Welcome to the AFL

arena football leagueI attended an Arena Football League game for the first time. I had four free tickets, but the only person I could con into going with me was Steve Smith.

All of you who turned me down, you didn’t miss much.

For the fast pace, AFL is an extremely boring sport. Nearly ever pass is a completion, nearly every possession a score and hardly anything ever goes wrong. There is little tension, and zero drama. About half-way through the second quarter, Smith and I retired to the Staple’s sports bar where he could watch his Dodgers and I could watch my Padres.

The bar was dead. In fact, the staff was busy closing up — no customers, they all go home.

We talked with one of the bar tenders about it, and he told us that the bar was usual dead during Avengers games, whereas when the Lakers are in the house, the bar is jumpin’. Funny, I thought, initially, it should be just the opposite.

But when I returned to my seat and looked at the people around me — obviously, not the LA elite, not the wealthy, but families and blue collar types, it struck me — the AFL appeals to the kind of crowd that spending their hard-earned money on a game ticket, they’re going to watch the game, and not waste $10 on a whisky sour.

I’ve been reading (actually, now, re-reading) a great book by Clayton Christensen called “The Innovator’s Solution.” It’s all about how entrepreneurs grow businesses — successful growth comes from finding a product or service that either isn’t available, but people want or need, or the available product or service is either too expensive or too inconvenient to use. Such products or services are called “disruptive innovations.”

When Southwest Airlines started their point-to-point flights at low costs, they introduced a disruptive innovation into the marketplace. Southwest wasn’t competing against bigger airlines. Southwest was competing against busses and cars. They were making airline travel for short trips cheaper and easier. That’s why the business grew so quickly.

The Arena Football League is also a low-end disruptor — selling a product to a class of people who want to enjoy live sports, but can’t afford NBA prices, and maybe find MLB a little slow.

The big mistake I see the AFL making though is being locked into deals were concession prices are outrageously high. The AFL could probably appeal to even more families if the price of four dogs and sodas was in the $10 to $12 range, instead of exceeding $25.

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