It All Begins…Again

For Greg Parks, it all began in 2001. Now, as a newly minted XFLBoard team reporter, Greg points out, it all begins… again.

It seemed too good to be true.

There they were, the architects of the renegade 2001 football league, Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol, sitting down together to have dinner at the end of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on the XFL.

“Do you ever have thoughts about trying again?” Ebersols asks McMahon. Without hesitation, McMahon replies, “Yes, I do.”

For XFL diehards like myself, it felt like a tease. I mean, there was NO WAY McMahon, now a billionaire in charge of what has become the WWE media empire, would entertain restarting a football league that bombed more than a decade prior.

Then a funny thing happened: A lot of people watched the XFL 30 for 30. And a lot of people liked it. All of a sudden, like seemingly everything else from that time period, there was nostalgia for the XFL.

That quickly dissipated. Time passed. Then, nine months after the 30 for 30 first aired, a Tweet from reporter Brad Shepard began to make the rounds:

At the time, Shepard was not well-known in either pro wrestling or sports reporting circles, so there was much skepticism. Soon after, the Alpha Entertainment trademark was discovered. At the time, many suspected what was later confirmed: Alpha would be the parent company of the revived XFL.

The news of the XFL’s rebirth was later confirmed, and I can’t tell you how weird it was watching Vince McMahon’s news conference where he officially brought back his most public failure.

The reason for starting his league back up, reportedly to utilize the trademarks of the XFL rather than sell them to Charlie Ebersol to use, was not exactly a way to start on the right foot. Neither was announcing the relaunch with frustratingly few details, doing so only to get out ahead of the Ebersol-led Alliance of American Football’s christening. Since those initial missteps, though, the XFL has made almost all the right moves.

We are now less than eight months away from kickoff. McMahon has largely stayed in the background, allowing CEO and Commissioner Oliver Luck to be the public face of the rebrand. Some of the only mentions of McMahon would come as thanks from head coaches upon their hiring.

We don’t know what the team nicknames will be. We don’t know who the players will be. And we don’t know what the championship game will be called. We do know that this XFL is being built completely different from the original, which gives it a much greater chance for success.

In 2001, I was a sophomore in high school in rural Western New York. I remember posting on the original XFLBoard.com. Today, I’m a middle school teacher in Southwest Florida. Now, I’m writing for XFLBoard.com. I feel the same excitement for the XFL today as I did all those years ago.

With each step, the XFL feels more and more real. After the Summer Showcases wrap up, players will be signed to league contracts, and team names, logos, and colors will be revealed. Then it’ll be the XFL Draft, training camps, and…oh my. Then it’ll be February.

When it all begins…again.

It was 18-years ago. How well do you remember the XFL?

On 3 February 2001, Vince McMahon stood at the 50-yard line of Las Vegas’s Sam Boyd Stadium, and announced, “This is the XFL!”

The original XFL was launched on February 3rd, 2001, exactly 18-years ago today. To commemorate the anniversary, we present the XFL Quiz. It’s time to prove what you remember about the XFL. Be careful! You may find some of the questions to be a little tricky.

The Alliance between Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon

Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol – Credit: ESPN Films.”Do you ever have any thoughts of trying again?” Dick Ebersol asked Vince McMahon on the This was the XFL special done for the ESPN 30 for 30 series. Vince McMahon without hesitation responded, “Yes I do.” Ebersol responded with, “We’ll have to do it with our own money because I don’t work at NBC anymore.”

To borrow a line from the critically acclaimed 30 for 30 series. “What if I told you… that in May of 2001 when the XFL folded, that both McMahon and the Ebersols would be back in the football league business 18 years later, but this time as competitors.”

TV and Sports Broadcasting Legend Dick Ebersol, once called Vince McMahon. “The greatest partner he has ever had.” The relationship went beyond just business and mutual respect. Dick Ebersol told his wife that if anything were to happen to him. He wanted Vince McMahon to be the legal guardian and watch over his three children, Teddy, Willie and Charlie. There’s no greater testament of love for someone than entrusting them with that honor.

On February 3rd of 2000, Vince McMahon announced the launch of the XFL. A bold move in a series of risk-taking moves throughout his legendary career. McMahon embarked upon creating a football league from scratch with no outside financial backing. He gave himself only a year to do it. Over a month later, Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon called a joint press conference on March 31st 2000, to announce a 50-50 partnership with NBC as it’s broadcast machine. NBC was contracted to pay the XFL 50-million dollars per season.

From an innovation and broadcasting standpoint, this was a lethal combination. The XFL and NBC, through the vision of Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol, changed the way football was broadcasted forever. From the overhead “X Cam”, to the on field “Bubba Cam”, to the on-field audio access of players and coaches. Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon revolutionized the game. Unfortunately, while the presentation was way ahead of its time. The actual football was way behind. Everyone knows how the story ended for the original XFL.

While the original XFL started off great, selling millions of tickets, and drawing astronomical ratings that actually beat the World Series that year, the league fumbled the ball on the football side of things. By the end of season one, the league had become an afterthought and laughing stock in the sports and television industry. Vince McMahon still wanted to forge on to year two. NBC didn’t. The hardest decision, Dick Ebersol ever had to make was to sever ties with what was a failing operation. He needed to convince McMahon not to fight it.

Vince McMahon was left holding the bag. He could have very easily held NBC’s feet to the fire. NBC was morally and legally obligated to honor their contract with the XFL. They owed the league 50 million dollars for year two. If Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol were just merely business partners, things could have gotten real ugly. McMahon could have and would have won any legal battles for what NBC owed him and his league.

To be fair, Ebersol and NBC weren’t alone in trying to end the XFL. The league’s top advertisers had bailed, and their other broadcasting partners like UPN/TNN, were hedging their bets and trying to leverage the XFL’s failings towards creating a stronger foothold on McMahon’s WWE. A singular grand vision that Vince McMahon planned to start and operate on his own, had been taken down by his broadcast marriages. McMahon reluctantly and begrudgingly waved the white flag.

Nearly 17 years after all of this, Vince McMahon decided that he was going to try it again, but this time. He would do it alone. No more 50-50 partners. He would be investing his own money, like Ebersol suggested, to the tune of half a billion dollars. It could be argued that this was an even bolder decision than the original XFL. McMahon was rebooting something that failed on a grand scale. The norm in entertainment is to reboot successful entities. Couple that with the fact that since May of 2001, other leagues had also come and gone, facing the same demise. Even the almighty NFL’s Europe league had died despite great financial backing. Other pro league hopefuls either failed to launch, or couldn’t survive like the United Football League.

