Renegades, Roughnecks, Guardians, Vipers, Dragons, oh my.
The team names are really all you need to know about the resurrected XFL. They are silly, as is the notion that this league of castoffs will take off.
The one thing this league has going for it is Vince McMahon’s deep pockets. He has enough money to keep this version of the XFL afloat for multiple years. He decided to bring back the XFL based on results from a study that suggested 40 million hardcore football fans craved more pigskin after the Super Bowl.
Here’s the thing. Fans start following the NFL in August, trying to figure out who will make their favorite team’s roster. They start looking for diamonds in the rough, who in many cases ironically are now playing in the XFL. Then there are four months of regular season games, followed by a month of playoffs. The Super Bowl now is played in February. That’s six months of NFL football. How much more does even a rabid fan need? Especially if it is minor league.
Yes, the XFL is minor league…at best. The NFL is already watered down from years past. The players in the XFL weren’t able to make any NFL rosters. They are castoffs like former Steelers Landry Jones, Sami Coates, and Eli Rogers. Steelers fans didn’t want to watch these guys when they were in Pittsburgh let alone now.
Vince proudly announced to everyone that this would be legitimate football. No hot tubs in the back of the end zone, no wrestling announcers like Jesse “The Body” Ventura, no WWE vibe. There would be, however, gimmicks like no extra points, a goofy kickoff set up, and interviews as players are coming off the field.
One “F” bomb later, and that last one may have to be reconsidered. I’d be more likely to watch if there was a steel cage, and someone was flying off the top of it to drop an elbow. At least make the pile driver a legal play.
Games are being played in soccer stadiums, baseball stadiums, and half filled NFL stadiums. More people show up for NFL preseason games. Naturally there will be people show up just to drink beer and watch guys smash into one another. Of course, you could do that at a UFC watch party.
Since 1970, there have been five attempts at creating a start up league to either supplement or challenge the NFL. None lasted more than three seasons.
In the mid ‘70’s the World Football League lasted less than two seasons. They were able to acquire the services of a few big named NFL players and had the brilliant gimmick of each position wearing different colored pants. Shocking that Larry Csonka, Daryle Lamonica, and purple pants didn’t catch on.
Next, the USFL took a crack at the NFL in the mid ‘80’s. The USFL had the best chance of working because they had some legitimate players. Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Reggie White, and Herschel Walker were some of the bigger names. The league gained traction playing games in the spring when the NFL was off the radar. Then , led by our current President of the United States Donald Trump, owners pushed to move the 1986 season to the fall. That season never happened, as the league folded under the weight of a loss of $163 million.
In 2001, the XFL version 1.0 was launched with the aforementioned WWE style Vince McMahon has always been known for. The most popular player was known as “He Hate Me”. Unfortunately for Vince, He, and all the others associated with the league the “Fans Hate You”. Another failed effort to give us more football.
2009 brought us the United Football League. They played games in the fall in front of massive crowds of 4,000 people. They did have some name coaches in Jim Fassel, Jerry Glanville, and Jay Gruden. Additionally, they did poach a few players from the NFL. The UFL lasted three short seasons, before folding during the fourth season.
Finally, the disaster that was last spring’s AFL. Despite having what appeared to be good backing, the AFL filed for bankruptcy before they could finish their inaugural season. As a matter of fact, players weren’t being paid for part of the season. Another swing and a miss.
All of these leagues have things in common, including silly team names and subpar rosters. I don’t watch minor league baseball on TV, nor do I follow the NBA’s D, G, or whatever letter they use these days, and I’m not going to follow some minor league football league.
Football is definitely America’s favorite sport. It’s popular because the players are good and it’s been a part of American culture for a long, long time.
Fans don’t want to watch players that weren’t good enough to make NFL rosters. Sure one or two of these guys will turn an NFL GM’s head. Maybe a couple will even carve out marginal NFL careers some day. Most will go back to the 9 to 5 world, and surely this compilation of talent won’t create enough buzz to truly excite fans.
The XFL Version 2.0 will go the route of all the other failed football leagues. Vince will eventually tap out like Jabronis always did to the Iron Shiek when he had them in his Camel Clutch.
Two Cent Takes
~The big story over the weekend was legendary coach Bob Knight’s return to Assembly Hall in Indiana, where he hadn’t been since his firing in 2000.
Knight was a great basketball coach; maybe the best ever. He was less stellar as a human being, and quite frankly became a bore later in his career. This was a nice moment for Indiana fans, but let’s not forget why he got fired in the first place.
~Penn State should be taking a “why not us” approach to the rest of this season. They have just as good a chance as anyone else to win the Big Ten. As a matter of fact, they could be considered one of the favorites.
The Nittany Lions are soaring, and have their most athletic team in Patrick Chambers’ tenure. They still have trouble closing out games cleanly, which has always been a problem under Chambers. Fix that, and look out for the Nits.
~The team that made me become a fan of college basketball, and more specifically the Louisville Cardinals, was honored Saturday.
The 1980 National Champions, the Doctors of Dunk, were led by Dr. Dunkenstein, Darrel Griffith. The Cardinals made the dunk, once illegal, one of the most fun plays in the game. As a 14 year old kid, I thought it was great.
