27 August 2000

...the team reporters for the Birmingham Bolts! Two fans who have been on top of the Birmingham situation ever since the XFL first hinted they would be coming to town. Bamaslammer and Sonny Sanders will be covering the "Bolts" in the months leading up to the kickoff of the XFL season. We wish them good luck!

XFL or EX-FL For Birmingham?

By Sonny Sanders - Birmingham Bolts Team Co-Reporter

There is on, Graymont Avenue, an unseen graveyard. It is a final resting-place for the defunct teams of professional football past. Though the graves are unmarked the memory of these failures lives on. Therefore the football fans of Birmingham should be forgiven for their lack of enthusiasm regarding the XFL. Too many times fancy football leagues have tried to establish themselves in the Magic City only to have the foundation crumble beneath them. To the fans in Birmingham it has become a revolving door of teams that are not the NFL.

The XFL must put a quality product on the field. The Birmingham team more so than others must be a winning franchise. The football fans in this area are used to the success that Auburn and Alabama have had. That weighs heavily in the minds of the Birmingham fans. The Birmingham Stallions of the USFL were successful on the field and in the stands. Unfortunately the league folded. There is proof that a winning pro football team can work in Birmingham. The Stallions of the USFL did very well. The league itself did not fare so well. The fans will show up out of curiosity. They will stay only if the quality of the football played is up to their standard.

The announcement of Gerry Dinardo was not an announcement that brought to mind glorious championships though. They remember that he was fired from LSU after a rather pathetic season. His name has been etched in their minds as that of less than stellar coach. Dinardo reputation as a bad coach maybe undeserved. It seems that maybe he was in the wrong environment at LSU. His record proves that he can win. Dinardo was 19-25 with Vanderbilt. That is the best four-year record in twenty plus years. Dinardo went on to compile a 26-9-1 record in his first three years at LSU. The LSU Tigers had a six-year losing streak before Dinardo arrived. Then the bottom fell out. Dinardo claims to be a victim of circumstance. It's true that one of the toughest coaching jobs is in the SEC. There is a lot of pressure to win in every facet of the game. Can he be successful in the XFL? Yes. He knows the talent in this area and can use that knowledge and his contacts to recruit the best players that will not head to the NFL.

The XFL has made a very good decision in hiring Kent Partridge to become the director of media relations. Partridge is leaving Texas Tech University to take this position. He was also the media relation's director for Auburn. This is a great move for the XFL. Partridge is well like and highly respected in this area. He is familiar with the local media and will have a very positive influence on the Birmingham team. The hiring of Tim Berryman as general manager will have a positive affect. Berryman was the president and chief operating officer of the Little Rock-based Arkansas Twisters of arenafootball2 and the East Coast Hockey League's Arkansas RiverBlades. The Twisters led the af2 in attendance in the inaugural season.

With the money and marketing of the WWF and the television contract with NBC and UPN the league can and should survive. A winning team on the field will assure that the XFL will survive in Birmingham. The fans seem to be in a wait and see mode. The XFL will have to prove themselves. That seems to be one of Vince McMahon's biggest attributes.

Generation X gets its own Team

By Bamaslammer - Birmingham Bolts Team Co-Reporter

Anyone familiar with Pro football history in Birmingham can tell you of the disappointments in the past. In the 70's when Birmingham was often mentioned as an expansion city by the NFL, a play was made for the Eagles. Most every serious attempt at a pro football rival to the NFL has made a stop in Birmingham, WFL, USFL, Canadian, WLAF. Thus leads to the infinite stream of bad press coming from the local sports writers. I suppose predicting the demise of something new is the safe bet for sure but I'm not sure if its the right one.

Lets look at why the XFL is different:

Solid Financial Backing - multiple TV Contracts in hand.
Salary Control - No bidding wars with the NFL.
Central Control - No stupid or egomaniacal owners.
Territorial Draft - Local College Talent.
Short Season - Cheap Season Tickets!
Spring - Nothing Else To Do.
Outdoor Stadiums - Dirt and Grass!
Marketing - WWF - took a joke and made an industry.

The Birmingham announcement was slow in coming and it was known almost 30 days before that the deal was done. But the real news at the press conference was to announce the men who would shape pro football in Birmingham. Jerry Dinardo was hired by the league to coach. Jerry has one qualification that would be important in the deep south, SEC coaching experience. He was generally regarded as doing alot with a little at Vanderbilt. He was well liked in LSU until the last two years. Those were dark days for Jerry in that he had a good team on paper yet the team failed on the field. It remains to be seen what manner of Professional Coach Dinardo will be but my guess is a few early wins would make his life here easier.

In charge of putting the fannies in the seats is the GM Tim Berryman Berryman is definitely what you would call an "outsider". Hailing from Canada and the CFL. He has made a living starting and running pro sports Organizations. Berryman helped market the Arkansas RiverBlades and Louisiana IceGators of the East Coast Hockey League. Recently he was instrumental in forming the Arkansas Twisters of the AF2. Berryman has had record attendance at two of the three organizations he helped run.

The man behind the curtain number one may be the most important person in The old Barracuda's office space. Player Personnel Director Bob Gates brings 37 years of Pro Football management experience to Birmingham, again.. You see he's been here before as the Assistant GM of the Birmingham Fire of the WLAF. Bill's job is to find the Sam Mills's and Kurt Warner's from the castoffs and washouts that fill NFL training camps and Arena League rosters.

Gates may have a head start on his counterparts around the league due to the fact that he has been reviewing the on-line player applications for the league office from the beginning.

Most people who remember the failures of the past refuse to give any credence to this new league. Most young people are ready to give it a try. I guess this is Generation X's chance for Pro Football in Alabama. Hopefully they will not be disappointed too. I for one hope so, because Bear is gone, Bo Retired, and The Iron Bowl is history. Birmingham needs something to call its own.