The XFL is Bringing Us Real Football – Media Sharks are no better than Schoolyard Bullies

I hear and see a calm coach like Al Luginbill say “get out of my face” to a cameraman, as the last minute pressure of an extremely close game causes his firm facade to crack — just a little bit.

(21 February 2001) — Why keep picking on the XFL?

It seems that the media sharks are swarming because they smell blood.

Mostly, they think that they’re practicing good journalism, but in actuality they are no better than a bunch of schoolyard bullies. Picking on the “new kid” when he is down.

Why not report on the real story here? Why not take the XFL for what it is: Real football, presented in a unique way, and setting a standard for the method in which televised sports will be presented in the future. You just know that the NFL, and other football leagues, are going to be using some of the XFL’s gadgetry when they come back in their next season.

For me, the XFL moment that most impacted my opinion came in Week 2. I keep picturing Outlaw’s quarterback Ryan Clement rolling on the field and moaning. Then he pointing out the “later than usual” hit by Shante Carver that helped cause his shoulder injury. Then he kept telling the training staff “It’s separated, it’s separated” as they escorted him off then field.

If it wasn’t for the XFL I would never had experienced real football, almost from the point of view that Ryan Clement does.

There is nothing glamorous about Clement’s injury. In fact it’s a shame to have happened. It’s just that these are the trials and tribulations that a football quarterback has to deal with when he is playing a real football game. Now I can better understand it, because I was pretty much there.

I hear and see a calm coach like Al Luginbill say “get out of my face” to a cameraman, as the last minute pressure of an extremely close game causes his firm facade to crack — just a little bit.

Like most fans, never having played the game, the closest I get to playing a football game myself is when the camera does a close-up such as this. Now the XFL brings it into my “TV Box Dealy” on a weekly basis.

I can even hear all the grunts and the huffing and puffing of the linemen just after the ball is snapped.

I hear the play calls. I don’t really understand them, but I sure love to hear them.

I hear and see Los Angeles Xtreme quarterback, Tommy Maddox, comment about every little thing that seems to bother him.

I hear and see a calm coach like Al Luginbill say “get out of my face” to a cameraman, as the last minute pressure of an extremely close game causes his firm facade to crack — just a little bit.

So why wouldn’t I like the XFL? It is giving me a unique view of my favorite sport.
Upon mentioning the XFL in public one will find that some people absolutely love the league and others totally despise it. When you ask the people who don’t like it, “why”, most will tell you that they have never actually watched a game. They just heard that it is “bush-league ball”.

If they had seen a game they would realize that the football is not really substandard. Mind you, the XFL is not for everyone, it’s just that people should not be turned away because they expect to see a bad football game. On the contrary, the “football” has been this league’s strongest point.

Football by amateurs? Some of the media “wags” will have you believe that the XFL is not worth watching because the players are “second string”. Frankly if you actually watch some of the games you will see some of these so called “second string” footballers giving a greater effort than most of the players I see in other leagues. And they do all this simply for the love of the game!

For the love of the game? Isn’t that just a hackneyed sports cliché?

Not when the XFL is concerned. If you have any doubt, just watch any XFL match and see what these players will do for their low by NFL standards pay envelope.

Put this in perspective for a minute. These are not millionaire players. These players are football machines that are running on minimum wage. Even though the salaries are below normal there is still a “waiting list” for players who still want to play in this league. These are players who either want to showcase their talents or even better yet – play football.

The XFL is certainly not hurting the game of football. The increased football on network televisions will certainly entice more fans to enjoy the game in the long run, whether it be NFL, CFL, College or Pop-Warner for that matter. Plus more players get to play the game. The XFL player selection process has proven, where they had more than 10,000 applicants, that there is an abundance of football talent out there. Now the XFL gives some of them a chance to play.

Maybe it’s the cheerleaders that people don’t appreciate?