~Can anything make Duke and North Carolina any less likable? The answer is…
yes, these uniforms. The game on Saturday was typical of this rivalry. Although from a basketball standpoint North Carolina should be embarrassed. They had 101 opportunities to close out the game and couldn’t. I guess that helps explain their 10-13 record. Cole Anthony, an absolute stud, can only do so much.
~Having thin, wispy Donald Trump style hair makes me very jealous of a guy like Villanova’s Collin Gillespie.
Look at the kid’s hair, and that is at the end of the game Saturday against Seton Hall. Nothing out of place, and not a drop of sweat to be seen. By this point in a game my hair would look like Chris Farley’s bus driver character in Billy Madison.
~I really like that Seton Hall team. The Pirates were only a three seed in the selection committee’s bracket reveal. Here’s what the full reveal looked like:
- South: Baylor-Louisville-Seton Hall-Auburn
- West: Gonzaga-West Virginia-Villanova-Oregon
- Midwest: Kansas-Dayton-Florida State-Michigan State
- East: San Diego State-Duke-Maryland-Butler
Kevin White, the committee chair, said the NET rankings are a very important tool. Now, if someone could just explain the NET rankings formula to me. After watching some teams often this year, I don’t see the correlation of their on court performance to the NET ranking they receive.
Within hours of the release, West Virginia, Villanova, and Oregon all probably knocked themselves down a seed line(for now). Butler followed suit on Sunday. Oh, and isn’t it just hunky dory that the committee has undefeated San Diego State coming all the way east where they would potentially face Duke. Thank goodness Duke never gets any favors.
~Once again, I must mention the atrocity that is officiating in college basketball.
Duke/North Carolina was poorly officiated, Louisville coach Chris Mack was given a crucial technical foul late in the game versus Virginia for nothing demonstrative at all, and just like football, the PAC 12 takes the cake in poor basketball officiating. The USC/Arizona State game Saturday night was an utter travesty, although it fit the style of play of both teams.
~My favorite non-Masters tournament that isn’t a Major is Pebble Beach.
Those are just a couple reasons why. Nowhere is more picturesque than Pebble Beach. As for the golf, Phil Mickelson showed why it’s hard to win at age 49 on the PGA Tour. As Sunday waned, so did Mickelson’s game. It was still fun seeing him near the top of the leaderboard.
A Penny For My Final Thought…
Take me out to the ballgame?
Just skip the regular season, and put the Yankees and Dodgers in the World Series.
Baseball is in a bad place right now. First, you have the cheating scandal providing a fresh black eye for a sport that has plenty of practice placing raw steaks on their wounds.
The latest revelation in the cheating scandal is that it had an actual name. The Houston Astros analytical department and GM Jeffrey Luhnow referred to it as the “dark arts”, and sign stealing was known as “code breaker”. This scam went deep, and Luhnow made matters worse by lying about his involvement. He and others should receive lifetime bans from baseball, as slugger Hank Aaron suggested this past week. The players should receive suspensions as well.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGuire, and Sammy Sosa have essentially been blackballed from Major League Baseball, especially when talking Hall of Fame. That was another one of the black eyes baseball suffered. Players using steroids to enhance their performance. I was appalled that players did that, and I would be fine with an asterisk being added to any of their accomplishments. Yet, these players broke no Major League Baseball rules.
These sign stealing players did. Baseball has rules in place concerning cheating. Pete Rose broke the “Golden Rule” in baseball by betting on games. Many moons ago, Shoeless Joe Jackson and his White Sox teammates did the same. Jackson has been banished from the game and any Hall of Fame discussion, and they never really had solid proof he did anything wrong in the “Black Sox scandal”.
Commissioner Rob Manfred is crazy if he thinks fans, and players for that fact, will just forget about this scandal. Manfred also has another issue to deal with.
Payroll discrepancy has never been greater. The Yankees and Dodgers are lapping the field in spending. The Houston sign stealers are in the neighborhood, but even the free spending Chicago Cubs are over $50 million less than the top two. The Philadelphia Phillies have an owner who said he will spend, and his team is $74 million behind the Yankees in spending. That $74 million difference is more than five teams entire payroll.
Small market owners have sat idly by during recent labor negotiations, happy to be making money. But what about winning? If you are an owner running a franchise like any other business you should get out. Do you hear that Bob Nutting?
Why would you not want a more equal chance to win? The Rays and A’s do a miraculous job at making their teams contenders. You shouldn’t have to be a miracle worker. It’s time these small market owners take a stand on a salary cap and a salary floor.
Fear of a work stoppage? Would anyone really care? This may be the step necessary to get more people reinvigorated in the sport. Right now, if you are a Pittsburgh Pirates fan you must really love your team, city, and the game of baseball to spend money on a ticket. Your team has no chance. AND ITS ONLY FEBRUARY!
Baseball was the first sport I loved. It was the first sport I started playing as a kid. My dad played minor league baseball, so it was in my blood. It’s sad to say, but this is the least interest I’ve had for an upcoming baseball season I can remember. And as a Pirates fan I suffered through 20 straight losing seasons.
The Pirates have a great chance to lose 100 games. They can’t compete with the big spenders. Additionally, they are saddled with a miserly owner and are suffering from bad management from the previous regime. The thing is there are fans in ten or eleven other cities having similar feelings.
Take me out to the ballgame? Not a chance. Baseball is broken.
Just my two cents…
Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.