The Sports World Hates The XFL

(13 Apr 2001) –They hate us? or They Hate We?…… The Sporting World has made their agenda well known. They have two words for The XFL…. GO AWAY!…… Ever open your local newspaper or listen to your local sports radio? If you are looking for coverage of your favorite XFL team, Good luck! The only attention that the XFL gets is negative attention. The games are not taken seriously and the players and coaches are ignored. The sporting world has had a field day with the XFL’s ratings. Here are two numbers for you: 1.2 and 1.1. Those are The NHL’s ratings on ABC. I don’t see too many press releases on those stats. Anybody ever hear about NFL Europe ratings? Well I’ll tell ya, NFL Europe averaged a 0.3 on Fox Sports Net last season. Where’s the press on those figures? Have the XFL’s ratings been good? No, but are they comparable to other sports franchises? Yes.

Here are some more fascinating figures…Major League Soccer.. 0.2, Golf average 2.0 this year, NBA average on NBC, 2.3, Arena Football ratings average 0.2. Outside of Tiger Woods, Nascar, NCAA Finals and the NFL. Sports ratings are in a slow period. Let’s face it, the XFL has made alot of mistakes and their ratings have been a huge dissapointment. Last week, the XFL on NBC drew a 1.5. Only 1.4 million viewers watched the broadcast. The game only ranked 14th out of the top 20 rated sports programs on television. The UPN telecast ranked 19th. The XFL made alot of mistakes and hopefully as a brand new league they can fix their mistakes.

It’s a fact. History dictates that the only football that Americans want to see is the NFL and College. Even the mighty NFL failed miserably in trying to create a spring football league in the United States. Remember the World League of American Football. It lasted two years and is now known as NFL Europe. The CFL tried to expand to American teams. That didn’t work either. Everybody knows the story about the USFL. They tried to compete with The NFL head on and they lost big time. There have been many other spring leagues that have come and gone. The Arena League has survived as a small time league with unique features. Their attendance averages about 7,000 but it’s not pro football. It’s 50 yard ball in small arenas. The XFL, quite frankly, is trying to do something that has never been done. No 2nd US Pro Football League has made it since the AFL (now AFC) in the sixties. You can thank Joe Namath for that one.

The media points out the quality of the football. Eighty-three percent of the players in the XFL have spent time with NFL teams. Seventy-eight percent of the XFL’s players are 29 and younger. The XFL players are college all stars, NFL rookies and draft picks, NFL Veterans slashed because of the cap, CFL stars, Arena League stars and NFL Europe stars. All the media has to do is research the teams. I’m not making this stuff up. The information is available. Take a look at the rosters for yourself. The coaches have the same type of resumes. Recently a poll conducted with NFL employees shows that 89 percent of them support The XFL. The NFL of course, doesn’t want any of it’s employees coming out to make good remarks about the XFL. CBS president, Les Moonves has gone on record stating that he wants to use XFL features in next season’s NFL broadcasts.

For all the talk by the media about Vince McMahon’s entertainment shows, Dick Ebersol, NBC and the cheerleaders, the media has never bothered to focus on the players, coaches or the way that the XFL treats it’s fans and viewers. How many friendly stories have you seen about the XFL? Not many and if you have the positive publicity has come from NBC employees, XFL employees and the fans that have experienced the games. The last part of that group is all that really matters, the fans. This season, the XFL gave fans free trips to follow their teams. Some fans were even allowed on the field when a team won. A selected fan was granted a 2,500 dollar bonus. Now if that’s not catering to the fans. I don’t know what is. How often are sports fans treated like garbage. Hey if your favorite NFL team goes 7 and 9 get ready for a ticket increase. The same goes for other sports franchises. Not one media outlet mentioned how the XFL treated it’s fans. How many sports teams do you know that you would give you 2,500 dollars if your team won? When Chicago fans came out in a monsoon to watch their team the XFL gave those fans free tickets for the next home game. How cool is that! That’s why XFL games average 23,000 fans per game. Not bad for a startup league with bad or no publicity.

