The XFL Kicked-off Seventeen Years Ago Today

On February 3, 2001, the XFL kicked off with two Saturday night games broadcast live in prime time, split into east and west games.

In the west, the Las Vegas Outlaws hosted the New York/New Jersey Hitmen. Moments before the first ever scramble for the red-and-black football, Vince McMahon stood at the 50-yard line of Sam Boyd Stadium, and announced, “This is the XFL!” The sellout crowd was deafening.

The XFL’s quirky scramble for the ball, which replaced the traditional coin toss to determine who would have first choice of possession was the first change the fans witnessed. In the western matchup, Jamel Williams of the Las Vegas Outlaws came up with the ball over Donnie Caldwell of the New York/New Jersey Hitmen.

In the east, the Chicago Enforcers visited the Orlando Rage where fans witnessed Orlando’s Hassan Shamsid-Deen receive a separated shoulder in the opening scramble for the ball. An injury which unfortunately ended his XFL career. The game also saw receiver Kevin Swayne receive a deep pass from Quarterback Jeff Brohm, and score the first ever touchdown in XFL history.

Because of the XFL’s connection to the WWE, there was a notion that wrestling matches might break out. No wrestling took place… just hard-hitting football, played by journeymen who were largely participating for the love of the game.

Rumors Aside, Fans Should Take a Big Bite of a World Without the XFL

(Originally posted on TheFanForce.com)

Just like Andy Kaufman and the venerable Elvis, the XFL’s death was unsure and frought with rumors of revival. In the end the fans have lost out! The XFL’s revival will only be seen in the NFL’s new camera angles and the play of stars like LA Xtreme’s Tommy Maddox.

“Vince McMahon is a marketing genius. Everything he touches is golden.”

How many times had we heard these words when the XFL was first founded? It seemed like the thing to say at the time, especially for all the disillusioned football fans that were looking for something exciting to compete with the stodgy NFL.

The truth is that Vince McMahon IS a marketing genius. The marketing of the XFL leading up to the February 3rd kickoff was pure genius. The XFL surprised the sports world when over 10 million people tuned in to watch the first game.

The truth is also that everything he touches IS NOT golden. Here we have the proof.

Apparently even Vince McMahon has bosses. Namely the WWFE shareholders.

Once the inaugural XFL season was completed there was plenty to decide about the XFL. McMahon wouldn’t let on as to how much trouble the league was in. His only response to anyone who asked was that “there will definitely be another season.” Little did we know that Vince McMahon did not dare say anything else, lest the WWF stock dip even further.

WWFE shares had been falling from the start. Ever since the XFL was announced the stock had dove. Part of this was due to the entire stock market making a correction, but part of the blame was still directly on the shoulders of the XFL.

But who can actually fault the XFL? It was the media that had the public convinced that the XFL was a huge failure. The truth was that the XFL would have probably lost about $25 million on this first season and then lose an additional $10 million for two more years. Then the league would probably become a moneymaker. These loss figures were actually part of the original business plan for the league.

But what about the TV deal?

The truth is that losing the Saturday night slot on NBC was not part of the XFL’s failure. The XFL knew that the Saturday night experiment was a failure and was content to move the games to Sunday afternoons. The league also apparently had TNN ready to be the flagship network of the XFL’s Sunday afternoon broadcasts. The bottom line is that this would have downgraded the XFL’s broadcasting power to that of a minor league, equivalent to that of the Arena League or NFL Europe. But let the truth be told, the XFL was actually on this level.

So everything was in place for a second season, right?

Not so fast! This plan, as congenial as it sounds to sports fans, was not enough to appease stock analysts.

It was felt that without glowing good news about the XFL the WWFE stock would further decline. This could not happen. The WWF had already lost millions over the stock decline. Any further decline would create losses that would dwarf the mere $25 million that the corporation had lost through the XFL startup year.

On the other hand, news of the WWFE dropping the XFL would probably cause the stock to rebound.

So this is what happened. Quickly and decisively on May 10th the league was closed and the WWFE stock immediately showed signs of recovery.

Meanwhile, coaches, players, front office staff and most importantly, THE FANS were shocked.

The only hope came from a determined Mike Keller, the XFL’s Director of Football Operations, when it was reported on May 11th, 2001 in USA Today that he was going to try to keep this league alive: “Keller, it seems, already is talking about possibly keeping the XFL alive. “I’m going to assess things,” he said. “The branding of this thing is something to consider. The XFL is one of the best-known brands in sports now.”

