The crown jewel of the Topps AAF certified collection is the league founder Charlie Ebersol. It’s actually a great looking card of him. I rarely saw these in the wild on Ebay, and when I did they were outrageously priced and people were bidding on them. I never thought this would drop into my possession but CFL Fan in Philly came through again with an offer for this and other cards to complete out my set I could not resist.
I wrote Charlie shortly after the league folded and sorta went over the top. It was a 10 page letter done in InDesign with photos on it. I had a lot of things to say, and also questions to ask. I’d like to think that due to the AAF lawsuits going around, he didn’t really want to say anything.
Well over the last few years since the league folded, parts of it have been sold off, such as the gambling tech (to MGM) and equipment (MLFB). The trademarks to the team names lapsed, and the Commanders name that had been ‘promised’ to San Antonio, was snatched up by the artist formerly known as the Redskins… in Washington DC. The website and the mobile app have also died a quiet death.
Charlie otherwise has remained fairly mum since the league folded. Just a casual thing here or there on Twitter, but nothing recent. If he’s behind the strings on the AAF account as well, it’s great theater when he does say something or likes something that stirs the masses.
He’s also had to contend unfortunately with the AAF’s bankruptcies in San Antonio. Despite that, and what happened to the league, I never saw him as a villain. He further cemented my position on that as he fought vigorously for the former AAF players to receive more financial compensation out of the bankruptcy fund, much to Tom Dundon’s chagrin.
It’s strange, but to me, it’s becoming a weird life goal to meet and hang out with Charlie. -No no. Not in that stalker-ish sorta way, but in general, he seems like a very likeable guy, who absolutely loves the sport of football. So yeah Charlie, the invitation still stands. Tacos. Beer. Football. Oh and heck if you got another one of those boss AAF jackets in your closet- <nods and grins>.
And, he still has that photo of us together during that final game in league history he promised he’d post up.
Card: Topps AAF 2019 Acquired: IP 2019, San Antonio Commanders vs Arizona Hotshots
So I said, “Hey Charile! I got your trading card over here!”, And he was genuinely shocked. “Get out! I have a trading card!”, He said as he briskly strolled over to me in the visitors end zone. Charlie smiled and looked at it, and gleefully showed it to his wife. He was so excited he and I took a picture together (- that in retrospect will possibly never see the light of day). “Don’t worry, my wife posts everything to Twitter,” Ebersol said as he penned the card. He thanked me, but before turning around, reached into his pocket and gave me a league lapel pin. For a brief moment, I felt special. When asked about the league, Charlie smiled, and said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but based on how great San Antonio has been, you guys should be able to keep the rights to it forever!” Ebersol then handed out every single one of those lapel pins to the fans sitting around me.
It reminded me of when I was 25, and I worked for a brokerage company in 2002. There were rumors of downsizing, and the CEO came in and talked to us about what was going on. His response and body language was about the same as Charlie’s, and I picked up on it, but didn’t want to believe it. Two months later I was laid off as the company closed the location I worked at.
The San Antonio Commanders versus the Arizona Hotshots was the last game played by the AAF. Two days after the game concluded, the league was shuttered. Fans, players, executives, coaches- it all ended. Tom Dundon, (the Chairman and the guy controlling the league’s purse strings), abruptly decided to stop funding the league. Charlie and the other founding members of the league were dumbfounded. They had a 3 year plan, but Dundon had plans- otherwise, and decided to cut loose after only a few weeks.
Things have a way of coming full circle. My dad used to take me to WLAF games back in the early 90s. This was the first time I had a team since then that I could relate to in SA like that, and I wanted to share that with my father- but he passed away before the first game at the beginning of the year.
I hoped that living vicariously through the guests that I had take his seat, that I could keep the memory and dream alive of spending time with my dad, and to not have to confront the fact that he died, but that too has come to pass.
And just like the AAF, I just wished I had more time.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.