As a football fan, I want to see The XFL make it. I think it’s a shame that only 1,800 football players get to play pro ball in the states with The NFL. The XFL gives players and coaches a chance to showcase their skills in this great country. So many great young players get overlooked when they get out of college. Some have bad luck and get injured in the NFL and they never get another chance to play pro ball. The XFL gives players and coaches, the opportunity to prove themselves. Some players will benefit from having played in The XFL. They will move on to The NFL and get another chance to make it. The same goes for the coaches. Be on the lookout for Hitmen runningbacks coach, Joe Lombardi, and yes he’s related to the great Vince himself, the man, NFL’s very championship is named after, Vince Lombardi.

As for the fans, the XFL has been a fan friendly league that is willing to listen to us. They have screwed up in alot of instances but the effort has always been there. The rules and TV features have been great. There is still alot of room for improvement in certain areas. There will be alot of structural changes in the off-season. I don’t know if this league is going to make it. History tells me that it won’t, but I hope that it does. The league is a breath of fresh air and I hope that other sports leagues take notice and use some of the features and practices that Tthe XFL does.

I have a feeling that the sporting media will continue to ignore this league in the hopes that it will all go away. These same types made fun of the ABA’s 3 point shot. These same types ragged on the AFL’s teams, uniforms and rules. It’s not a good idea to walk around life with a closed mind, I remember a certain group of critics that told Christopher Columbus that he was a fool. They told him that the earth was flat and that his mission as pointless. Thank god, Good Ol’ Chris didn’t pay attention to the critics.

Mike Mitchell – mmitchell@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.

Archive: Bias Looks Bad on the Media

Until recently Ted Turner owned the WCW. Turner also owns the Atlanta Braves. Turner’s WCW did the very things that McMahon has been ridiculed for. Where is the media outrage for Turner’s team?

By Sonny Sanders – Bolts Team Reporter

Birmingham – (9 March 2001) — Rumors of the demise of the XFL are not new. Since the first announcement by Vince McMahon the media has forecast a short and inglorious reign for the XFL. Every media outlet has spewed forth negativity toward all aspects of the fledgling league.

The XFL was branded a sleazy bastardized version of the NFL. Rumors of proposed nudity and cheerleaders lap dancing with drunken fans spread like wildfire. The XFL would unleash every known perversion for all to see and would do so under the thinly veiled guise of professional football.

The football itself was slighted long before the first player was drafted. The media joked about the games being scripted and fixed. Even after legitimate coaches and players were signed the media’s blast of negativity continued to pound at the XFL. The media has helped sway public opinion to their side.

The XFL is not perfect and should also accept some blame for the loss of fans support. The announcers are not the best in the business but neither are they the worst that have ever covered a game. The talent on the field is below that of the NFL and the media has used this as a battering ram to bash the XFL at every opportunity. They fail to point out that NCAA talent is also inferior to the NFL.

What are the real problems that hinder the XFL? Is it bad games? The NFL has plenty of bad games each week. The NFC Championship game was one of the worst games ever. How many Superbowls have been great? The problem is not the announcers. Nor is it the cheerleaders, players, or level of competition.

The one aspect of the XFL that has the so-called media experts riled up is Vince McMahon. They perceive McMahon as one step above pornography. Their stance is that the WWF is sleazy and caters to the lowest common denominator. I am not going to debate the pros and cons of professional wrestling. It is what it is and does not claim to be anything more.

McMahon, as owner of the WWF, is not encouraged to participate in a legitimate sport. The media wants to persecute him for having the gall to enter into the arena of “real” sports. The media stands back with its high and mighty self-righteous attitude wagging its finger at McMahon and saying bad boy.

Behind all of this ranting about the evils of professional wrestling mixing with real sports is a dirty little secret that they have failed to mention. Until recently Ted Turner owned the WCW. A wrestling organization that is just as sleazy as the WWF was owned by the man that also owns the Atlanta Braves!! The WCW is no different than the WWF. There is partial nudity, profanity, and violence. Ted Turner’s company did the very things that McMahon has been ridiculed for.

Where was the outrage about Turner degrading the MLB and the Atlanta the Braves? Why is it that one man is viewed differently by the media and considered a pariah while another is accepted?

The media’s bias against McMahon is evident and is uncalled for. Football fans should be outraged by the media’s blatant attempt at telling you what you should like. The XFL is football. Is it the greatest football to ever be witnessed? No, but neither is the NFL. Should the XFL be subject to condemnation by the media solely because of McMahon’s involvement? No.

It is a shame that a league with so much promise may be doomed by unjustified criticism.

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?

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

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