Later in July, a rumor was leaked that Mike Keller was about to fail in his endeavor. In the end it was apparent that Mike Keller would not be allowed to continue the league, as he could not be allowed to succeed where Vince McMahon had one failed.

Now, with heavy hearts, I am here to represent the TRUE FANS of the XFL in pronouncing the XFL officially dead.

There will be some people that will call us fools for hanging on this long waiting for the league to be revived. But those that do so can shake their heads in disbelief all they want.

It was the true fans of the XFL that continued to believe that this new league could continue because it was simply a great idea.

Those true sports fans that actually stuck it out and watched the games and honestly enjoyed it will always wonder why such a good thing was considered to be so bad.

Comments

TheFanForce Responds:

Replies: 5 comments

O.K ths XFL is dead.But why Can’t other products live on? Like A video game,& Sports wear, How about an offical XFL fantasy football league by the WWF! Offering the winning franchise a million bucks! What would be the buy in? I just wish I could at least look foreward to playing a XFL PS2 video game by EA or Dreamcast! Somebody comment at my address. – Posted by Shaun Harrod @ 07/26/2001 03:18 PM CST

I sorely regret the end of this exciting, innovative, and different football league! all who had a part in it’s demise, and all who criticized it, will soon be lamenting the fact that they never realized what a good thing they had untill they lost it. What a fresh break it was from the dull and monotonous games of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, etc etc. It was real people(players), virtually equal in ability, viewed by real everyday people, and commentary that was entertaining and interesting (not just stats relentlessly bombarding uncaring and uninterested ears). The XFL’s first and (hopefully not) only season-WAS THE BEST SPORT SEASON OF ANY SPORT IN THE LAST TEN YEARS! – Posted by The Count @ 07/26/2001 09:44 AM CST

I was hoping somebody would purchase the XFL and revive it. I thoroughly enjoyed the games and attended several live myself, including the first game in Chicago in the cold and the rain. With a major decline in the NBA ratings, I still think the XFL could survive, especially without a TV network being half owner. This kept the major sporting news services, such as ESPN (Owned by ABC) to give anything positive about the league. I assume the XFL will never revive, but I can always hope it will be. – Posted by Bill @ 07/23/2001 09:38 PM CST

The XFL Better Not Be Dead. Because The NFL Sucks! – Posted by Tommy Beck @ 07/22/2001 08:06 PM CST

We miss this League. – Posted by Sal @ 07/20/2001 05:05 PM CST

Message to the Sports World: Don’t Write Off the XFL

(20 April 2001) — As the first ever XFL season comes to a closing, let’s take some time to recollect some of the many exciting moments of the inaugural season.

In the first televised game in XFL history, the game of football was presented to Sin City. In this opening day shutout, the world was introduced to none other than “He Hate Me”, Rod Smart. This nickname took off to become one of the most popular nicknames in modern day sports. And, although many people have come up with their own version of his nickname, Rod Smart proved that he was the one hated by many.

In the second weekend, names like John Avery, Tommy Maddox and Jermaine Copeland were uncovered as the Chicago Enforcers and Los Angeles Xtreme took it to each other for four quarters and two overtimes.

Week number three proved that Mike Pawlawski was one of the best quarterbacks in the league as he and Terry Battle fought back late in the game as the San Francisco Demons scored 13 points to defeat the Memphis Maniax.

Jim Druckenmiller introduced himself to the XFL world as the Memphis Maniax beat the Xtreme in what was the messiest and wettest game of the year.

In week number five, Jeff Brohm and the Rage proved themselves to be for real as they became the only 5-0 team in the league. This week also proved to be the turning point for the Chicago Enforcers regular season as a last second LeShon Johnson touchdown defeated the Dealers of Doom, Las Vegas Outlaws 15-13.

Thinking they were on a role, the Chicago Enforcers traveled to Memphis who soon brought Chicago back down to earth with a last second Druckenmiller touchdown pass to Hobbs. ‘Druck’ also passed for over 400 yards in week six.

On March 18, the Orlando Rage finally experienced what a loss felt like. At the hands of Tommy Maddox and the Xtreme, Orlando was demolished by a score of 31-6. Orlando also lost Jeff Brohm for the rest of the season, which later proves to be fatal to the team’s success.

Week number eight…the Birmingham Bolts become the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention and the Orlando Rage become the first team to clinch a bid for the million dollars waiting at the end.

Only two weeks left and the New York/New Jersey Hitmen need just one victory to clinch their play-off spot. But, the Enforcers have other plans as Kevin McDougal and LeShon Johnson carry the team into a second place tie in the East Division.

