Vince McMahon Tackles FootballBy Dean Shutt
Hello all and welcome to another installment of your favorite sports column. No, not "From the Cheap Seats" by Dave Lind. Your favorite sports column. No, not "Hey Rube" by Hunter S. Thompson. Your favorite sports column. That's right, "Fun & Games" has returned from its extended hiatus to bring you the joy of competition and the almost spiritual pull of the American sports scene, all in less than 1200 words.
What a great time for me to make my triumphant return. My beloved Colts returned to playoffs for the second straight year after a thrilling three game winning streak (we won't speak of their performance in said playoffs). The Red Sox added another piece to the puzzle by signing Manny Ramirez to protect Nomar in the lineup. My Rangers are playing better than expected and have legitimate shot at the postseason for the first time in two years. My two favorite basketball teams (Sixers and Kings) have the best records in the NBA (I know, I hate the NBA, but that is why I need two favorite teams, to build up my enthusiasm). To top it all off, we are less than a month away from the final brick in the wall of my life's meaning, the XFL (man, is that some prose or what).
I have my tickets for the San Francisco Demons home opener and my official t-shirt and hat is on the way. Finally, I have a local football team that I do not hate. For the first time since the glory days of the USFL, I have pro football all the year round (mostly). I will not be forced to awake at 7 o'clock on a Saturday morning to watch a bunch of Europeans and practice squad hopefuls run about in truly ugly uniforms. Lastly, I will be sitting field level end zone for opening day for the princely sum of twenty bucks a ticket.
I am aware that many people are pooh-poohing the idea of a football league run by a wrestling promoter, but it is football. Yes, their constant bleating about "Attitude" and "Old-Time Football" can be a bit grating, but it is football. I am no more pleased than you are at the prospect of Jesse Ventura doing color commentary, but it is football. You and I both realize the "no fair catch" rule is a sham and returners will just let the ball go if in imminent danger, but it is football. And of course all the "cutting edge broadcasting" will more than likely get in the way of enjoying the game, but it is football. I know that is exceptionally uncool to get excited about the XFL, but it is football and isn't that really the only thing that matters?
Besides, if you look at some of the things that the XFL is doing, you have to give them some credit. The pay scheme in the new league is geared towards rewarding current play, not reputation. The league will have no teams in domes and in the case of the Demons will play in the cozy confines of Pac Bell park, which should make for an up close and personal football experience. They also aren't going to adopt the asinine blackout policy of the NFL, which means you'll get to see the best game each week, regardless of who is involved.
Plus, the fact that the league is being run by a wrestling promoter could turn out to be a good thing. If there is one thing professional wrestling does well, it is building rivalries. The entire premise of pro wrestling is the feud between combatants to make the audience care who wins and loses. Who better to get some wonderful rivalries going in a new league with no history to draw on for their feuds than folks that have been creating them for years? I'm hopeful that they will actually use their storytelling ability to set up some rivalries, something that wouldn't hurt the other major sports leagues to do.
But what about the quality of play you ask? Well, that is the (pardon the pun) X factor in all of this. Since NBC is a partner in this venture and they seem to have pretty deep pockets, I am hopeful that the quality is going to be at the very least acceptable. I am not looking for NFL caliber football and I don't think anyone should. NFL Europe and the Arena Football League both put on entertaining games (even though the AFL is actually basketball with pads) even though they don't possess NFL quality talent.
In short, the XFL, if successful, will give us football for 10 months out of the year. That means there will only 60 days out of 364 that our lives will be meaningless and without direction. Just 8 weeks out of 52 will we have absolutely nothing to look forward to on the weekends but the Midget Showdown National Bowling Challenge (that is what MSNBC stands for, right?) and the National Cheerleading Championships (they're high school kids you perv). Instead of withdrawal symptoms that start just after the Pro Bowl and don't let up until camp opens in July, we will a pleasant interlude of smash mouth, take-no-quarter, audition-for-an-NFL-practice-squad football to tide us over until the big boys come back.
So pray for the success of Vince McMahon's latest venture. Pray that the WWF's golden touch of late has just a little more juice in it. Pray that NBC does a better job covering the league it created than it did covering the NFL. Pray that the backer's pockets are deep and their will is stout. For if the XFL fails, we are reduced to a mere 7 months of football in our lives and that would be a sad thing indeed. One might almost be tempted to watch basketball.
Dean's House of