will make a positive identification of one and only one game possible. Other times, there may be something significant about the game in question, like the last time a particular uniform was ever worn (one of Jimmy’s original suggestions). It’s up to YOU to figure out the game and date.

Today’s GTGFTU comes from Chris Hickeyk.

Good luck and please post your guess/answer in the comments below.



Guess the Game from the Scoreboard

Guess The Game…

…From The Scoreboard

Today’s scoreboard comes from Steve Frawley.

The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).

Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):

Please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.


Uni Tweet of the Day

Imagine him on the gridiron…


And finally...

…that’s going to do it for today, and for me for this weekend. Big thanks (yet again) to the one and only Chris Diamond and for this really fun four-parter! Great stuff.

Tomorrow is, as you’re all likely aware, Memorial Day. Even though this weekend is the “unofficial” start of summer, and many folks like to spend these days partying, at the beach, bar-be-queing, or other activities, let us please not forget that the origins of Memorial Day come from the Civil War. The observance was originally known as “Decoration Day,” when many Americans had begun hosting tributes to the Civil War’s fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers and flags. It was Union General John A. Logan who called for an official nationwide day of remembrance on May 30, 1868, a date chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of a particular battle. Following World War I, Decoration Day came to honor our fallen soldiers in all wars. In 1950, the name was officially changed, when Congress passed a resolution requesting that the president issue a proclamation calling on Americans to observe Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. But Memorial Day didn’t actually become an official federal holiday until 1971. Please take a few moments tomorrow to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

On that note, everyone enjoy the long weekend, and have a good week. I’ll catch you back here next Saturday.



Comments (28)

    GTGFTU: Monday May 25, 2015; Texas Rangers 10, Cleveland Indians 8 – Progressive Field.

    A few days late – but that’s the game, Morris!
    Red and blue joining hands…could use more of that nowadays. And maybe a bit less camo.

    Given the prominence and popularity of the University of Wisconsin Badgers, it seems highly unlikely that a pro team in Milwaukee would choose Badgers as their team name, and if they did, would face a trademark challenge.

    Probably so, but I would DEFINITELY wear that logo … especially since I’m still not buying [literally] my hometown Seattle look.

    Haha! Thanks Calandra! Yes I really liked how the Badgers came out. There’s not been much love for the Kelpies though. Probably a bit too European for the Pacific Northwest? The other design I love is the one I did for the Minnesota Aurora, I’m sorely tempted to make myself a t-shirt :)

    Actually I did have the San Antonio Wings relocating to Seattle in an early version of this project and even did a helmet for them link I thought Wings would be a good fit for Seattle obviously because of the aerospace industry. But in the end the Wings stayed in San Antonio.

    Dying to know the GTGFGS for today.
    I can narrow it down to the stadium and there are only 3 possible seasons where it could have occurred, based on the teams on the out-of-town scoreboard but I am stumped.

    Agree, there’s something odd here. Based on scoreboard I’m guessing this game was played on June 25, 1956. It was a two games that shortstop Granny Hamner, No. 2, pitched. The scores for the Milwaukee games for that home stand don’t match. Further, can’t find any scores in home games played with Milwaukee between 1955-58. The new Connie Mack Stadium scoreboard dates from 1955 or 56.

    The GTGFTS is June 28 1956.
    The other MLB games and scores match.
    My guess is that this is an in season exhibition game between the Philadelphia Phillies and their minor league affiliate Reading Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium.

    Reading was a Cleveland affiliate in 1956 so doubt it was them. Miami Marlins were the Phillies AAA affiliate, would guess it was maybe them on their way to Montreal or Rochester (both in the International League at that time).

    That’s a good guess. I am 99.9% sure it wasn’t an MLB game, since that score never happened during the 3 seasons this combination of MLB teams was in existence. And I may be wrong but the scoreboard at Connie Mack Stadium had the opponent’s name on the line score, and not “VISITOR”.

    It is a game at Connie Mack Stadium on June 28, 1956.
    The fact that the 3 other games match with the scores tell us that.
    Exactly who was playing in that game is the question.
    Would need someone to check the June 29, 1956 Philadelphia Inquirer sports section.

    GTGFTS was June 28, 1956 charity EXHIBITION game – Phillies hosting Washington Senators. (The other MLB games match that date.) Granville “Granny” Hamner, Philadelphia shortstop/2B (#2) pitched. He had hurt his non-pitching shoulder and was trying to stay in majors as a pitcher. Phils gave him a chance, but it didn’t work out. He last played for the KC Athletics as a pitcher for 3 games in 1962 after sitting out 1960-61 seasons.

    My reflex was to snark that Hamner must have been pitching in the 10-run third inning but according to SABR he pitched effectively that day:


    You are strongly missing out on Honolulu and the WFL.

    Also, these articles have strongly missed out on the television revenue impact, sports unions, city infrastructure of their timed, along with politics and stadium development seem to be absent.

    Alternate timelines are impossible to accurately gauge as once a scenario introduced, an infinite amount of unforseen possibilities are also in need of considerstion.

    Any What-If piece is subject to challenge that’s for sure! I’m not sure what you mean by “strongly misssing out on Honolulu and the WFL”. This wasn’t the WFL of our reality. As I said, I needed a new league starting in the early 70s to challenge the NFL and the *teams* of the WFL gave a good idea of what new franchises of that era might look like. The real WFL was going up against a more powerful 24 team NFL and lacked credible owners. This alt-reality WFL only shares a name and team identities with that league. And I didn’t want to over focus on more detailed socio-economic analyses because UW is primarily about uniforms!

    “Alternate timelines are impossible to accurately gauge as once a scenario introduced, an infinite amount of unforseen possibilities are also in need of consideration” – – in other words, THIS IS FUN!

    A scenario that ends with the blue-helmet Oilers, the Goldminers and the Steamroller (would have loved the machine but I like the husky!) is a happy ending indeed! Thanks for nicely wrapping up this trip through alternative history.

    Also glad to see the Skyhawks and… how ’bout them (Austin) Cowboys!

    Why not have a team in OKC rather than El Paso? Therefore the Wranglers could be in Arizona and the Outlaws in OKC, like the original USFL.

    I did consider that David, but Oklahoma City has a much lower population than El Paso and hasn’t got a stadium like the Sun Bowl.

    It’s a beautiful world where Nashville doesn’t get to steal (and retire) the Oilers, and Modell doesn’t forsake 60,000 season-ticket holders by selling out Cleveland!

    That was my favourite design of all the ones I created for this! I am seriously thinking of making a T-Shirt for them :)

Comments are closed.