The final week of the season, and still three play-off seeds are open. Los Angeles and Chicago help themselves with big wins over San Francisco and Orlando, respectively. Due to a Las Vegas loss, San Francisco is in the play-offs as well.

The first ever XFL play-offs…as expected, these games proved to be exciting! Like usual, the XFL comes through again with tons of action as the San Francisco comes back from a 16-0 deficit to defeat the team with the best record, Orlando Rage. And, in the rematch of the best game of the Inaugural Season, the Chicago Enforcers literally hand the game over to the Xtreme in Los Angeles. This sets up a tie-breaker between the San Francisco Demons and Los Angeles Xtreme in the ‘Million Dollar Game’.

Recalling some of these games or moments might have given you goosebumps. As you know, all of the games in the first ever XFL season were very exciting and most of them came down to last minute touchdowns, or last minute turnovers. Even with a short, 10-week season, the XFL provided enough big plays and memorable moments to last a long time.

This league has a lot to be proud of as it broke barriers in many aspects of sporting broadcasts. Although it does not admit its liking of the XFL, NFL officials have gone on the record saying it will incorporate some of the great ideas the XFL has introduced to the game of football. The XFL must take pride in its accomplishments, look at its strong spots and improve its weaknesses, a task which is already under way.

Even though the Chicago Enforcers were beat by the Xtreme, I am proud of the effort my team put forth this season. Coming back from an 0-4 start to make the play-offs is no easy task. But, they did it and gave Chicago something to talk about in the sports society.

With one full season under our belts, we, the die-hard fans of the new football league, must all stand proud. The media was against us before we even started the season, and we stood tall drawing better television ratings than MLS, golf, NHL, arena football, NBA on NBC, the NHL All-Star game, and the NFL’s All-Pro game. More season tickets were sold in its inaugural season than what was anticipated, thus the league averaged an astounding 23,000 fans in attendance per game. Not bad for a start-up league!!

Personally, I am proud to be an XFL fan and will continue to wear my Chicago Enforcers gear in the off-season. I look forward to the day the Enforcers main office calls my house to ask me if I want to renew my season tickets…my response will be “Hell Yeah!” I am proud to admit that I was part of those 1.6, 1.7, etc television ratings every Saturday night on NBC and Sunday night on UPN. And, I will be the first one to stick it to the media when our league, the fans league, the XFL, makes its return in 2002.

As this article and the XFL Inaugural Season comes to an end, my friends, it is now time to go back to my “Chicago Fans Only Enforcers Supporters” article. To my team, the Chicago Enforcers, I now applaud for the effort you put forth this season making every minute of every game exciting. You turned a dismal season into one that opened the eyes of an entire league. And, although you fell short in the end, I continue to applaud and support the XFL…

…and, I ask those true, die-hard XFL fans to do this with me upon the completion of this Saturday’s ‘Million Dollar Game’. After the game, I will remove my Chicago Enforcers hat, tip it to Vince McMahon and his XFL staff for putting together such an awesome, entertaining football league, a league that actually cares about us, the people in the stands or watching on television. To Vince McMahon and his staff, I can’t wait until the second season.

And, to the rest of the world, don’t write off the XFL!

— Troy Pringle – ChiEnforcers1@xflboard.com

Archive: The XFL Would Thrive Under New Management

Catch 22: The XFL can’t survive as part of the WWF; The XFL would not have started without Vince McMahon’s vision.

(14 May 2001) –On the 10th of May 2001, the Worldwide Wrestling Federation officially put the XFL to bed.

There was supposed to be a second season. According the Vince McMahon, the founder of the fledgling league, the XFL was building a brand and it takes a while to make a mark in the sports world. The XFL was willing to do its time and build that brand.

The fans were satisfied. The XFL would survive. Everybody also knew that the league would get better with time.

This is why the sudden extinction of the league is a real shocker. Why, after all this, did the league fold so fast? Even the some of the league’s top employees were blind-sided by the news.

The XFL is a great business idea. The players are paid little, seats at the stadium are cheap and the whole product is designed to please the fans. Why couldn’t this business idea succeed?

Was Vince McMahon being insensitive to the league’s fans, players and employeees?

In the end Vince McMahon had no choice to fold the league. Once it was realized that UPN would not award a new TV contract for the coming season the end of the league had arrived.

The performance of the XFL was directly linked to the fortunes of the WWFE stock. When the XFL was announced the stock had immediately dipped thirty percent. Over the course of the league the stock price has remained low.

