For fans in the Bay Area, it meant the introduction of a third football team.  For fans in Los Angeles, it meant the introduction of the first football team since the Los Angeles Raiders and Rams left for Oakland and St. Louis (if you don’t count the Arena league’s L.A. Avengers).  It was the birth of the XFL, a league created by the WWF’s head ring leader, Vince McMahon.  For many NFL fans, that was reason enough to be suspicious.  What was the American public to expect from a league that has been advertising itself as more extreme than the NFL?  

The Xtreme Football League definitely drew in a bigger crowd than expected on one of the biggest hype weekends for the NBC and UPN television networks.  In fact, the numbers were about 25 percent higher than NBC’s coverage of game 4 of Major League Baseball’s AL Championship series between the Yankees and Mariners.  That is a huge win for the XFL.  You want numbers?  Here you go.  An average of 10.3 percent of all television households saw at least part of the games.  That is close to 675,000 homes, a number that is more than two times what advertisers like Burger King and AT&T were promised.  

It was obvious that the new league was all about style rather than content.  Proof enough of the league’s target audience…WWF fans (males ages 12 to 24).  The XFL seemed to try a bit too hard to deliver something fresh, new, and harder hitting.  However, there was the good and the bad.

THE GOOD

A New Way Of Looking At Football – Fans in the stadiums and at home were allowed to see and hear exactly what was going on in the huddle and on the field.  The XFL carefully placed cameras and cameramen anywhere and everywhere.  Cameramen dressed like hockey goalies were on the field to catch the action as the quarterback huddled up his offense.  Cameramen followed the teams into the locker rooms at halftime to watch the coaches speak to the players.  Cameras were swinging above the field giving the target audience a view that they are used to, the view used by many popular football video games like the Madden and NFL2K series.  Fans were able to listen in on the play calls that the coaches were sending their quarterbacks.  That feature was also used at the 2001 AFC-NFC Pro Bowl but was used less often.

Cheerleaders Galore – While it goes without question that many young male fans went to the games to see the new cheerleaders nearly baring it all as much (if not more) than to just see the action on the field, the XFL’s cheerleaders do interact more with those in the stands.  They are not limited to the sidelines as they are in the NFL.  The XFL cheerleaders are encouraged to mingle among the crowd and keep the fans into the game, although it is doubtful that a young male would rather stare at a football game with a cheerleader dancing right next to him.  

Sane Salaries – NFL players will make millions each and every year.  Some backups will make more in one year than some Americans will see in a lifetime.  In the XFL, quarterbacks make 5,000 dollars a game and the rest of the team makes 4,500 dollars a game.  Each player gets a 2,500 bonus for winning a game, and even more for winning postseason games.  So those playing in the XFL are those that simply want to play for love of the game or can’t do anything else.  

A Game The Average Fan Can Afford – Finally, the average family can afford to go to a football game.  XFL tickets are not expensive at all (yet).  Compared to the NFL where you could spend hundreds to get to a game, the XFL makes it easy to take the entire family or a group of friends.  However, if you are a father, are you sure you want to take your kids to a game where the cheerleaders shake it all in front of you and do everything except a lap dance?  But for the over 21 crowd, have a blast.

College Overtime – Something that the NFL should have done a long time ago…adopt the NCAA version of overtime where it’s not whoever scores first, but whoever plays the hardest and scores the most.

THE BAD

A League Full Of The Unwanted – The XFL is filled with players that were either salary cap casualties in the NFL or were not good enough to make it anywhere else.  You can certainly tell while watching the games.  The talent just isn’t there resulting in a lot of sloppy games.  In each of the games, you will see many receivers dropping balls, quarterbacks off target, and defenders failing to wrap up their tackles. There were no break out teams during the first week of play which means it’s anyone’s guess who will win it all.  In fact, the preseason favorite Los Angeles Xtreme got beat by the San Francisco Demons due to a last second field goal on Sunday.

Announcers Sound Much Like The WWF – Where did the XFL find these guys?  Are they WWF rejects?  Former Minnesota governor and WWF star Jesse "The Body" Ventura was one of many announcers that were loud and obnoxious.  At one point during the Outlaw-Hitman game, after a flag was thrown onto the field after a punt return, Ventura stated that it was probably a violation of the 5 yard halo rule, a rule that states you must give the punt returner at least 5 yards to catch the ball.  When Ventura’s call was confirmed by the officials, his co-announcer congratulated him on a good guess.  What was Ventura’s classy response?  He argued for what seemed like forever that it wasn’t a guess and that he is some sort of authority on football and there was no doubt that he was correct.  Pretty arrogant?  You decide.  The fact is, Jesse Ventura is only there because of his ties to the WWF and the target audience has actually heard of him.  Ventura makes Monday Night Football’s Dennis Miller look good.

Pick A Name, Any Name – In the XFL, players are allowed to be themselves.  That seems to include the names that go on the back of their jerseys.  Las Vegas Outlaws running back Rod Smart from Western Kentucky wore the name “HE HATE ME” on his back.  Other players in the league wore nicknames that were equally silly.  This somewhat cheapens the image of the game itself.  When asked by a sideline reporter why Smart was wearing “HE HATE ME” on his back, the running back responded by saying, “Just look at these people. They're hatin' me.  You know what I mean?”  Apparently not.  That answer left commentators scratching their heads trying to figure out who hates him.  After only 46 yards rushing against the Hitman defense, maybe it was his teammates that hated him.