During an XFL broadcast, there is a generous sprinkling of cheerleader close-ups. Images of scantly clad women? Of course, the average Joe appreciates the bawdiness of the XFL, just as they probably appreciate it on other televised sporting events, other reality based programs and certain sitcoms which also push the limits of prime time TV.

But it is still the football that brings me back week after week.

By Mark Nelson – XFLBoard.com

NY-NJ Hitmen GM Drew Pearson Comments on the XFL

By The Masked Prognosticator

(13 February 2001) — For those out there who think the XFL has not gone mainstream should have listened to the Mike and Mad Dog Show on New York’s top rated sports talk station, WFAN 660-am on Monday. Despite the Big Apple featuring eight major league sports teams, including two that won a title and one that fell short of such, the talk of the town was obviously the New York-New Jersey Hitmen.

The main attraction of today’s show was NY-NJ GM Drew Pearson. Pearson, who called in, is a former Dallas Cowboys All-Pro receiver who started a very successful sports headwear company upon retiring. That business indirectly landed him the XFL gig.

Among some of the more interesting remarks Pearson made on today’s show:

Pearson was asked if he was bitter about not getting a break in the from office of the NFL after retiring…

In 1985 Pearson was an assistant coach and scout for the Cowboys. He thought this would be his “in” in the NFL. Unfortunately, that did not take place, but he said any bitterness he has in not succeeding in the NFL: “That is a non-issue now.”.

Interestingly, Mike and the Mad Dog kept pressing Drew as to whether or not he harbors ill-resentment to the NFL. He sounded like he has bitterness in his voice, but said he had ” . . been bitter.” but kept emphasizing he was not now. He said “I’ve done everything you would want . . .said the right things . .” but still could not the big break he thought he deserved in the NFL.

Pearson was asked if the XFL player thought the all-access cameras were intrusive…

Pearson said “If they had a problem with it, they needed to express it at that point” (when they were signed by the XFL).

As expected, Pearson was drilled about the talent level of the XFL…

Pearson pointed out that when he entered the NFL in the 1970s, he was an unsigned, undrafted free agent, and was picked among 100 guys in the Cowboys training camp. (and eventually went on to be a great receiver) Asked if there was a “short list” or what backup there was should several players get injured, Pearson admitted the talent pool out there right now was “severely limited”.

In a remark that could bear research, he did say that “100%” of the talent in the XFL had NFL experience of some kind, though this included training camp rejects.

He remarked that the quality of play “is not surprising to me” and “can improve, and will improve”.

He pointed out that the players were together for only 5 weeks and “It takes a long time . . . it binds trust and loyalty, knowing that your teammate is going to carry out his assignment. He pointed out that this is the reason the NFL’s quality of play has suffered some because some players don’t keep their players long enough. At least in the XFL, because every team is in the same boat, every team is on a “level playing field”.

When asked about New York’s pathetic QB situation…

Drew Pearson reminded the hosts, tongue in cheek of course, that he used to play quarterback.

Pearson also recounted how he got involved in the XFL…

He was a licenser of NFL headware, for which he paid $7,000,000 for the rights to the league.

He eventually became the sole distributor of WWF headwear, and that is how he hooked up with Basil DeVito and Mike Keller. When he was convinced that the XFL “was not going to compete with the NFL” and that it would be “real football” he signed on for the Hitmen job.

What was encouraging about the broadcast…

After the interview, the hosts did not get into the quality of the XFL. In typical New York fashion, the main topic seemed to be whether or not the Hitmen should get rid of Chuck Puleri.

Unnecessary Roughness

By Madd Max – Maniax Tream Reporter

(7 February 2001) — What a weekend for the XFL. Vince McMahon’s brainstorm has television network executives turning their heads. Whether you are for or against the XFL, you have to hand it to Mr. McMahon, the opening weekend ratings were better than you can imagine.