McMahon was bringing back the XFL to a market place that had been deemed a dead zone. Why would anyone make another attempt at starting a pro football league? No one could have predicted that two months after McMahon’s January 25th relaunch announcement, that yet another spring pro football league would launch. The kicker? It was being founded by Dick Ebersol’s son Charlie. The league would be potentially going head to head with the XFL, with Dick’s son Charlie deciding to jump ahead and launch earlier than McMahon.

The XFL’s rise and fall had been documented by Charlie Ebersol, he often times would argue in defense of the league and would discuss how things could have worked, if handled differently. His admiration and the relationship between his father and Vince McMahon was a strong aspect of the 30 for 30 special. Many would argue and speculate that the XFL was reborn as a result of this special, but the special would also give birth to Charlie’s “Alliance of American Football.” A strange dynamic where Dick Ebersol would be a low-key advisor behind the scenes for his son’s league, that is now a direct competitor with Vince McMahon.

In two weeks, Charlie Ebersol is launching an 8-team spring pro-football league, with the help of NFL Hall of Fame Executive Bill Polian. The league like the original XFL, has been rushing into the market place. Giving themselves less than a year to launch. Despite taking a non-adversarial approach to the NFL, and suggesting that they could become a minor league for them. The AAF has taken a similar path to the original XFL. The league is finishing up a month-long joint training camp in San Antonio. One of the biggest failings of the original XFL, was how the quality of play suffered from teams having only 30 days to gel.

The AAF had a league wide QB draft in late November with designated quarterbacks switching teams just 2 months before game time. On their journey to opening, the league has lost a head coach in Brad Childress, three offensive coordinators in Jon Kitna, Hal Mumme and Hugh Freeze, and Birmingham assistant RB coach Cadillac Williams. Not a great start on the journey to providing quality football right out the gate. Like the original XFL, making a first impression will be key. Is Charlie’s league following the same exact flawed path that his father and Vince did?

The Alliance has some good business relationships. By comparison to the original XFL-NBC deal, the AAF has a scaled down network deal with CBS that sees just two of their games broadcast on network television. With all the other games on cable TV. Still a good deal for an upstart league. 2019 can provide so many more opportunities than 2001 did for an upstart league. From technology to gambling to fantasy football. As of this article, the AAF hasn’t launched any apps tied in to any of these aspects. The league website has not updated team or player bios but there is still time. There figures to be more promotion with the upcoming Superbowl on CBS, AAF’s current broadcast partner, with NFL Network rumored to be next on deck.

Both the AAF and XFL have stated that they are not direct competitors with the NFL, and that they’re just trying to present quality football for fans, when the college and NFL seasons have ended. Vince McMahon, learning through his mistakes of rushing into the league the first time, had decided to take a “slow and steady wins the race” approach, not launching until February of 2020. That strategy left the door open for someone to cut in front of him on the line. Little did he know that it would be his most trusted business partner’s son. Since Vince’s XFL relaunch announcement, leagues are coming out of the wood work and thin air to announce potential launches. The crazy idea of launching another pro football league is not so crazy anymore. Even Ricky Williams has emerged from a cloud of smoke to announce his own league.

The relationship between Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon has led many to speculate, as to whether there could be yet another alliance between the Ebersols and McMahons. Despite Bill Polian’s desired goal of being a developmental league for the NFL, could the XFL and AAF eventually become partners in a joint league? Similar to the days of the 1960’s AFL/NFL merger. Supporting this theory is the fact that both leagues are in 16 different markets, with the AAF concentrated towards one side of the map, while the XFL is positioned strongly in big markets and on the east coast. The leagues aren’t competing with each other in the same markets. However, when it comes to players and coaches, the two leagues will end up competing directly with one another during the course of this year. The structure of the AAF’s 3-year contract is designed to directly prevent any of their players from playing in the XFL. Vince McMahon’s league will not have similar 3-year deals but they are offering their players more money to play in their league.

The pipe dream of a merger or joint partnership between the XFL and AAF remains a long shot, but it will exist until one or both leagues fold. The two leagues have to get to years two and three before any of these dreams can become a reality. In the meantime, the XFL is set to announce their own broadcast rights package in the coming week. They will be sitting on the sidelines, watching the AAF launch a week after the Superbowl. Will the AAF’s success or failure benefit the XFL?. There are arguments for either side. Regardless of what happens, the XFL is moving towards their 2020 launch. Where presumably, both leagues will be competing directly for attention in February of next year. Until then, Charlie Ebersol and the AAF has the game all to themselves.

As the original old saying goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Both the XFL and AAF are trying to learn from the mistakes of the original XFL’s past. The Ebersols and McMahon have a shared past, and now a shared future, but they are on opposite sides of the war…. for now.

One Last Look Back at the Original XFL

As XFL Representatives scout the future of pro football and their league, at this past weekend’s College All-Star games. I found myself thinking about the past and how surreal this whole XFL return thing really is. I keep having 2001 flashbacks.

Let’s jump back into Doc’s DeLorean one last time. The world was so different in 2001. Specifically, the online universe. Back then, if you were a fan, you only had chat rooms and message boards. There was no real coverage by sports media outlets. So, all the fans had was the league website, some newspaper articles, and some fan sites.

Sites like XFLBoard.com provided fans the opportunity to follow, interact and write about the league. No podcasts or internet shows. There weren’t even any weekly radio talk shows back then. The WWF at the time, was heading into the sports world and there was no real coverage of the league by the mainstream sports media. A sports franchise headed by a wrestling company didn’t really help create the impression of legitimacy. Alternative football leagues have a hard time, as it is, getting coverage by the mainstream media to begin with. Let alone a wrestling company. Any coverage of the original XFL was done so in a mocking fashion. After the first couple of weeks of the season, it was almost impossible finding any weekly highlights on ESPN or any serious recaps or analysis of the teams, players, or games on any sports media outlet.