With the announcement of the UPN deal failure the WWFE stock would have nose-dived. In an effort of damage control the announcement to close the league was quickly made. As of the close of business on the week following the XFL departure the WWFE stock rose significantly.

The WWF was saved.

Between the WWF and NBC $70 Million dollars was lost in the initial year of the league. Most of these losses were due to league start-up and were expected. It was all part of the business plan.

When you consider what the XFL accomplished in it’s first year, one might say that the new league was fairly successful. Attendance was above expectations. XFL branded clothing and memorabilia was selling well. The football product was getting better. The XFL was well on it’s way to making it’s mark as a spring football league.

What the XFL was missing was respect. Sports media who wouldn’t usually care about anything other than the major leagues spent a lot of time and energy lambasting the XFL. Why? Mainly because of it’s link to the WWF and Vince McMahon. The media’s reaction the XFL was linked to its founder. The media’s reaction to the XFL was also responsible for the performance of the WWFE stock.

If “Joe Nobody” had started up this league, using the backing of investors, then the league would have been left alone and would have been able to survive to build itself up into a viable football alternative.

The XFL is a great business idea. The players are paid little, seats at the stadium are cheap and the whole product is designed to please the fans. Why couldn’t this business idea succeed?

It’s a catch 22 situation. The XFL could not succeed because it was linked to the WWF and it’s founder Vince McMahon. But the XFL would not have been born if Vince McMahon had not had the vision to start such a football league.

Is there another businessman out there that is willing to invest in this league? Why not? They should be running and not walking to the doorstep of the Vince McMahon to buy the XFL at a fire sale price.

Vince McMahon and the WWF have done all the hard work already. The brand is built. The franchises are in place. The players are available, and will play for next to nothing. And despite what the TV ratings will have you believe the fans in most of the XFL cities are waiting for more XFL football.

And more XFL fans will be born, once the perception of WWF “taint” is taken away and real football fans start accepting the league for what it really was… a very good minor football league with excellent innovative ideas and a solid business plan.

So step up and buy this league. Once ownership changes, and Vince McMahon and the WWF are cut loose, the apparent “taint” that the media has assigned to this league will be gone and an excellent football league will emerge.

What Did You Expect From the XFL?

By Mike Mitchell

The XFL is simply a sporting event in a fashion that you have never seen before. It’s an experiment that’s ahead of its time in broadcast sports. It’s a league where team is more important then individuals. A league where success is rewarded and failures are reported. It’s a league that is free and fresh. A league where sports meets reality TV and where sports meets entertainment.

(1 March 2001) –The XFL has become a punching bag.

Never in the history of American sports has a sporting league been more scrutinized by the media and the public. When The XFL debuted, The sports media expected a three-ring circus. The public expected the most radical sporting league in history. The expectations were high and low.

The question is did both parties get what they expected?

The sports media wants this league to fail. After watching the inaugural broadcast of The XFL on NBC, the media needed only to decide what angle they were going to take. They were going to rip it all along regardless of the outcome or performance.

If cheerleaders were featured heavily, the XFL would have been signified as smut. The cheerleaders in the XFL are no different then any other sports team cheerleaders. So the media couldn’t use that angle to bash the league. Even though some still use that as an excuse.

When the play was proven to be legitimate and not scripted like a movie, television or wrestling. The sports media needed another angle. They went with “this is not the NFL” and why should anyone watch.

Believe it or not, the media has a huge role in painting the public’s perception. Not to say that the public can’t think for itself but the media has control to spin a story and make anyone look good or bad – whatever they want.

In this society, perception becomes reality. If the XFL is perceived by the media to be a league full of semi-pro football failures. Then the public will buy that line. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just look at the backgrounds of all the players in the league. If the media were to do their research, then they’d see the truth, but rest assured they wouldn’t mention it. Instead, The public is fed their agenda motivated garbage.

The public expected the XFL to be something different then any sports league that they have ever seen. Instead, what they got really was football with alot of entertainment features.

The entertainment fans wanted to get what they get out of the WWF. The WWF is kind of an entertainment hybrid. It’s a comic book, it’s cartoonish, it’s a live action, live theatre soap opera within sports setting. When one watches the WWF, they get athleticism, comedy, action, drama, violence and sexuality. WWF fans love the company because it’s a fast paced fantasy world that’s over the top but has the strong human elements of love, hate, competition and betrayal. It’s really a variety show and not just staged wrestling matches.