A Dizzying View – While many of the camera views were fun, a lot of the angles left you dizzy.  Odd angles and quick cuts to different shots left many television viewers queasy.  Definitely something that was brought in by the makers of the WWF.

The Coin Toss – In the NFL, a coin toss determines who will get the ball first.  Not in the XFL.  Players must fight for the ball to open up a game.  Two players take part in a scramble/wrestling match to get to the black and red pigskin.  The player that gets to it first, earns his team first possession during regulation and overtime if necessary.  In the Rage-Enforcers matchup in Orlando, a player was knocked out for the season during this wrestling match.

Poking Fun At The XFL From Hawaii

During the 2001 Pro Bowl in Honolulu, commentator Dennis Miller poked fun at the XFL.  As the AFC kicker Marvin Gramatica of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicked off to open the game, Miller was heard throwing out yet another witty remark, “And they’re allowed to pick whatever name they want (jokingly referring to a new nonexistent Pro Bowl rule)…Gramatica has chosen 'HE HATE ME.’”  A statement that either shows that the NFL thinks the XFL is a joke, or that the NFL is keeping a close eye on the new league.

Miller has had to tone down his unique way of saying things while in the broadcast booth on Monday Night Football.  Maybe if that doesn’t work out, he may look to a career in the XFL.  

Take Us Seriously!

No matter how much they deny it, the XFL would love to compete with the NFL when it comes to popularity.  And while there were many negatives concerning the leagues birth, it was football and fans understood that it was something new and experimental.  Fans took it for what it was, a distraction after the NFL’s season was complete.  However, just when television watchers were starting to take the game seriously, the networks would stick in plugs from WWF stars like The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin blurting out nonsense that would only appeal to a wrestling fan.  That left the rest of us laughing at a league desperate to grab at the only audience it knew of.  

The XFL seems like college football with a smash mouth attitude in a splashy surrounding.  It isn’t fair to judge the league after just one weekend consisting of four games.  Football fans will continue to watch and form opinions of their own.  At worst, it is a good distraction to what is usually a boring offseason.  At best, it is a good distraction that will be around for a few years.

What’s next?  The Xtreme Baseball League?

What’s Up With That?

"That hole closed quicker than Monica's mouth on a Bill Clinton cigar".  That was a comment made by color commentator Brian Bozworth after a running play this weekend.  And those weren’t the only “Xtreme” comments spoken this weekend.  Apparently there were some audio problems during UPN’s Demon-Xtreme broadcast as the sound went in and out as fans saw exactly what was going on in the locker rooms at halftime.  However, what was heard instead was commentator Chris Marlowe yelling out “Get me the Memphis card” referring to the update of the Memphis game that was taking place at the same time.  He then followed that up by saying, “Hey John, sorry I f***ed you on that one.”

The unprofessional conduct didn’t just come from the XFL broadcasters, but from the players themselves.  In the XFL, the home team is introduced via a camera and microphone on the field in their face allowing them to say their name and where they are from.  However, some players did much more than that yelling out rude, wild comments.  Some of those comments were shout outs to local gangs in their hometowns.  And it didn’t stop there.  Players constantly yelled out obscenities toward the cameras during the games as well, not just on the field (which may be understandable), but on the sidelines during interviews as well.  They were not taking into account who was watching.  Profanity seems to be a natural way of life in the XFL world.

The point is, seeing as how the target audience for the XFL are young impressionable males ages 12 to 24, you would think the league would be a bit more responsible.  They should be setting a good example seeing as how many kids view football players as role models.  

NOTE:

On Saturday, ESPN2's bottom-of-the-screen updates showed the scores of the XFL games before the scores from the NBA and college basketball.

A BIT ABOUT THE XFL:

Teams
Eastern Division: Birmingham Thunderbolts, Chicago Enforcers, New York/New Jersey Hitmen, Orlando Rage.
Western Division: Las Vegas Outlaws, Los Angeles Xtreme, Memphis Maniax, San Francisco Demons.

Season
10-game regular season begins Feb. 3.
Playoff games April 14-15.
The XFL championship game, called "Big Game At The End," April 21.

Rules

  • No fair catch. Punt returners will have a 5-yard, no-tackle "halo" until the ball is caught, and members of the kicking team will not be able to leave the line of scrimmage until the ball is in the air. Any punt traveling more than 25 yards past the line of scrimmage is a live ball and can be recovered by either team.
  • No point-after kick. Scoring teams will have one down to run or pass the ball into the end zone from the opponent's 2-yard line. The clock will run during the play, and intercepted or fumbled balls can be run back by the defender for a one-point score of their own.
  • A receiver or defender needs only one foot in bounds to make a catch.
  • A quarterback is down when forward progress is halted. Quarterbacks who slide cannot be hit and can be downed by contact.
  • The play clock is shortened to 35 seconds after the previous play or 25 seconds after any clock stoppage.
  • Kickoffs must be run out of the end zone unless the kick carries through the end zone.
  • Defenders may use "bump-and-run" tactics downfield.
  • In overtime, each team will have the ball at least once and get up to four downs to score from the opponent's 20-yard line.