An example of this was week one in the original XFL. As a sports fan for over three decades, I would be hard pressed to recall a more electrifying atmosphere for a season opener than the one that took place between LA and San Fran. When the San Francisco Demons defeated The LA Xtreme in their home opener at Pac Bell Park. San Fran won the game 15-13 with the clock running out. The over 38,000 fans that packed the stadium, were as loud as any group of fans, for any game I’ve ever witnessed. For a first-time league with mostly unknown players, to get that type of immersive response out the gate was unreal. The game wasn’t pretty but it was intense. A great back and forth game with tremendous drama. The presentation clicked on all levels. Some of it was over the top, but you actually felt like you were on the field and in the stands. If the XFL had opened their league on NBC with this game, the first impression of the league may have been different than the one created by the sloppy and one-sided Outlaws-Hitmen opener on NBC.

The league and The Demons-Xtreme game actually made the front cover of Sports Illustrated at the time. A great honor except that the XFL was blistered on the cover and inside the magazine. The headline read “Cheap Thrills”…. With the underneath caption reading “Will sleazy gimmicks and low-rent football work for the XFL?”…… It didn’t get much better inside the magazine. The drama, innovation and fun attached to the Demons-Xtreme game was mostly overlooked.

To be fair, some of the negative sentiment towards the XFL was warranted. The league puffed out it’s chest about being the big bad wolf and then got treated as such by the mainstream sports media. Nearly two decades ago, I actually got a chance to sort of become a part of that media, thanks to this very website, when I covered the New York/New Jersey Hitmen. Who knew back in 2001, that writing for a website that covered the league could get you access to games and a press pass to interview players and coaches?

Here I was barely in my 20’s, stepping inside a press box for the very first time, at what was then known as Giants Stadium. It was Week 7 of the XFL Season. Despite being 2 and 4, The Hitmen were still in contention for a playoff spot with 4 weeks to go in the regular season. The 3 and 3 Memphis Maniax were also involved in a playoff chase of their own in the western division. I was so excited and fully invested in the season. Despite the fact that the interest in the league was dying down even amongst its biggest supporters. I had been to every Hitmen home game and sat in the stands with the rest of my fellow tri-state football fans. The league may have been on its last legs heading towards it’s impending death but I was so caught up in the moment, that i wasn’t looking at the league as a gloom and doom operation.

With an XFL press credential in hand, I rode up the elevator into the press level at Giants Stadium. I had never experienced a game from this prospective. After proudly showing my press pass to a member of security, I headed into the press box. There was a decent number of local sporting press there. As is the custom, there is no cheering allowed in the press box. Hindsight being 20/20, I probably should have, but didn’t expect the lack of interest or enthusiasm from the press on hand. The scribes that were on hand, took more interest in the catered buffet than they did the actual game. It was a really nice layout but i was more interested in taking in the experience and following the game than getting second helpings of baked ziti.

The one league related conversation that I had with a reporter was how he had information on how the Chicago Enforcers were going to relocate to Milwaukee because of Soldier Field renovation later in the year. It turned out to be true. League reps were looking into different locations, had there been a second season. This reporter didn’t see year two even happening and had no real interest in this game or the XFL itself. I found out on this evening, first hand how unimportant and insignificant the XFL was to the local media.

The interest for me at that moment, while watching the field through a massive glass encasement in the press box was the actual game. The Hitmen had yet to win a home game. Despite that, NY/NJ could remarkably put their playoff hopes into their own hands by winning. The paid attendance for the game was 22,000 but the live attendance was only 15,781. The weather was bad but the crowd on hand was great. They were rewarded with a great last second victory, that saw the Hitmen score a touchdown late to win the game 16-15. The Memphis Maniax, despite having an up and down season, that eventually saw them finish at 5 and 5, came into this game with the league’s #1 ranked offense. They were kind of a Jekyll and Hyde type team. They would get off to great starts and then falter late in games. This would be the ammo, I needed when entering the team’s locker rooms after the game. I was so wrapped up in the league that when Birmingham lost to The Outlaws in the other Saturday night XFL game. I knew how that loss opened the door for the Hitmen to control their playoff destiny if they won out. A heartbreaking home loss to Chicago would eventually derail the teams hopes of making the playoffs by seasons end.

When the game ended, I headed to the team’s locker rooms. It was just me and a couple of other writers. They were looking to get it over with fast and for some quick sound bytes. I was looking for real reactions. The Hitmen were in good spirits after the game. When I informed New York Defensive Lineman Israel Raybon that the Bolts had lost. He enthusiastically responded, “We have it all in our hands now.”

When I headed into the visitor’s locker room. I knew that the other writers weren’t going to ask anything substantial. Here I was a 20 something year old kid, who was lucky to even have this type of access, getting ready to grill a seasoned and well-respected pro football veteran in Maniax Head Coach Kippy Brown. I was going to ask him why his teams had a tendency of collapsing late in games. In this particular game, Memphis led 15-3 before blowing the lead and losing. I had read in the buildup of the game, how Memphis players were talking about how hard Kippy was working them in practice. So, I attributed their late game collapses to it. It was probably not the greatest angle to take but at the time, it seemed plausible. Looking back, I was probably reaching a bit.

This is what I wrote on this very website back in 2001, of my exchange with Kippy Brown after the game. When asked if conditioning was a factor in his teams second half breakdowns, Brown took a defensive approach and stated, “These players aren’t working hard enough, ask them if they lost because they worked too much.” Boy, was Kippy Brown mad when I suggested his practices in pads may have been a reason for his team’s second half collapses.

Regardless, whether my analysis or questioning was off base or not, I was told by the players and coaches on that night, that they appreciated that a member of the “media” was taking their league and games seriously. Most of the players and football personnel that were involved in the original league were treated, as if what they were doing didn’t matter or wasn’t important. The old XFL is gone forever. While most see Version 1.0 as a failure, there are so many fans who see it differently, myself included.

With news coming out this week, that the XFL plans to unveil their television rights/digital streaming package in the next few weeks. Probably during Superbowl week. The league will be officially starting a new chapter. There are so many more ways for a product to get exposure in 2019, then there was back in 2001. It’s a vastly different media world. The league figures to be much different this go around. The coverage and treatment of it might still end up being the same, but it will be more accessible for fans to follow the league this time. No press pass needed.

The XFL Kicked-off Seventeen Years Ago Today

YouTube video

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.

YouTube video

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

(Author: Mark Nelson – 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

XFL Closure Conference Call Transcript

This is a transcript of the conference call where the XFL closure was explained to the media.

