Commanders Win as New Era of Pro Football Debuts in San Antonio

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The San Antonio Commanders take to the field for the first time as the Alliance of American Football starts its inaugural season.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The San Antonio Commanders take to the field for the first time as the Alliance of American Football starts its inaugural season.

Eight hours before Nick Rose scored the first three points in San Antonio Commanders history, flag-flying pickup trucks and SUVs lined up on Cherry Street on the east side of the Alamodome filled with hearty football fans ready to cheer for their new team.

Occasional drizzle and temperatures in the low 40s Saturday made it feel like football season as tailgaters listened to music, played cornhole and kids threw footballs as smoke from barbecues wafted over the parking lots.

San Antonians have hungered for a professional football team for years, and thousands showed up to finally have their appetites satisfied with the debut of the first game in the inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football.

They yelled, they booed, they high-fived and groaned at missed opportunities like they had been wearing red and silver and supporting the team for years. Even former San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson came to see history unfold.

The crowd of 27,857 filled most of the lower bowl of the stadium for the 7:30 p.m. start and saw the Commanders defeat the San Diego Fleet 15-6.

Roger Adan, 41, of San Antonio stood in the cold before the game drinking a Commanders beer from Alamo Beer Co. explaining what attracted him to become a season ticket holder without knowing how good the product would be on the field.

“I think this league is going to be successful,” he said. “The NFL is backing it. Plus we’re always complaining that we don’t have a football team in San Antonio. We have to support the team we have.”

Rene Aguilar, a 46-year-old who lives on the South Side, came with nearly 20 friends and family members. They cooked ribs and chicken and drank beer beneath a tent with the American flag flying. They started what they hope becomes a familiar chant with just about anyone who walked by.

“Swords up,” they yelled, referencing the Commanders logo, which features a military sword. “Hell, yeah.”

“You have to believe in it,” Aguilar said of supporting the fledgling team. “If you don’t believe in it, it will fail.”

When film producer Charlie Ebersol and NFL Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian first unveiled the idea for this new spring football league a year ago, they committed to quality football first and foremost, knowing a faulty product would doom the endeavor.

For the most part, they delivered on that promise in this first outing, which was televised nationally on CBS and on the league’s app and website. With each player wearing sensors to track movement, the data areas of the app and website resembled the old video game Tecmo Bowl.

“We’re a startup football league,” Ebersol said. “Before (Saturday), no one had ever seen the San Antonio Commanders play a football game and we’re asking people to part with their money to do that. It might be $10 or it might be $150, but ultimately this is not a decision where somebody is going to be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got to go see the Pittsburgh Steelers.’ We have to earn that audience.”

The league also vowed to put player safety first, which is why there are no kickoffs; possessions that start games and halves or follow scores begin at the 25-yard line.

However, that commitment seemed half-hearted early in the game when San Antonio linebacker Shaan Washington drilled San Diego quarterback Mike Bercovici, separating him from his helmet. It was a highlight sure to make future Commanders hype videos, but Bercovici’s head hit the turf and he was not required to leave the game for even one play.

The AAF paid tribute to San Antonio’s military community when it named the team and designed its logo. That continued Saturday with members of the Air Force unfurling a field-length American flag for the national anthem performed by Master Sgt. Robert Scott.

Members of the United States Airforce stretch out a football field sized American flag before the game.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Members of the U.S. Air Force stretch an American flag across the football field before the game.

Fans saw the genesis of new traditions, including a horse named Clovis,  ridden by Andy Andersen, leading the Commanders on to the field before the game.

A group of men stood in the back of the end zone holding long rifles and dressed like Alamo soldiers. Bob O’Campo, Charles Lara, Mike Scully, and Martin Vasquez make regular appearances for the Battle for Texas The Experience and will be regulars at Commanders home games.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

(From left) Mike Scully, Charles Lara, Bob O’Campo, Martin Vasquez, and Scott Jones fire their muskets into the air.

All five will fire their weapons for a Commanders touchdown, two will fire for a 2-point conversion (there are no extra points in the AAF) and three fire for a field goal.

What remains to be seen is whether the league has staying power. The feeling on Saturday was that it showed promise in its debut, and football-starved San Antonians couldn’t be happier.

9 thoughts on “Commanders Win as New Era of Pro Football Debuts in San Antonio

  1. Not trying to be negative, really, but it is minor league football at the end of the day. The reality is that San Antonio is full of minor league teams which enhances the image of a minor league city. With all due respect, not spending my hard earned money on this. Call me when the NFL comes to town, hopefully in my lifetime!

    • Props in acknowledging your negativity. However we have to give a shout out to all the fans that are supporting this team. If we end up getting an NFL team, it will be in part because of their support for our SA Commanders. They are the ones buying the merchandise, they are the ones tailgating at the games, they’re the ones filling the stands, they are the ones supporting & rooting the players ( probably the most important part ).

      • I have to agree with Guillermo. Even if the league folds, the NFL will look at the TV ratings and attendance numbers that SA produces for the Commanders. If people take Aflo614’s attitude, the NFL will throw that fact in our face if we get another opportunity to try to get an NFL franchise. The NFL will say “they can’t even support a “minor league football” team, why should they get the big leagues?”

    • This game was better than the boring NFL Super Bowl! And I disagree with your negativity, this is another Pro Football League, not a minor league, Sorry buddy.
      I think this one will stick around for a while. It was a very entertaining game. The NFL supports it and so does CBS. San Antonio “currently” has its second pro team!!

      And by the way, I keep hearing the NFL is fake and scripted like pro wrestling. What do you think??

      • Also, 30,000 people spent their hard earned money to watch the inaugural game of the AAF in the Alamodome, and 3 million tuned in on CBS to watch the new Pro Football League. Probably NFL fans that are sick and tired of NFL games with so many rules and regulations that take the “fun” out of the game. So next Commanders home game, come out and have some fun Aflo and be happy in the best city in Texas!!!

  2. Watched game on TV. Very enjoyable viewing. The game was played by highly skilled players and was much faster than an NFL game with much, much less interruptions to the game with poor advertising. I agree the AAF does not have the polish of the NFL, but dollar for dollar the game was as entertaining, if not more, as an NFL game.

  3. I watched the Commanders win their first game from my perch in the State of Maryland. I was thrilled! As I follow the Spurs, so will I follow the Commanders. Great job San Antonio!

  4. Was at the game and got season tickets considering the low cost. I have Texans season tickets and these are nearly free in comparison. Game was fun and I love the faster pace. Crowd was great too. It’s football when otherwise there would be none. So that’s big plus. My biggest gripe…Alamodome food lines were way too long and some carts ran out of beer by the third quarter.

  5. I was the horse guy at the game, and after the big entrance I watched and cheered from the sidelines. This was a full house of excited folks having a blast and getting 100% behind a brand new team. These fans deserve a great team!

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