My two cents on the late XFL:
The politically correct media got what it wanted. The NFL got what it wanted. Fans in eight XFL markets lost their new teams. Fans across the country lost out on exciting new innovations to the game of football. A 2-2 split. An even proposition. Until you consider that the first two represent the "high horse" view, and that the latter two represent the lion's share of the football-watching public.
The XFL was a unique perspective of the game we love. It provided access to the players and coaches in ways the NFL wouldn't dream of. It tossed aside some of the crusty old standards that the NFL seems to hold so dearly. But the NFL turned its nose up at the upstart league, refusing to comment on it in any fashion. Amazing, however, how quickly NFL scouts swarmed the XFL player pool after the season was complete.
The media, including this newspaper, was no different. The XFL got little or no coverage in print or on the airwaves. At most, you might find a one square inch postage stamp with the scores. No write-ups or box scores. That changed slightly during the playoffs, when brief recaps were provided. Of course the emphasis was not on how many TDs Tommy Maddox passed for, or how many yards John Avery rushed for, or how many tackles Kurt Gouveia had (that's right -- Kurt Gouveia, the long-time Redskins standout). Rather, the bulk of the article centered on the sagging ratings or occasionally low attendance. I'm sure the American Football League cleaned up in the ratings during its inaugural year. Less than a decade later, it merged with and became the class of the NFL. We'll never know what the XFL's potential was, but it did do some things very well:
Salaries -- All players in the XFL made the same wage per game, except for quarterbacks who made slightly more. Imagine that -- a players' union that operated like a union. No reason for players to change teams every 12 months. Plus, the winning team received a bonus to be shared equally among the players. Imagine that -- pay for performance. There were no eight-figure whiners who had to be motivated from week to week. XFL players were motivated by the fact that the mortgage was due next week. A family of four could attend an XFL game for the price of a single NFL seat. Ask a Washington Redskins or New York Rangers fan about the return on investment for their soaring ticket prices and payroll.
Promotion -- Sure, some of the XFL promotional tactics were cheesy at best, but at least they tried, certainly more than the NHL ever did. They even had a season-long TV contract with one of the U.S. broadcast networks. Maybe the NHL will have one someday.
Rules -- The XFL discarded the coin toss and the extra point kick, two of the most worthless features of the game. They even changed some of the rules along the way to make the games more competitive and exciting. Show me a dull XFL game, and I will show you 100 Major League Baseball yawners featuring teams 24 games out of first place by the All-Star break. While you're at it, ask a Pittsburgh Pirates fan what MLB is doing to help make their club more competitive.
It's a moot point now. There will be no XFL to speak of next year. The NFL figures, "Why compete with it when you can squash it?" The media figures, "Why cover it when you can get higher ratings by discrediting it?" The status quo prevails once again. The high horses win. Everyone else loses.
CHRISTOPHER F. BURNS, SR.