Moderator: Vince McMahon

May 10, 2001

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the NBC and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. conference call. During the presentation all participants will be in a listen-only mode. Afterwards you will be invited to participate in the question-and-answer session. At that time if you have a question you will need to press the one followed by the four on your telephone. As a reminder this conference is being recorded Thursday, May 10, 2001. I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Gary Davis, Vice President, Corporate Communications with World Wrestling Federation. Please go ahead sir.

Gary Davis: Thank you. And thank you everybody for joining us I know on short notice. By now you have probably received the news release that was issued, or the news releases that have been issued, by both www.entertainment and NBC about the discontinuation of the XFL. Joining us on the call today are Vince McMahon, Chairman of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Dick Ebersoll, Chairman of NBC Sports and Olympics, Bazil Devito [sp], President of the XFL. And they’re here to answer any questions you may have, but first I’m going to turn it over to Vince, Dick and Basil if they’d like to make a few short remarks and then we’ll go to the Q&A.

Vince McMahon: Dick, do you want to start?

Dick Ebersoll: No, go ahead Vince.

V. McMahon: I would just like to say that this has been a wonderful experience for the World Wrestling Federation Entertainment speaking on behalf of us. You don’t often have the ability, and it is to be applauded in this wonderful country we live in, to be able to take a calculated risk. Some of them pay off. Some of them don’t. This one didn’t. But nonetheless I don’t regret for one moment attempting this, especially considering NBC and Dick with us all the way through this. It was a wonderful experience and hopefully we brought a great deal of entertainment to football fans.

D. Ebersoll: I just want to say that strange as it may seem to many of you listening in on this phone call, that this was one of the most fun experiences of my life. In some of the darkest days it was a pleasure to work with all the people, the talent, the couches, and most of all Vince. I don’t know how to thank Vince. NBC’s enjoyed a lot of partnerships through the years but Id be challenged to find a more decent, trusting, or accommodating partner and friend than Vince McMahon.

Basil Devito: The only thing I can add is that our sincere thanks to the 400 players who gave more than we could have ever asked and played every down of every game, and they did it not just for the money, and in the end we were pretty satisfied with the level of play and we really appreciate what the players gave and the fans that supported us. In the end it was all about the fans and there are a million out there that I think enjoyed what we did and we thank them for the opportunity.

G. Davis: So now we’re ready for questions and answers.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to register a question for today’s question-and-answer session you will need to press the one followed by the four on your telephone. You will hear a three-tone prompt to acknowledge your request. If your question has been answered and you wish to withdraw your polling request you may do so by pressing the one followed by the three. If you are on a speaker phone please pick up your handset before entering your request. Also please limit yourself to one question.

The first question comes from Larry Sewart from the Los Angeles Times. Please go ahead with your question.

Larry Sewart: Yeah, I guess start with Vance. Just what were the key factors in deciding not to try it for another year? I know a lot of time we talked that you indicated that you did want to try it for another year.

V. McMahon: Yeah. It’s really unfortunate that the numbers actually didn’t play out for us, but you know we had hoped that in our models and even going from eight teams perhaps down to six teams before we expanded back to ten, and we had so many different models to try and make this work, and despite where our heart was which was unquestionably with the passion of the XFL, we just couldn’t make it work from a financial standpoint going forward without everything that should be lined up. That’s a fact.

Operator: The next question comes from Jim Gintinio from Arizona Republic. Please go ahead with your question.

Jim Gintinio: Yeah, thanks. Vince, I said a critical week one. Your expectations really had to be huge at that point. When did you realize that the league was not [unintelligible].

V. McMahon: When did I realize the league was not what again?

J. Gintinio: A great week one. When did you realize that the league was probably not going to make it to a second season?

V. McMahon: I didn’t come to that realization until I guess maybe about four hours ago at the most.

J. Gintinio: Thank you.

V. McMahon: And you may think that’s laughable, but it gives you some idea as to how many combinations and permutations and everything else that we came up with to try and make this work. I mean again, from bottom line we are in business like everyone else, despite my passion for everything that we do. We tried to figure every conceivable way of trying to make this work and it wasn’t until about six hours ago that we finally came to the logical business hard, cold decision this was not going to work.

J. Gintinio: Thank you.

Operator: The next question comes from Evan Grossman with the New York Post. Please go ahead with your question.

Evan Grossman: Have you talked to the individual teams or team management about the decision or was it just done in one broad stroke with the media and the league?

B. Devito: In keeping with our responsibilities to our shareholders and the business requirements, we were able to do those things simultaneously. We have spoken to the management of all of our local teams. I personally was able to reach out to not only multiple head couches as well as some of our marquee players. We also had an opportunity to reach out to every employee in the XFL, again all simultaneous, with the types of announcements that are required of a public company. So it was difficult. I’m sure there were a person or two we weren’t able to get to, but we did the best we could in both a professional and a compassionate way.

Operator: The next question comes from Rudy Martzke with USA Today. Please go ahead with your question.

Rudy Martzke: Yeah. This is for Dick Ebersoll. Dick, when did you also figure that this league maybe wouldn’t make it or that NBC would probably have to pull out, and how disappointed are you in the fact that you couldn’t make this work?

D. Ebersoll: I think there’s nothing that all of us would have liked to have seen more than a successful launch of this . It was a risk that we all thought was a smart one, given the fact that the ownership of a successful new league today would provide a great insurance policy against the wildly escalating TV rights scene. I think from a prime time standpoint, we knew it wasn’t going to work from early March on. We here at NBC tried a lot of different possibilities to see if we could find a way to have daytime coverage of the league going forward and we tried a ton of permutations in March and April. But our commitments next year to the Winter Olympics in February, the NBA, and the Professional Golf Tour through March and April made it impossible for us to come up with a situation. In fact that’s one of the major reasons that the league was a prime time thing for us. We did not have sports time available to it when we launched, and we also felt strongly that Saturday night had become the least successful night in television and this was a great opportunity for us to get into a time period where nothing had worked for a long time. And the launch worked. The people were there, and we didn’t answer their expectations I guess.

R. Martzke: OK.

Operator: The next question comes from Richard Sandomir with the New York Times. Please go ahead with your question.

Richard Sandomir: Yeah. Vince, we’ve talked about how important it was for you to stay on broadcast TV and specifically without NBC-UPN. Was today the day that UPN told you they didn’t want you any longer?

