"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, sportsnetwork.com
Southampton, PA (Sports Network) --
The XFL has arrived. The creation of Vince McMahon, funded and fueled by NBC, arrived on the scene last week and expanded the audience that has made McMahon incredibly wealthy through the WWF into the seats where they can watch what has laughingly been referred to as professional football.
It is a travesty. Not because the level of play is beneath less than average, but because the frills and frivolities of it are right out of Barnum and Bailey.
They were watched as an oddity and there I was in San Francisco taking in as much as I could of the New York / New Jersey Hitmen paying a visit to Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas to wrestle - whoops, excuse me - play football against the Las Vegas Outlaws before I headed out to see "The Pledge." Why do I know that the names of the teams were not voted on by the fans? Orlando Rage, New York / New Jersey Hitmen, Birmingham Bolts (almost acceptable), Chicago Enforcers (with a thank you to Frank Nitty), Los Angeles Xtreme, San Francisco Demons, Memphis Maniax, Las Vegas Outlaws. These guys are giving rap a good name.
The first week ratings were beyond wildest expectation and this corner says they were a fluke. Can this possibly be a new pop culture phenomenon? If so, it says a lot about our taste these days. So, this week, and the one to come, will tell us a lot about what we want to see. Bad coverage by cameras that watch as much grass as they do action. Placement behind the quarterback, possibly the worst possible position on the field. Allowing players from a team whose cumulative IQ ranks at about third grade level to speak incessantly into the microphone for introductions and during the action. They are as coherent as a bovine with mad cow disease.
None of the cheerleaders that I saw will ever have to worry about drowning. Likely they could float for months if they ever fell off a ship and two thirds of them could become buoys to earn yet another few dollars on the weekend. Talk about lighthouses! We are speaking of headlights that would light up most of the ocean space between here and Bermuda.
The Birmingham Bolts cheerleaders pose for a photo during the XFL game between the Birmingham Bolts and the Memphis Maniax. The Maniax won 22-20.
Jesse Ventura was embarrassing as an announcer and has reverted to his roots displaying just how unqualified he is to govern anything, no less one of the states. He just blusters along, usually incoherently, displaying less knowledge of the game than Dennis Miller. His new partner this week will be Jim Ross, a shrieker from the WWF. Matt Vasgersian (say that ten times fast!) will be relegated to the B game because he was almost normal. How gross and inadequate. He will be working with Jerry Lawler and it is doubtful that he will get much more to say beyond the initial introduction.
NBC has to resort to reason somewhere along the line and introduce some professional producers and camera work. The Looney Tunes approach with Daffy Duck directing has to stop. Okay, it doesn't have to stop but compounding the idiocy on the field will not help. There are better things to do on the weekend than be subjected to the XFL if it continues the way it began, curiosity ratings aside.
If the XFL survives it will be analogous to the WWF and attract the same audience in larger numbers. This is not serious football. Any legitimacy it achieves will be at the box office, nowhere else. The network of the bird decided not to invest the family jewels in the NFL and that was probably a good decision and deterrent against bankruptcy. How magical is Vince McMahon? Apparently he can give the best of them a run for the money. His actors attract that 14-24 male audience and NBC is looking for the same folks in an effort to fill the net and reel them in for other programming.
Russell Lala of Melbourne, Florida cheers for the Orlando Rage during XFL opening night against the Chicago Enforcers. There is a considerable crossover between professional wrestling fans and XFL fans.
Believe it or not, there is credibility out of Las Vegas, where odds are being posted on these games. Drew Pearson, Dick Butkus and other "names" are not guarantees against hocus pocus on the field and sidelines but it is a good bet (no pun intended) that the performance you see is genuine, as bad as it is. Can it be that poor and credible? Yup! It is an oxymoron that challenges common sense but it can be done.
The omission of a fair catch is a bit deceiving since the kicking team has to wait until the ball is in the air before heading down field and the receiver still gets some room...five yards until he makes the catch. Yes, when the ball goes 25 yards it is "live" but don't count on too many wrestling matches for possession. That only occurs at the outset of the game when the race and battle royal for the ball has replaced the obligatory coin toss. However, rumor has it that the run for the pigskin might be replaced by a referee toss.
No extra point is another change and the ball has to be passed or run in from the two-yard line. A fumbled or intercepted attempt can be returned by the defense for one point. Most defenders don't think it is worth the effort.
Quarterbacks are not protected by the in-the-grasp rule. Get him, maim or kill him and throw him, literally, for a 20-30 yard loss in what will come to be known as the QB toss. They can still slide when running so this is a great league for someone such as Kerry Collins. And, defensive backs can bump and run with receivers all the way down the field. Don't look for any passing records to be set in this league.
Fans invited into the locker rooms?!?!?!? Female fans? And, male fans into the dressing room of the cheerleaders? Maybe this is not such a bad league after all. Hmmmmm.
End zone line dancing and dunking is fine so most receivers and runners have retained personal choreographers. Good move. Not very entertaining but they are trying. Fosse it will not be.
Whether the fans pull up stakes or Las Vegas drops the line, one of those or a combination of the two, is the death knell for the league's efforts at respectability and veracity.
If the XFL turns into a Vince McMahon production it will get worse before it gets better. What is the best bet for the weekend games? Check the video and movie guides. Looking for comedy? Watch these teams in action. Do I think that this will be anything more than wrestling between the yard markers? You gotta be kidding!