As a fan of the San Antonio Commanders in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF), I believed in the concept from the start. When San Antonio was announced as the last team, I was thrilled. I put my deposit down and eventually bought a season ticket because I wanted to be in on the ground floor of something great. I also joined the unofficial Commanders Tailgating Club to be in on that experience.
We had a warm-up party in the parking lot of Alamo Distilling Co., a mile north of the Alamodome. Nine weeks later on April 9, the day that would have been the game against the Memphis Express, we gathered again for a Tailgate Farewell. I saw it as a wake; a time to enjoy and celebrate what we had, and to mourn what could have been. My goal, besides eating and drinking, was to circulate and ask other fans about their experiences, feelings, and what they wanted to happen in the future. I had plenty of questions ready. Unfortunately, it was too easy to enjoy the brunch, beverages and the friendship of everyone.
Still, I managed to ask some questions and tap into joys and frustrations. Phillip Higgenbotham, one of the hosts of the Command Post Podcast, placed the blame for the failure of the Alliance on both Tom Dundon and Charlie Ebersol; mostly on Dundon. “I blame Dundon for ending the league, but I blame Eberson and Polian for letting it happen.” Leo Llamas (pronounced YAH-mahs), another Command Post host, created the @XFLToSA Twitter account at work. “I was looking over my shoulder, trying not to get caught.” He was happy that De’Vante Bausby, an S.A. cornerback, was signed quickly by the Denver Broncos. As for creating the XFL account and possibly continuing the podcast, Llamas explained, “We don’t have a team anymore, but during our run, we covered more than the team. We covered the fandom, and the culture built by those fans. Even without those fans, it remains.
“We’re forced to move on from the team; there’s nothing we can do about that. But I’m not ready to move on from the culture that was built, and the people left to lament the loss. I figured that the quicker we can move the focus to stay united in this cause, the more people we could get to rally behind it.” He added, “But for now, Phillip and I have started the new @XFLToSA Twitter account to kind of push the cause and gauge interest.” I asked what he thought about the Xtreme Football League’s (XFL) chances for success in 2020. “Depends on the on-field product. If the XFL follows the blueprint left by the AAF, focusing on good, fast-paced football, and being complementary to the NFL instead of competing with them, it can be very successful. You have to consider the financial backing and business savvy that the league will have. If the XFL recognizes the blueprint and doesn’t try to change too much from that aspect, they can be successful.”
My final question for Leo: “If Vince McMahon expands the XFL, next year or later to include San Antonio, will you support a team?” He responded, “I absolutely will support a team here. San Antonio loves football and embraced the Commanders as our own. Those same people are now left hoping for another chance to continue building on what was started, and I will jump at the opportunity to join them. He concluded, “The Command Post Podcast was successful because it was a labor of love by all involved. We don’t want to carry on just for the sake of carrying on if we aren’t able to share the same passion and enthusiasm that won our audience.” The Command Post crew will decide on how to move the podcast forward, once the three hosts and producer John Largent of Gameday Media Enterprises meet. They’re planning to announce plans on the podcast’s Facebook page with a live video on Monday, April 15 at 6 PM CDT.
The third member of the podcast, R.C. Woods, was also the cheerleader of the Tailgating Group. On the podcast, she had a “Mom to Mom” segment where she interviewed players’ mothers. She brought a woman’s point of view and was just as passionate as the guys about sports and Commanders football. On game days, she flitted around like a butterfly between parking lots B and C at the Alamodome. At the Tailgate Farewell, all the former Commanders players were invited, but the only one that showed up and I met was Jaryd Jones-Smith, an offensive tackle. He was an undrafted free agent for the Houston Texans last year in 2018 but was cut. Big; 6’6″ and 323 pounds. Compared to this 5’5″, 170-pound guy, I was looking at a friendly giant. His mother was there also, and just as friendly. He had a workout scheduled with the Baltimore Ravens, but on Apr. 9 he signed with the Miami Dolphins, along with other former Commanders.
So in the end, San Antonians were glad for the experience of pro football, even if it wasn’t an NFL team. Some are looking forward to the XFL, & hoping that Vince McMahon will quickly expand to include our city. Most are angry at Tom Dundon for killing the league and not completing the AAF’s season. Some believe his goal was to steal the tech supporting the AAF’s app. Some are angry at Charlie Ebersol beginning the league and feel he was running a con from the start.
Nevertheless, the team had local sponsor support. The H-E-B grocery chain was an early sponsor of the San Antonio Commanders. Another local company, Alamo Beer Co. (not related to the distillery) brewed official Commanders Amber and Light beers. Those were also sold at selected H-E-B stores. Commanders staff, including GM Daryl “Moose” Johnson and Head Coach Mike Riley, were at the brewery for the kickoff party.
Tonight, Friday, April 12, the night of what would have been the San Antonio Commanders’ final game of the season in Salt Lake City against the Stallions, there will be a Commanders Thank You Party at Alamo Beer. Food truck So. Tex BBQ will sell beef brisket in many forms. Alamo will be selling Commanders beers. And fans will finish the aborted AAF season in very similar fashion to how they started it… with a party!