V. McMahon: In discussions with UPN, which we had hoped that we would wind up with UPN and a cable, most likely TNN, in discussions with them those discussions broke down over of all things the deal. So we were unable to come to a satisfactory deal with UPN, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

R. Sandomir: And did that happen today?

V. McMahon: Yes it did. As I said- you probably couldn’t hear me Richard- we made this decision about four hours ago.

R. Sandomir: OK. OK. And if they had said yes you would have continued?

V. McMahon: I’m not certain, but again it’s a point in which you- it’s a domino theory. You know, or even let’s say it’s a galaxy theory. All the stars have to be lined up for this to go forward, and the broadcast component was the most important one. We had had hopes that everyone would look at it as we, WBFE [sp], were looking at it in terms of a brand-building business, but ultimately I guess it came down to a programming decision and again, our difference of opinion is to what the deal should be going forward.

R. Sandomir: I see.

Operator: The next question comes from John Dempsey with Variety. Please go ahead with your question.

John Dempsey: Yeah Vince. Did you talk to the WB Vince as a possible replacement for UPN on Sunday afternoons?

V. McMahon: No. That was a suggestion that we might talk with WB, and at one time it was a suggestion couched in only the fact that they were two networks that would be possible to have the availability of time, one being UPN and the other being WB. But we had no conversation with WB.

J. Dempsey: OK. Thank you.

Operator: The next question comes from Joe Flint with the Wall St. Journal. Please go ahead with your question.

Joe Flint: Yeah. Vince, just curious. I don’t know how specific you can get, but with UPN what was their main issue or their main hang-up with bringing the league back, and does any of this impact at all your relationship with them on other shows such as Smack Down?

V. McMahon: It does not impact at all on Smack Down or any other programming we’ll be providing UPN, not at all. It really came down to a deal point situation and we couldn’t go forward. That’s all.

Operator: The next question comes from Ed Sherman with Chicago Tribune. Please go ahead with your question.

Ed Sherman: Dick, what’s your assessment? Why didn’t this thing work, especially after the launch?

D. Ebersoll: You know Ed, I’d say, more than anything else, time. I think in retrospect, if we’d more time we certainly could have probably from an offensive standpoint had a more consistent product, although there are those who would say that when you look at the first weekend, three of the four games that were played were incredibly competitive and the big national game which was the center of the launch was a 19 to nothing shutout and not a very attractive game to look at. But all in all I’d say you could come up with a million little things but time is probably the largest Ed.

Operator: The next question comes from Jerry McGee with the San Diego Union

Please go ahead with your question.

Jerry McGee: For either Dick or Mr. McMahon. Do you fellows think that any spring-summer league can ever be successful in a sports community as dominant as the NFL is?

Man: Well Jerry, I’d have to say despite the evidence of the last few months that football’s clearly the number one sport in America today. As one person consistently said to me leading up to this that the shape of the ball makes you guys candidates for a great success. I think that the first week showed that there was an appetite and we just didn’t answer it in a way that the public wanted us to. But yeah, I do think it- and you know, we jumped into this idea in a big way for two reasons. V. McMahon, who I think is the best marketer and promoter to young men in this country today, and the other reason was that I thought that there was a real appetite for football on a year round basis. First week showed there was. Just bottom line we didn’t deliver what they wanted to see, ’cause they came and they just didn’t come back.

Operator: The next question comes from Stefan Fatsis with The Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead with your question.

Stefan Fatsis: Dick or Vince, I’m curious as to the one thing that seems to have really failed here which is also that you talked about the XFL being a way to skirt the ever increasing rights factor in pro sports. You tried to do it on your own. It didn’t succeed. Does that make you pessimistic about the market for other leagues and the ability of networks and others to circumvent the ever-increasing season?

D. Ebersoll: I guess I should answer that. You know, it’s a very tough world today, this sports television world stuff, and there’s really few if any rights deals left that aren’t made at the very best at break even. And considering the economy that all media companies are in today, not only television, it’s tougher and tougher to take on these huge rights things. And Vince and Basil came up with a really, really good financial model for going forward, and I think you have to point to our execution of the idea as being the biggest factor. I put it in terms of time, but I would still think that some day somebody’s going to pull this together. If I had to do it all over again, and I think Basil and Vince would agree, more time would probably be the first thing on our list.

Operator: The next question comes from Michelle Greppi with the Electronic Media. Please go ahead with your question.

Michelle Greppi: Sorry to be beating the UPN angle, but who called or how did they notify you and what did they actually say and when had been your last previous conversation prior to that?

B. Devito: Michelle this is Basil.

M. Greppi: Hi.

B. Devito: What we’re talking about here is an overall assessment of a business that concluded our year-end on April 30th. So there’s not necessarily a single call or one piece of information that lead us to where we are.

[crosstalk]

– last night and obviously, you know off the cuff at a cocktail party is not a time where I can try to expound on the many, many hours of discussion and work both internally here and with our potential partners. So I had those conversations but none of them- I can’t point you to one specific time or place because we’ve been in business together for the last year, and when you’re in business together with partners you’re working all the time.

D. Ebersoll: Michelle, I’d like to point out that Vince and Basil are together in Stanford having these cocktails. I don’t have anything in front of me.

Man: Just for the record, I don’t drink except protein drink.

Man: That was last night at the WW Up Front.

Man: Next question please.

Operator: The next question comes from Bob Raissman with the New York Daily News. Please go ahead with your question.

Bob Raissman: Vince, how much of what happened early on would you attribute to the expectations people had of you or what they thought of you or what they thought you were going to do or wouldn’t do?

V. McMahon: Geez Bob, I don’t know. I don’t know that I can- you know, I have questioned myself on that but I don’t know that I have that answer. Again I think that the buck stops with me principally. I think that NBC had a great deal of faith in not only their abilities which are extraordinary, but they had a great deal of faith in me and my organization being able to field literally this XFL in a timely fashion, and I think we let NBC down in terms of holding up to our end of the deal. Try as we might- again, that’s one of the things that Dick alluded to in terms of time.