ESPN (a.k.a. Eggs Stain Protruding Noses) came out and said they would not cover the XFL, and had ESPN radio personalities warning callers that they would not discuss the league on air. Tsk, tsk…ESPN is now showing highlights, albeit negative ones. The 9.5/17 share ratings were higher than even Vince projected, and with all the talk around office water coolers, there is a chance that those numbers are reachable again this weekend. When all the bugs are worked out, Vince really may have that grinch-like smile permanently.

Inaugural weekend observations:

Overall consensus for odd camera angles: use them, but less often…..On field interviews: maybe at half-time, not during play…..Cheerleaders: more like strippers in uniforms-but hey, what’s wrong with that?…..Xtreme trash talking leads to hoof in mouth disease…..Rage and Enforcers put on quite a show to a full house…..Hitmen fans will not tolerate a slow start…..Demons made fans Xtreme-ly happy with a great show at Pac Bell…..Las Vegas hasn’t rocked like that since the King disappeared…..Maniax ground out and old time football win…..Bolts hung tough…..Shame on ESPN…..Kudos to NBC, TNN, UPN and the Governor!

It’s Real Football

By Sonny Sanders – XFLBoard.com Bolts Team Reporter

Birmingham – (6 February 2001) — I have to admit that in the beginning I was a skeptic. I was wary of the XFL. I was fully aware of the WWF and the fact that it is a predetermined event. It’s fake. I was not sure if the XFL would be a joke or at best a NFL parody. Nothing more than a play toy for Vince McMahon. Slowly the XFL is proving that it is a legitimate football league. McMahon claimed that it would be old school football but displayed in a high tech manner. Still doubts lingered. Then things started to change. NBC jumped on board and dropped millions dollars into the league. NFL-Europe coaches and players were interested. Current and former NFL players wanted to become a part of the NFL. Finally Las Vegas laid down the odds.

Even though the XFL has instituted less than serious rule changes, it is still being taken seriously. Vince McMahon counters all questions by explaining how much better the XFL will be in presenting the game while telling us all that the XFL is not in competition with the NFL. The fact is that they are in competition. The XFL may also be wining some of the battles. Soon after the XFL announced a few of the ideas for covering the game the NFL adopted the “Ref Cam” and “Eye-Vision”. Still Vince tells us that the coverage in the XFL will blow us away and change the way the game is displayed forever.

The money that Vince McMahon and NBC have spent on the XFL has proven, in my opinion, that they are serious about making the XFL work. It is not the NFL and doesn’t try to be. The XFL does consider the talent to be below the NFL but that the entertainment value is beyond the NFL.

I’m sold. The XFL is good entertainment. Will it make the people in Birmingham forget Auburn and Alabama? UAB? No. It will however give football fans three more months of good football and fill the gap in an otherwise dead period.

Is the XFL real football? Yes. Is it good football? Yes.

Before anyone assumes that this is an XFL love fest let me say that some things need to improve. The broadcast of the games was a little sloppy. The announcers are not going to win any awards and camera angles were disorienting at times. There were problems with seating and concessions at some stadiums. These problems are not major issues but should be addressed to improve the look and feel of the game. There are mixed reviews on the “Scramble for the Ball” instead of a coin toss and the sideline interviews were useless.

Overall I would rate the first ever broadcast for the XFL as well done with room for improvement. The action on the field was good. Not close to the NFL but better than college level. With dedication and an overall good decision making by the XFL has made me a fan. Forget that Vince McMahon is the man behind the curtain. If you love football sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

How to “Save” the XFL

Should the XFL be using more tough guy interviewers and color commentators like Jesse Ventura to promote it’s unique brand of football?

By the Masked Prognosticator

(27 February 2001) –– With steady crowds in some cities, stabilizing ratings, and a dedicated hardcore fan base, the death of the XFL has been greatly exaggerated.

The ratings have declined but you knew that going in, though their rapid decline is troubling.

