In this space, I hope I encourage readers to think of creating their own success, not trying to duplicate the success of others. Here’s an illustration of a group that may be falling into the latter category.
This week, I spoke to a man who’s launching an alternative football league. He’s likeable and personable, and I respect him for what he’s trying to do, which is build a business model that is not only profitable, but that also rewards fans who want football year-round along with players who fall through the NFL cracks. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s laudable. But let’s look at the record.
About five months ago, the FXFL was in all-out media mode, doing radio, print and TV in an effort to sell the idea that a second outdoor football league could work. The league won a few fans that are well-placed in football circles, and it seemed like an idea whose time had come. I went to bat for the league with my clients, many of whom called me, asking if they should send players to the league. How viable was the idea, they asked? Would players actually get paid? I was cautiously optimistic. Whenever they called, I’d recommend the league, but also warn that the fail rate for these ventures is extraordinarily high.
Sure enough, after the early excitement of the league wore off, things began to darken. Stadiums were empty, publicity was mostly absent, and players began to complain of not getting paid. In the last couple months, I’ve fielded numerous calls from agents with players who left a job, an apartment, a girlfriend, or all three to take a chance on the FXFL, only to be rewarded with missed paychecks. I’m confident, or at least hopeful, everything will be resolved; FXFL Commish Brian Woods is a stand-up guy and we’ve forged a pretty good relationship. Still, the financial equation was never an easy one, and I wish I could say I never saw this coming.
The FXFL was not a victim of mismanagement or squandered opportunity. In the 13 years I’ve run ITL, others who’ve failed include, in no special order, the XFL, UFL, USFL2, AAFL and others who had varying measures of ‘success’ before fading into the night. Even the Arena League, which is relatively speaking a phenomenal success, took a year off to re-cut its deal with the players and reset its financial foundation. These leagues almost always go down, and go down hard. I hope the same fate doesn’t await this latest project.
So here’s my point. If you want to be an agent, or a scout, or a team owner, or whatever, I encourage you to study the profession really, really well. Know everything you can about it. Personally nterview everyone you can, read books, talk to people you trust, and learn all it’s possible to learn. And if you come to realize it’s a bridge too far, see if you can find another way to accomplish a similar goal.
That’s what I did. I’ve considered all of those professions, but came to realize none were viable, so I forged my own direction. I’m not holding myself out as some kind of unqualified success story, but I’m happy to have carved out a small niche in the business. You can do it, too. Just be flexible and don’t feel like charging through a brick wall is, necessarily, the answer.