Had we had more time, we may have been able to do things a little differently, and that goes with the expectations of what certain people were thinking about what the WVF would do in the sporting world, or I should say the football world, and I think that we didn’t enough time or take the amount of time as well– at least I can say that personally- to be able to discuss with the media on an individual basis what to expect. It’s one thing to build tension and excitement and anticipation to the public. It’s quite another to speak directly with the media on a one-on-one basis as much as we can, and I think that was another failing on my part, you know in not going straight to the media to tell you guys exactly what this was. This was football. It always was going to be football. You know, we were going to entertain you. Our promos were going to be entertaining and things of that nature in terms of the sizzle, but the steak was always going to be about football, and I think there was some misunderstanding from the media. Some of it worked to our favor. Some of it didn’t. So I don’t know that I necessarily have that answer Bob.

B. Raissman: OK.

Man: [unintelligible] Bob. Vince as always is being more than gracious. I think a few more weeks would have also helped us on the television side to be ready with the complexity of doing football this way with 26 mics, with flying cameras, with cameras on the field. When I say more time I’m not just alluding to the football side of this operation. We could have used a little bit more time, particularly since the vast majority of the top people doing football today were not available to us, and we had intensive rehearsals not only of the television side but we had scrimmages in January. Both sides could have used two or three more weeks in retrospect.

Operator: The next question comes from David Barron from the Houston Chronicle. Please go ahead with your question.

David Barron: That you were able to succeed in wrestling by sort of changing the way that the business was played out, the way that the event was played out on television, is football the sort of sport that could be changed or could be altered to, do you think, to appeal to the same demographic that watches WWF entertainment shows?

V. McMahon: Well you know, our demographics and research show that there’s a good chunk of both football fans who watch WWF and conversely, but I think in terms of the innovations, you know, that NBC and WWE brought to the game, I would suggest that you’re going to see some of those in the NFL, or if not, certainly it won’t be because of the networks not trying, those who were producing, because I think that again, part of our whole imprimatur here was to bring the game closer to the fan, to show you the huddle call and players having frank discussions with other players and coaches, and things of that nature, which we did. We brought you from a fan’s standpoint inside the game. And that was important. That was what we tried to do. So I mean I think that we did a lot of that. We did a lot of fan interaction. It was the most fan friendly league I think that there ever has been, and that was one of our goals as well. I think we succeeded in a lot of areas, but obviously failed in others.

Man: I also think Vince that one of the most interesting things about the league in my mind, one player was the personification of the league, and it’s a shame that the public didn’t really see it except for the people in the stands, and that’s Tommy Maddux. He’s a guy who had bounced around a few NFL teams and [momentary audio break] this team all the way through to the championship, but if someone had watched the totality of the games, the first week the game happened to be on TNN in the afternoon, but he coached his team to an almost win. The next week we had this incredible double sudden death, the first time in the history of the game that you had him play out the way that it did, and it was he leading the team and yet you had the great thing of him on the sideline. For the first time in history you were able to look in as a player showed his temper over another player’s performance. Happened to be the kicker who then went on to have the best year of anybody in the league of the L.A. kicker. But there were an awful lot of players in this league who exhibited some pretty special qualities, and for the first time the public, who was either in the stadium or was watching on TV, was really able to see this. In the past they just heard announcers tell them about it.

Operator: The next question comes from John Higgins from Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. Please go ahead with your question.

John Higgins: I thought the player that personified the game was he hate me personally. First of all Vince you said deal points of UPN. What deal points?

V. McMahon: I don’t want to get into that. You know, I mean I’d rather not get into that, but just in terms of trying to make this deal going forward- not for just this upcoming year- but a multiple year type situation. Again, you have to look at it from a hard, cold business standpoint, and we’re very, very long range oriented in anything that we do. Again, the deal just broke down.

J. Higgins: WWFE seemed to be pretty looking to this for a lot of the growth in the future, so without this vehicle it’s going to be kind of harder to get much better ratings on cable than what you’ve got. If so, where does your growth come from?

V. McMahon: Oh, from WV standpoint our growth comes from a lot of different directions, one of which would be another brand that we just acquired, Ted Turner’s WCW or Time Warner’s WCW. So in any event we have an opportunity from a growth standpoint to double our television ratings and almost double all of our revenue at the same time keeping our cost and overhead down to a minimum. So we’ve got that. We have so many areas in terms of international as well to grow, as well as a film that’s currently out now called “The Mummy Returns.” Universal is graciously stating how much help we were for the success of that, not just with performance of one of our characters, The Rock, but the promotional effort, you know in our promotional machine, so obviously we’re growing in film. There’ll be other television as well coming out with other networks that we’re working with as well as the ones that we’re currently sharing. So our growth is boundless quite frankly.

J. Higgins: What is WWFE’s pre-tax loss on this.

G. Davis: John. Please. We’re trying to keep it to a couple questions from each person. I’m sure somebody else will cover that in a minute, but we are in a quiet period.

J. Higgins: Well you said what the post tax loss was. What’s the pre-tax loss?

V. McMahon: Who can answer that? Can somebody answer that are not?

Man: Vince, while you’re promoting all your product I’d like to point out that layoffs continue on NBC. [unintelligible] picks up at the Preakness in 10 days.

V. McMahon: Next question please.

Operator: The next question comes from Bob Keisser with the Long Beach Press Telegraph. Please go ahead with your question.

Bob Keisser: Yes, the question- other leagues have folded sometimes with players not being paid. Have all players been paid for what they performed for the year?

Man: Yes, they have.

V. McMahon: You won’t find again with World Wrestling Federation Entertainment NBC, you will not find anyone associated with this enterprise who isn’t taken care of in every conceivable way. You know, we do the right thing every time.

B. Keisser: And the follow-up question. Vince how much do you think you can lay blame on the mainstream media which never seemed to get what you were aiming it, going up and including your confrontation with Bob Costas with his show this year?

V. McMahon: I had a confrontation with Bob Costas? I wasn’t aware I had a confrontation with Bob Costas.

B. Keisser: You had an interview with Bob

V. McMahon: I did have an interview. I did have a discussion that got a little heated on occasion but I wouldn’t call that a confrontation. But in any event Bob’s a good guy. I’m looking forward to the next time we get together and so is he. Aside from that I would put no blame whatsoever on the media. Clearly it rests on my shoulders. This was my vision, and it did not work for whatever reason, and the media has- I’m the first guy- I have a pretty big mouth as you guys, most of you, know. And generally by the way I back up what I say, but you know, I’m a big advocate on the First Amendment rights and so I think everyone should be able to write whatever they want to write and I’m big on that. So I think the media has a right to, whether they like something or they don’t like it or whatever, you know, I certainly hope that from our standpoint, I know NBC didn’t, but I certainly hope from WB’s standpoint that we didn’t step on anybody’s toes out there. It was not our intention. But hopefully we gave you something to write about. It was not the media’s fault in terms of the failure of this at all. It was mine.