Rumors abound that NBC will soon dump the XFL. I doubt it. With tens of millions of dollars invested, and no football contract with the NFL, the XFL should a home on NBC.

However, I feel strongly that the XFL’s days in NBC’s Saturday night lineup are numbered, and that is fine. The XFL belongs on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, not competing for prime time ratings.

Even the NFL, NBA, baseball and NHL are NOT on prime time network television from fall to spring- except for playoff and All-Star games. With the exception of Monday Night Football, regular season pro sports do NOT draw on prime time TV except for in the summer against reruns. Isn’t it a bit much to ask the fledgling XFL to do the same?

NBC dropped the ball with it’s XFL strategy. The right move would have been to show the first game on prime time, grab a portion of the large audience, THEN in week 2 broadcast on a day slot. You grab the headlines and publicity of the great ratings number, then save face in week 2 when all the curiosity seekers don’t tune in.

Now, you have no-win situation where NBC may be forced to embarrass themselves and Vince McMahon by “canceling” the XFL on prime time.

Don’t worry- when the axe falls, the core audience, the 2.0 18-30 year old demos, will follow the XFL no matter what time slot you put it on. And even if NBC dumps the league altogether, an improbability since they are under contract, TNN and UPN should be happy with 2.0 ratings.

What we have learned is that the XFL will NOT be a mainstream phenomenon for right now. It’s place is among successful cult TV shows on the lines of pro wrestling, Battle-bots and American Gladiators. Once NBC relegates the XFL to that status, the question will then become can the league stay profitable, but that’s a story for another day.

Then there are the critics and the media. The fact that the media have destroyed the XFL is not shocking. Think about it. You are a sports beat writer. Your living depends on getting access to NFL football players and locker rooms. You put over the threatening XFL, your certainly are NOT going to be as over with the Jerry Jones and Danny Snyders of the world. See under “press pass revoked”.

But enough rationalization. I’m not just an XFL writer, but I also am a fan, and I am willing to face reality. The XFL has many flaws, and it is an endangered though certainly NOT extinct species. With some fine tuning, I think the XFL can be a huge hit for a very, very long time. Here’s my 2 cents:

CASH IN ON THE $1 MILLION DOLLAR GAME SHOW CRAZE

Frankly, I can not believe the XFL with all it’s brilliant marketing never caught on to this. What is the grand prize for the team that wins the Big Game at the End?

$1 million dollars!

What are the two top rated TV shows of the past year and a half?

“Survivor” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.

Their Grand Prizes?

Yup. Of course the answer is $1 MILLION DOLLARS!!!!

The XFL has done a POOR job at promoting this. They’ve done a a decent job of reminding the fans that these are NOT all major league players, just good football players who are regular guys trying to win 2500 bucks each week. But what XFL’s Marketing Department has forgotten is that the XFL really is NOT a football league- it is a GAME SHOW.

Why not each week, in the promos, REMIND the viewers that $1 million is ultimately at stake? In their commercials, repeat like a mantra, “$1 million, 1 million”. Trust me, it’s a marketing hot button in our country right now. Can you say “Who Wants to MARRY a Millionaire”? Top selling book: “The Millionaire Mind”.

How about this commercial? Have an announcer say “Who wants to be a Millionaire?”. Then have some XFL players, covered in mud, sweating, during a game, one after another, say “I do!” into the camera. Intersperse the commercial with footage of the hardest XFL hits you can get, with the message being that these guys are playing this hard because they want to win the jackpot! Or whatever, but you get the idea.

I say screw the $2500. As the Boz might yell . . “Let’s talk 7 figures, BABY!!!!”.

GET TOUGH GUY INTERVIEWERS

I loved what Jesse Ventura did with Rusty Tillman Saturday night. Rusty, not a wrestling personality, didn’t play along, but the Body was great doing his pro wrestling shtick.

Except for Michael Barkan, who does a great job getting in the players faces, most of the time it’s some wimpy reporter asking the coach a wussy question then getting a crummy response. Or better yet, tough guy coaches throwing papers in the interviewers faces and threatening them.

