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Take Another Look at the XFL:

Are those the new team names? No, those are the current NFL Europe League teams. Maybe you missed the 7 World Bowl Titles and the name change from the World League of American Football (WLAF). But we'll get to that later.

A few months ago, my friend Jimmy The Roman took a brief look at the upcoming XFL. The inaugural XFL season begins on February 3, 2001, and ends on April 21, 2001, with the XFL Championship Game. Jimmy would have you believe that the XFL will be nothing more than the WWF with helmets. Unfortunately, he couldn't be further from reality. In my opinion, the XFL will make it. Here's one main reason why: GREED. Just like politics, greed makes strange bedfellows. 

Greed is also the same reason why other upstart leagues, such as the American Football League (AFL), World Hockey Association (WHA) and American Basketball Association (ABA) made it. OK, so the USFL didn't make it but that was more about egos than money. With owners like Donald Trump who could outspend them, the NFL was NEVER going to let Trump into the NFL owners "club."

Remember that history repeats itself if one chooses to ignore it. In 1970, the American Football League (AFL) merger with the NFL created the NFL that we know today. The three-year-old World Hockey Association (WHA) competed with and eventually merged with the current National Hockey League (NHL). In the mid-1970s, it was the American Basketball Association (ABA) that rocked the NBA's status quo. And it wasn't until the ABA's two strongest teams--the New York Nets and Denver Nuggets--applied for NBA admission that we saw the beginning of the end for the upstart league. Of the NBA's 30 current teams, only the Warriors, Knicks, and Celtics were around for the league's modest beginnings. Some have even argued that it was the ABA merger, with its "unorthodox" rules and relaxed player attitudes, that made the NBA the cash machine that it is today. If it wasn't for ABA star Julius "Dr. J" Erving, Sir Michael and Larry Bird wouldn't have had anything to save. 

Upstart leagues are a positive thing and should be a welcomed by true sports fans. It is a process where the "new" league challenges the established league for many things: talent, exposure, fans and ultimately, money (a.k.a. GREED). It is this last reason that most upstart leagues succeed. If the new owners aren't completely repulsive, the established owners are better off joining them than trying to beat them into submission. That's where the XFL may have a tough time, since it's mostly owned by the WWF and its caustic owner Vince McMahon. Yes, officially the XFL is wholly owned by the WWF but he's not really alone. The wildcard is his "silent" partner: GE, owner of the NBC network that will broadcast the XFL games. (Note: XFL games will also be broadcast on UPN, but no one is scared of them.)

This struggle began when the established owners--the NFL--cut GE out of their megabuck TV sandbox. GE doesn't take anything lying down. GE isn't the most feared and revered of companies for just any reason. This is where the NFL will lose because GE and McMahon have nothing to lose and everything to gain. GE has a vesting interest that Mr. McMahon's wild hair makes it. NBC is already promoting the XFL more than the PGA's Senior Tour, which it has landed for its CNBC network.

The players are going to be the same kids we've seen. Let's face it, the XFL will be drawing from the same college talent that the fat-n-sassy NFL plunders on a yearly basis. And the XFL isn't DIRECTLY competing for talent with the NFL, though they will be competing with the NFL Europe. However, I think that the XFL has the same distinct advantage that the NFL uses to draw players to NFL practice squads: you'll get to stay in the States. 

But, the NFL Europe players are all NFL or college washouts. 

Au contraire, mon frère. Lest we forget, NFL starters like Chicago Bears standout WR Marcus Robinson was with the Rhein and Super Bowl MVP QB Kurt Warner was in Amsterdam in 1998. More than a few current NFL players made their mark in the NFL Europe. Former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel landed a job with the Green Bay Packers following a record-setting League season with the Rhein Fire. 

The moral of the story is that the XFL can make it. The rules are not as kooky as Jimmy The Roman would lead you to believe. In fact, many of them are either "old" NFL rules (i.e., no QB in-the-grasp rule) or college rules (i.e., one foot receptions instead of two). 

What about the no fair catch rule for punts?

It's not what it has been exaggerated to be--they forget to tell you that the punt team can't leave until the ball is actually kicked and there is a 5-yard halo instead of the NFL's 3-yard halo. That is an old NFL rule as well.

All in all, I expect the XFL to be entertaining. Sure, it's going to be a little rough starting out, but give them the benefit of a second look. So, you should get familiar with the new XFL teams. If history is any indicator, the XFL teams or their stars will end up in the NFL. 

The XFL Teams:
NY/NJ Hitmen
Orlando Rage
Memphis Maniax
Chicago Enforcers
Las Vegas Outlaws
Birmingham Bolts
Los Angeles Xtreme
San Francisco Demons 

P.S. There are already XFL Fantasy Leagues cropping up!

Locker Room is written by Michael Skordeles

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