B. Keisser: Thank you Vince.

Operator: The next question comes from Jim Endrst from the Hartford Courant. Please go ahead with your question.

Jim Endrst: Yeah, hi. Dick, I was just wondering if you could sort of expand on an earlier question. Do you think that you got caught a little betwixt and between the football and the expectations for the WWF, that the ball fans didn’t think there was enough football and WWF fans didn’t think there was enough WWF style?

D. Ebersoll: You know Jim, I don’t. I think that the promo campaign was to have fun with football and the things that went on around football. If anything maybe the wrecking ball made people, the wrecking ball and the promotions about no fair catches may have made people think that there was going to be a little bit more there than football. But I still feel that if we’d given them a tighter product week one, I think the number week one, the ten whatever overnight, was way beyond mine and I’m sure Vince’s wildest expectations and probably had something to do with setting us up for a fall, not by what we did, but just we were amazed at how many people were there and we probably hadn’t had the play in New Haven long enough.

J. Endrst: Thanks.

Operator: Next question comes from Nikolas Dimitriou from the Paragon Press. Please go ahead with your question.

Nikolas Dimitriou: Hi Vince. Actually, my first question is about WCW. Is there any trepidation going into starting up the company now because of what’s happened with the XFL?

V. McMahon: Well absolutely not. No. WCW fits extremely well in terms of our brand building business.

N. Dimitriou: And what about what Variety reported earlier about CNN having problems because of stars such as Sting and Goldberg not being signed up [inaudible] with the deal.

V. McMahon: I’m sorry. What did Variety report? I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you.

N. Dimitriou: They reported something along the lines of Sting and Goldberg not being signed along with the deal and TNN having a problem with signing WCW programming to their station.

V. McMahon: No. TNN doesn’t have anything to do with us. This is all WVF entertainment and we will sign whomever we wish to sign.

N. Dimitriou: Is there any starting date set?

V. McMahon: No.

G. Davis: Next question please. You guys had three, Nick.

V. McMahon: I think if you guys don’t stop asking me stuff about WWF Entertainment, Ebersoll’s going to get hot. He will start promoting the NBA again or golf or something.

Operator: The next question comes from Pat Williams from L. W. Bills Company. Please go ahead with your question.

Pat Williams: Yeah, Vince. With the recent failures of the XFL and the other failures with [unintelligible] will you continue to do any ventures outside of wrestling?

V. McMahon: I don’t know what you mean by ‘outside of wrestling.’ We’re in the publishing business. We’re in the licensing business. We’re in the [unintelligible] business. We’re in the home video business. We’re in the Pay-per-View business. We’re in lots of businesses that cross over to lots of situations so we’re always on the lookout for the right growth potential. We’re a growth company. I have a view that either you’re going backwards or going forwards. The only time you’re in the middle is when you’re contemplating going forward. So that’s the end of that tune.

G. Davis: The next question please. We’re going to try to keep you all to one because we’re starting to run out of time and want to accommodate as many of you as possible.

Operator: The next question comes from Kevin Iole from the Las Vegas Review Journal. Please go ahead with your question.

Kevin Iole: Yes, for Vince. Vince, I wonder in relation to your answer before about the media and you said you blamed yourself. Do you think your press conference comments after the first game, where you basically told some of those writers you know to kiss your backside, made them feel hurt in the sense that those guys kind of took some retribution on you?

V. McMahon: Not really, because if they could see my backside they wouldn’t mind kissing it. I’ve got a very nice backside.

Again, I am- you know, whether I’m arrogant or I’m not, or whether I’m straight forward or I’m not, you know if the media likes that that’s cool. If they don’t, then they deal with it in whatever way that they want. So, I don’t know. Could I have been a little more gracious after the first game? You know, I may have been you know- I’ve got to be me guys. So, gracious or not.

Operator: The next question comes from Jared St. Laurent from the Miami Herald. Please go ahead with your question.

Jared St. Laurent: Vince, does the folding of the XFL have anything to do with the amount of work that has to be done to re-launch World Championship Wrestling?

V. McMahon: No, not really. You know, we were set up- Basil had XFL set up in such a way that I was able to concentrate you know not just on whatever I should be doing with XFL, but it didn’t in any way interfere with other growth situations such as WCW and many others that we’re going to be announcing soon. So it didn’t deter in any way.

J. St. Laurent: OK. Thank you.

Operator: The next question comes from Mike Krail from Chrysler. Please go ahead with your question.

Mike Krail: Hi Vince. I was just wondering if there was any thought with the exodus of players to the NFL if teaming up with them and using it as maybe a minor league for the National Football League?

V. McMahon: Surely there were a lot of thoughts about the possibility of that, and we attempted through a back door type situation to reach out. We knocked on the door but there wasn’t any answer. But that was one of the things that we were looking at. I mean, when you think about it and think about the World League and all of that and what it costs the NFL these days, it would make a lot of sense quite frankly, for the NFL to have a vested interest, financial interest quite frankly, in the continuance of the XFL, and I think that you’ll see as long as there’s a fair shot I’m sure there will be a lot of XFL players playing in the NFL this year.

M. Creyo: Thank you.

Operator: The next question comes from Allen Sepinwall from the Newark Star Ledger. Please go ahead with your question.

Allen Sepinwall: Vince, would you say the failure of the league rested entirely on the fans view of the play, or was it an overall television product? Were they disappointed by the play or the TV show?

V. McMahon: I don’t have that answer. I think that you know ultimately we’ll be very proud of the television show that we gave them. I think we’re also proud ultimately of the caliber of the play, but I don’t have that answer. I don’t know if anyone ever will. Dick might– could comment on that.

D. Ebersoll: You know Vince, I think that in about 10 years you’ll finally get to go to Harvard because I’m certain that this’ll be a Harvard Business School study. It’ll be the first time an East Carolina graduate is in the Harvard Business School.

V. McMahon: Well, first of all you should know that I’ve already been, not at a Harvard Business School but the Harvard Law School.