Why not have more Jesse asking the tough questions? How about guys like Mr. T? Or Ken Shamrock? Or some washed up boxer like Michael Spinks?

I’d love to see Rusty Tillman pick a fight with them! How great would it be to see Tank Abbott ask Kippy Brown how bad he feels that his play calling is going to cost his players $2500 each (and of course, a shot at the $1 million?).

Here’s another idea. Let’s say a player makes a bad play and the fans start booing. Why not stop the game and let Chuck Zito run out to the field and get in his face?

Also, referees should be called to the carpet immediately by reporters after making questionable calls.

LAY DOWN THE LAW WITH UNCOOPERATIVE COACHES

Chuck Puleri getting into it with the New York fans over the house mike was one of the best moments in the XFL. Then Rusty Tillman gets all over him! Next week, Rusty runs off the field and refuses to talk to Jesse Ventura.

Look, when you are trying to coach a team, the sideline reporters are very distracting. They need to respect that these guys are trying to win. But guys like Rusty need to get into the act more. The coaches and the players KNEW when they signed what the deal was.

McMahon needs to send out a memo: Coaches, let your players have fun. Do the interviews, even if you are pissed. Or next season, it’s back to Arena 2.

By the way, just as an aside, sideline reporters- GIVE THE GUYS A COUPLE MINUTES TO CATCH THEIR BREATH!

DON’T INTERVIEW EVERYBODY

If there is a huge, glaring flaw with the XFL, it’s that Vince McMahon thought that his football players would have great personalities and become big stars. What he forgot is that unlike the WWF wrestlers, football players are NOT trained on how to give interviews.

Spend more time with Chuck Puleri or trash talking Mike Pawlawski, even if they don’t make a big play or mistake. Identify who gives great comments and who does not, and make sure only the right personalities get on camera.

Hand out a $2000 bonus to the player or coach that gives the best interview of the week. I’d bet THAT would inject a little personality in some of these guys!

CHANGE THE RULES IN MID-SEASON

Why not? This is the XFL. Like J.R. said, it’s “work in progress” This is Vince McMahon’ league. He with NBC owns all the teams. He doesn’t have to answer to a Rules Committee or a Board of Governors.

Why not throw in some rules to make the games more interesting? They did in week 2 after J.Lo had a hissy fit! If they can do it for her, why can’t they do it for themselves and the fans?

It was the curiosity factor that gained the XFL 10 rating points in the first place. Wouldn’t some wild ass rule changes bring some of those curiosity seekers back?

How about a 12th Man Rule. For one play and one play only during a game, either team may run a play with 12 men on the field. Or announce for one weekend only, the team that outscores the other by the most points gets an additional $1000 bonus?

How about with only three games left in the season, you announce that whichever team wins the most of the remaining games, regardless of the current standings, gets an extra bonus and their city gets to host the Big Game (though I feel the BG should be held on the home field of the finalist with the best record). Or the #1 draft pick. If there were more teams, how about a fifth playoff spot?

Whatever. This would get teams like possibly 0-7 Chicago something to play for.

Here’ my all time favorite rule change idea: the 3 point conversion. After scoring a touchdown, say a team is still down by 2 or 3 points. They can run a play from the 35 yard line or kick an extra point from the 50. If successful, they get 3 extra ticks!

If you have a matchup between two low scoring teams, such as Las Vegas vs. Chicago, announce that field goals will be worth only 2 points each for that game only. You can think of a thousand ideas.

After all, this is the XFL. If it’ going to be extreme football, MAKE IT EXTREME!!

Hey, “Survivor” has a different contest each week, right?

Look we don’ expect the XFL to implement these ideas (though, as a fans league, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did!). But the message is clear: SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE.

What are your thoughts? You can email the Masked Prognosticator at NFLXFLtout@aol.com