Runs Past Birmingham in League Debut
- XFLBoard.com Bolts Team Reporter
(5 February 2001) --Popular
sports radio jock Paul Finebaum had predicted 15 or
20 thousand people would be at the game. He even suggested
he would skip it all together. Paul was wrong on both
counts as the Birmingham ThunderBolts opened the season
Sunday against the Memphis Maniacs. Paul's luminous
head was spotted in the press box and more than 35 thousand
fans showed up to watch.
crowd began to get into the game and the video
editor soon found that any dead moment could be
brought to life by a close up foot level view
of the Beautiful Thunderbolts cheerleaders.
tailgate crew arrived at approximately 10:45 AM. We
were thinking we would be alone at the stadium but we
were preceded by a number of RV's which were in a special
parking lot. One RV in particular had a full size grill,
chairs and a massive sound system playing "Sweet
Home Alabama". The smoke from the grill was already
reaching into the blue cloudless sky. Later while walking
near the main office entrance I noticed a black stretch
limousine circling the stadium. I wondered if this could
be some WWF executive or even McMahon himself. Later
the limousine pulled up to the entrance. A well-dressed
young man stepped out and opened the back door. Emerging
from the darkness of the tinted window was Rick and
Bubba, the famed radio hosts. These guys must never
turn it off because they were yelling every word so
loud you could hear them half a mile away. They were
saying that they had been told the Rick & Bubba
section had been sold out. I told them we had some burgers
for them at our tailgate party. I had previously sent
them a fax that I would be glad to be their "guest
griller" since they couldn't put a grill in the
booth. Bubba stopped in his tracks at the mention of
burgers and said they would be sending someone to pick
it up. We went back and smoked two of our finest burgers
for 30 minutes but as no one showed up to claim them
we ate the burgers and prepared to enter the stadium.
scoop around the press box was that there were 18,000
tickets pre-sold for this game. They felt like they
could handle another 12,000 walk up by game time. This
would be around 30,000 which was far in excess of what
the press was promising would make it to the game. However
as game time approached the lines continued to grow
outside the stadium. Eventually around 35,300 fans ignored
Paul Finebaum and the gaggle of sports writers at the
Birmingham News and made their presence felt.
the game kicked off hopes were high. After trading punts
the Bolts defense scored a big hit on Memphis QB Marcus
Crandell. He half walked half stumbled to the sideline
and it appeared Birmingham's defense was about to strike.
The second stringer came on and did the worst thing
he could possibly do to Birmingham, He handed off the
ball to RB Rashaan Salaam and he promptly hit the corner
and burned the Bolts defense for a long touchdown run.
The crowd was shocked but things were about to get worse.
QB Casey Weldon began to falter badly, misfiring time
after time. The drop back passing game was not working
at all and the Defense had shut down RB James Bostic.
The Memphis offense being aware of the injuries Birmingham
had suffered in the secondary quickly struck for another
long TD. The lead quickly grew to 19 - 0 and many were
thinking of the beating New York had taken the night
before. After a terrible throw by Weldon which Memphis
intercepted, the crowd began a thundering chant for
Barker is the ever popular second string QB. Being from
Birmingham and the winningest Quarterback in University
of Alabama football history he is naturally someone
the fans would like to see. Jay never so much as shifted
his ball cap or warmed up. Dinardo left Casey in there
to work through the problems.
a few more series Weldon began rolling out on his passes
and the results were much better. Weldon rolled right
on a red zone play for seemingly forever and finally
found Damon Gourdine who had circled out of the end
zone in front of a Memphis safety. The Safety grabbed
at air as Gourdine continued his orbital path back into
the end zone. The crowd quieted and after halftime Weldon
struck again on the first drive. After each touchdown
the offense scored the extra point. The score was 19
- 14 and Memphis went back to what they did best which
is run the ball. The bolts kept it close but never overcame
the many fumbles and penalty's that plagued them all
day. The final score was 22 - 20.
the final game analysis there were more questions than
answers. Birmingham runs a West Coast passing attack,
which takes more time to install from scratch than a
running attack. It may be 2 to 3 games before we know
the truth about Birmingham's offense. Defensively the
speedy defensive line was poorly matched against the
strong Memphis running game. Crandell was hounded repeatedly
on passing plays but Salaam kept slicing and dicing
the Bolts defense. Adding to the defensive problems
was the injury-riddled secondary that seemed confused
in its coverage and tackled poorly. On a positive note
the Bolts receiving core had a stellar day catching
virtually anything that came near them. Stepfret Williams
didn't see too many balls but stung the Memphis secondary
several times with long runs after the catch. Quincy
Jackson also had a number of great catches including
a long touchdown. Bostic ran hard but simply didn't
see much daylight. On one occasion he did get through
a hole and stormed through the secondary dragging DB's
with him all the way.
field presentation looked as confused as the secondary
through parts of the first quarter. The speakers appeared
to be out of commission at first. Long periods of silence
followed every play. The game was held up several times
while they attempted to fix the problem. It seemed things
were going badly but one by one they got things working.
Finally the powerful sound system began emanating loud
thumping rock music and things got a little better.
The crowd began to get into the game and the video editor
soon found that any dead moment could be brought to
life by a close up foot level view of the Beautiful
Thunderbolts cheerleaders. The crowd became especially
excited when either of the two Brunette Brandy's or
the Blonde Amy who's body seemed to defy logic and gravity.
By the half everything was working perfectly.
The biggest blunder of the day had nothing to do with
the Bolts. The local beer distributors must think we're
all too stiff to drink beer because amazingly they RAN
OUT 15 minutes into the contest. Apparently they were
reading the paper too much and simply didn't think that
many people would be there. This mistake I'll be willing
to bet won't be repeated.
thing we didn't see was the lewd behavior and foul language
that the press warned us about. The player interviews
were far less "in your face" than what we
saw in Las Vegas the night before. After the game I
asked James Bostic if they had been asked to tone it
down because they were in "The South". Bostic
said they had not received any such instructions. He
went on to explain that he had family and he personally
didn't want to say anything that would upset or embarrass
for the team he said that most of these guys didn't
feel the need to showboat to that degree. This may have
been evident by the fact that Birmingham players opted
to print their names on their jerseys unlike the Las
to starting Center Matt Hogg he echoed the general feeling
among the players. "I think we beat ourselves,
If we can eliminate some of the mistakes we can play
with anybody, Hopefully we can get things worked out
for the New York game."
fielded a number of questions but still seemed dazed
somewhat from several ferocious hits he received in
the third quarter. He stuck it out and took some big
hits to make plays. That sort of thing can go a long
way to stop the cat calls for Barker.
didn't leave the stadium until after dark and I noticed
most of the RV tailgaters were still out there drinking
and dancing to loud music. Everyone I spoke to enjoyed
the game in spite of the loss and planned to return.
Talking to many people I feel the press has not properly
represented our thoughts on the XFL and I think it has
a real chance to grow into something special. One thing
is certain however; they're going to have to win some
games to prosper here.