Operator: The next question comes from Jeff Leeds from the Los Angeles Times. Please go ahead with your question.

Jeff Leeds: Hey Vince. How’re you doing?

V. McMahon: Great.

J. Leeds: I was wondering if what this experience has taught you if anything about the wrestling audience, the core wrestling audience and your ability to sort of drive them to other things. You talked a minute ago about you know there was crossover [unintelligible]. What are the future of the core wrestling audiences and what they are into and what you can do with them?

V. McMahon: Well again, our audience is a vast audience and we’ll be happy to send you the research, which ARC just completed on our audience. Our audience is Middle America. You know, the average person watching has an income slightly above that of the average. The number of college graduates or those who have attended college you know is over 60 percent. So our audience is a group of independent thinkers and they’re loyal to the brand. It’s a great audience, so we can offer them football, we could offer them whatever it is that they want and it’s their prerogative as to whether or not they choose it. No different than any other audience.

Man: Everyone in this project worked very hard. We have it a great shot. The audience came and they didn’t like it. Not in the numbers that we needed to go forward, and the responsibility lies on us.

Next question please.

Operator: The next question comes from Allison Lieberman with the New York Post. Please go ahead with your question.

Allison Lieberman: This question’s for Dick. Can you quantify the losses for NBC? I know analysts have predicted anywhere between you know around $50 million for the year. Is that accurate?

D. Ebersoll: Those figures are in the ballpark Allison.

A. Lieberman: And Vince, is that the same. We’re partners but if Dick wants to accept more of the loss than us then that’s alright with me.

D. Ebersoll: Thank you Vince. Can I have some of the ice cubes?

Operator: Next question comes from Jim McConville with the Hollywood Reporter. Please go ahead with your question.

Jim McConville: Yes, to either Dick or to Vince. In retrospect if you were to do it over would you put a Saturday night game? Could that have been the big reason why young audiences came but quickly went?

V. McMahon: Again, from NBCs standpoint, I can’t speak. From a WVF standpoint, the idea of having the privilege of teaming up with NBC, the network of the Olympics, and knowing who was behind this in terms of not just NBC but Dick Ebersoll, and the opportunity to work with Dick again as I have in the past, was whether Saturday night was the night or not it turned out not to be, but you know it was the right thing to do.

D. Ebersoll: Saturday night is our night of the week, Vince.

G. Davis: OK. We have time for one last question.

Operator: The last question comes from David Lassen from Ventura County Star. Please go ahead with your question.

Jim Carlyle: Actually this is Jim Carlyle of the Star. Dick Ebersoll, after the XFL and the criticism received during the Olympics, do you think your reputation has been tarnished at all by this situation, either from inside or outside the network, and if so what do you do to restore it?

D. Ebersoll: You know Jim, I think life is cyclical, and about every ten years you hit some bumps in the road, but life is about risk and opportunity. There was a great opportunity here for us as a business and as a sport. We worked hard. It didn’t work. And we all move on. Vince moves on to WCW and starting something there. We move on to things like the Triple Crown, the NBA playoffs, and the live or mostly live Olympics in Salt Lake City. But life wouldn’t be as good as it’s been for both Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersoll if we didn’t continue to risk things, and when things don’t work that doesn’t mean you stop risking.

J. Carlyle: Thanks.

G. Davis: OK. With that we’ll conclude our call. Thank you all for taking the time to join us, and if there are any follow-up questions please feel free to contract Kevin Sullivan at NBC or to contact myself here at World Wrestling Federation Entertainment. We’ll be glad to follow up as best we can.

Man: Thank you guys.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude the conference call for today. We thank you for your participation and ask that you please disconnect your lines.

The XFL’s First Million Dollar Game

Home town fans could be sparse, but QB’s on opposing teams both come out swinging in defense of their own league.

LOS ANGELES – (AP) (21 April 2001) –The stands in the Coliseum are expected to be nearly empty and the national television audience may be the smallest ever for a pro sports title game.

To the San Francisco Demons and Los Angeles Xtreme, it’s still 60 minutes of football with a championship at stake when they meet today in The Million Dollar Game for the XFL’s first title.

“Our team and entire organization are just excited to be in the game and can’t wait until it starts,” said Demons coach Jim Skipper, a longtime NFL assistant.

The Xtreme’s Tommy Maddox, the Most Valuable Player of the XFL after throwing for a league-high 2,186 yards and 18 touchdowns, also is eager for the 5p.m. kickoff.

“I just love playing the game and winning,” said Maddox, a former UCLA star and NFL backup. “To be able to play for a championship, I don’t care what league it’s in, that’s exciting.”

The title game, with the winning team dividing up the $1million bonus, concludes what began as a promising first season for the new league jointly owned by the World Wrestling Federation and NBC. But crowds dwindled and viewers tuned out by the millions.

After a debut that had the highest ratings in its time slot on NBC, some of the league’s games later in the regular season were believed to have been the lowest-rated prime-time programs ever on one of the three major networks. NBC is almost sure to back out of its two-year deal after the game.

Attendance also has been thin — Los Angeles’ semifinal victory over Chicago drew only 13,081, the Xtreme’s smallest crowd of the season and 22,802 fewer than their home opener.

Despite the waning interest in the league, XFL president Basil DeVito has said the XFL will be back next year.

Critics have questioned the quality of play in the eight-team league, but the players and coaches believed it improved over the course of the 10-game regular season.

“There are a lot of people out there who have really missed the boat,” Demons quarterback Mike Pawlawski said. “There are a lot of good players in this league. To bash this league is to bash NCAA football around the country. This is better than college football.”

Skipper noted that about half the Demons players have been on NFL rosters. He said that, while the league may not have big, fast and agile linemen, the players in the new league’s skill positions “are as good as anywhere.”

Members of today’s winning team will receive $22,000 to $26,000 apiece, depending on how they vote to split the bonus. That is about half the salary each was paid for the entire 10-game season.

The Demons and Xtreme split two regular-season meetings.

The Demons won 15-13 at San Francisco on Feb.4, when Pawlawski completed 31 of 47 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns and Mike Panasuk kicked a 33-yard field goal as time ran out.

The Xtreme won the rematch in the L.A. Coliseum 24-0 on April 7, with Maddox throwing for 164 yards and one score while Pawlawski passed for 136 yards, with two interceptions.

The Demons are expected to have Pawlawski back following a shoulder injury.

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