The WWF fan wanted to see an extreme football league with the same “out of this world” features that the WWF has. The live WWF shows have a rock concert feel. The XFL does not give WWF fans what they want. The XFL has some sexuality, But the stories are not strong enough yet and in the end despite all the fan friendly features, It’s just a football game.

The sports fans want to see good football and many of them expected the XFL to be entirely different then the NFL. The NFL is the king of sports franchises to a sports fan. Nothing can touch it. The sports fan watched the XFL to see if they can get into a new league. The XFL in some cases has provided football from a fresh new perspective but sports fans simply can’t get into a league where they have no loyal ties to any of these players or teams. They expected harder hitting football. The XFL takes you closer and lets you hear all the hits but besides that it’s really not that much more violent then NFL hits. Many of the Sports fans are familiar with some of the players because of their strong college backgrounds but the majority of them are clueless to the origins of the XFL players.

Did the sports fan and public get what they expected? No. Too much football for some not enough football for others. The XFL isn’t the NFL to sports fans. The XFL isn’t the WWF to wrestling fans. It’s hard to please people with those expectation levels.

What is the XFL then?

The XFL is simply a sporting event in a fashion that you have never seen before. It’s an experiment that’s ahead of its time in broadcast sports. It’s a league where team is more important then individuals. A league where success is rewarded and failures are reported. It’s a league that is free and fresh. A league where sports meets reality TV and where sports meets entertainment. Has NBC and WWFE combined those elements perfectly yet? No. Will they successfully put those elements together? Time will tell.

What did you expect?

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

XFL Prepares for Inaugural Weekend

(30 January 2001) — In a press conference held on Tuesday, Chairman of NBC Sports, Dick Ebersol, started with “the FUN starts on Saturday!”

XFL will kick off it’s first season on Saturday 3 February with the NY/NJ Hitmen at the Las Vegas Outlaws live from Sam Boyd Stadium. The best part is, the game is sold out.

The XFL has met with a major landmark with the inaugural game between the Las Vegas Outlaws and the NY/NJ Hitmen being reported as sold-out. The XFL is also well on its way to exceeding an original goal in ticket sales with over 500,000 tickets now sold league-wide. The original XFL business plan called for 800,000 tickets sold by season’s end. Other inaugural weekend games have also experience high ticket sales: The San Francisco Demons have sold 33,000, the Orlando Rage have sold 25,000 and the Birmingham Bolts have over 20,000 sold. At this point in time, the XFL has also sold over 70% of its television advertising.

What can XFL fans expect to see this weekend?

XFL fans can expect a varied style of play, and maybe a few surprises thrown in for good measure. “The LA Xtreme is going to be wide-open, Orlando will be too,” Dick Butkus, XFL Director of Competition, commented, “Memphis will rely on Saalam who is having a great camp. Chicago will rely on a tough running game. Some of the rules will entice some of the teams to do some outrageous things that wouldn’t normally be expected.”

As for the level of play Dick Butkus is optimistic. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a Kurt Warner pop up, maybe a quarterback, who knows, maybe a running back or lineman.”

Many other innovations will be unveiled on the inaugural NBC broadcast.

Dick Ebersol commented that there will be an “awful lot of interesting stuff” on an XFL broadcast. “Perhaps the most unique thing about the telecast will be the ability to be inside the game”, Ebersol said. “The game on Saturday night will not only have the sky-cam which will fly a camera over the field.” Ebersol added, “We will also have cameras on the field during the game, one behind the defense and one on the offensive side of the field.”

The XFL will use two camera operators on the field during the game. The cameramen will wear helmets and will use cameras that will also feature a special viewfinder where the camera operator can have a better view of the field and the players around him. The camera operators are also reported to be as fit as “world class athletes”. Apparently it takes a lot of energy to cover a game. There will be no sound people on the field during the game. More than sixteen players will be miked during any given game. Sound feeds will be mixed into both the telecast and throughout the stadium sound system. Most live sound feeds will be on a six second delay.

Also, as you may have heard, the XFL had practiced a “ball scramble” to replace the traditional coin toss. Instead of the regular coin toss, the ball was to be placed at midfield and have each team line up in their respective ends. The first team to recover the ball, after a whistle is blown, was to have choice of possession and end.

Dick Butkus, XFL Director of Competition, has cast some doubt on the new “coin-toss” format, and has commented that the XFL has not yet decided to use it. There is some question as to how the new format coin-toss will play out over the long run, and whether this new format will just be a race between the teams two speediest receivers.

The league will decide over the next two days whether the new style “coin toss” will be used.

— Mark Nelson – XFLBoard.com