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XFL: all the hype and less filling


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001

Well, I got my first glimpse (and my fill) of XFL, the new brand of football created by pro rasslin's grunt-and-groan guru Vince McMahon.

I'm as big a football fan as there is, but I just got finished with a football season that started in July. Gimme some recovery time, will ya?

How to capsulize the new trend in griddery. The WWF with hard hats? Jerry Springer with 22 bouncers? Reckless sandlot abandon with a budget? A rock concert in cleats? From the behavior of the crowd, I'd guess at least part of America is indeed ready for steel-cage, lights-out, loser-leaves-town, death match football.

We're not in Canton anymore, Toto. And we're not in leather helmets and black high-tops anymore, either.

What atmosphere! When the camera panned the stands at the Hitmen-Outlaws game, I coulda sworn I saw the same crowd before in the Ricki Lake audience, the first version of Night of the Living Dead and the nightclub scene from Star Wars. No less a personage than Jesse Ventura, governor of Minnesota, did commentary, his pro-rasslin' voice setting the raspy tone. The similarly formidable Dick Butkus was there to lend pro-level legitimacy to the pigskinnery.

The machismo was so exaggerated it bordered on being in sixth grade again. The ebullient players frequently addressed the camera, all of them calling us "Baby!" Testosteronic? Even the grounds crew was yellin' trash. Up close and personal? Even the ball boy was miked. Sexy? The cheerleaders were so wriggly I expected a lap dance to break out.

Instead of enacting a coin toss, two opposing players fought over a ball to see who kicked off. Sorta like a hockey face-off without sticks. No sane people were injured in the making of this scene.

Hardly sticklers for formal rules, the league allows players to put whatever name or writing they want on the backs of their jerseys. Me, I woulda sold advertising space.

Humility is the last thing we'll expect from the XFL, but I hope they'll be gracious enough to acknowledge they are standing on the NFL's shoulders.

The commentators liked to stress how rough this new game is compared to conventional pro football. There's no fair-catch rule to avoid tackles. No baseball-type slides by quarterbacks to dodge taking hits. One question kept coming to mind: If these guys are so tough, why do they wear those sissy face masks?

Gotta hand it to them, though. It takes some doing to out-showbiz the super-hype of the already established league. After what we just witnessed at and around Raymond James, it's easy to believe that some day we'll be so wrapped up in our celebration of the Super Bowl that we'll forget to include a football game -- and nobody will notice.

Gotta go now and review the next development in New Rage television: The Wet T-shirt Antiques Roadshow.

I for one resent the authorities in Tampa infringing on my right to enjoy lap dancing. I won't sit still for it.

There's a simple solution for all those complaints from minority voters about being disenfranchised. Put the issue on the ballot.

Murphy's Law of Shopping Center Parking Lots: Every time you start to back out of a spot, a pedestrian with a shopping cart will pop up out of the pavement precisely in your blind spot.

Shortly after Queen Elizabeth II was taken to task for wringing the neck of a wounded pheasant during a shooting party, Prince Charles broke his shoulder while fox hunting. Lucky for him Her Majesty wasn't there.

Is this constitutional? The community of Friendship Heights, Md., has banned smoking on any public property. I think I'd seriously consider quitting if the nearest break room was in Baltimore.

A man in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 70 lashes for using a mobile phone on a domestic flight. My first thought was that our country might want to try a similar penalty for motorists with cell phones glued to their heads. But I'm opposed to cruel and unusual punishment. Maybe 40 lashes would be sufficient.

Says here plum growers have won permission from the government to call prunes "dried plums" to help squelch the negative image of prunes as "having a strong association with laxation" and serving mainly as "a medicinal food for our parents." They still have to call prune juice by its old name -- prune juice. Now they're working on getting everybody to call senior citizens "dried youths."

A Valentine Time Lament:

Bein' alone don't do me no harm;

To be of love bereft.

But I would give my good right arm

For someone to hug with my left.

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