NBC (ended 2001)


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Created as a joint venture between NBC and World Wrestling Entertainment under the company name "XFL, LLC," the XFL was created as a "single-entity league", meaning that the teams were not individually owned and operated franchises, but that the league was operated as a single unit. The concept of the league was first announced on February 3, 2000. The XFL was originally conceived to build on the success of the National Football League and professional wrestling. It was hyped as "real" football without penalties for roughness and with fewer rules in general. The loud games featured players and coaches with microphones and cameras in the huddle and in the locker rooms. Stadiums featured trash-talking public address announcers and very scantily-clad cheerleaders. Instead of a pre-game coin toss, XFL officials put the ball on the ground and let a player from each team scramble for it to determine who received the kickoff option - which, ironically, led to the first XFL injury. The XFL also did something that prior leagues (the WFL and USFL) didn't accomplish; it got not only NBC to televise its games, but also two other outlets: UPN and TNN. It should be noted that the "X" in XFL did not stand for "extreme," as in "Extreme Football League." When the league was first organized, promoters wanted to make sure that everyone knew that the "X" did not actually stand for anything. The XFL's opening game took place on February 3, 2001 between the Las Vegas Outlaws and the New York/New Jersey Hitmen. The game, a 19-0 victory for the Outlaws, was watched on NBC by an estimated 54 million viewers. Although the XFL began with reasonable television ratings and fair publicity, the television audience declined sharply after the first week of the season and the media attacked the league for what was perceived as a poor quality of play. This perception was paired with a perception that the XFL was formed from the dregs that were left over after the NFL, Arena Football and CFL had their drafts. It was also observed that the XFL seemed to be attempting to attract two distinct types of audience to games - wrestling fans and pro football fans. Ultimately it failed to appeal to members of either group: wrestling fans wanted drama, hype, and more scantily-clad cheerleaders, while football fans simply wanted a better caliber of play on the field. Also, many football fans distrusted the league because of its relationship to pro wrestling. They had a hard time accepting that a close, come-from-behind win or a controversial ending had not been scripted in advance, although there was absolutely no evidence to support this. The sport was panned by critics as boring football with a tawdry broadcast style. Both WWE head Vince McMahon and NBC also seemed to have put far too much stock in a football cliche which is frequently mouthed by fans, particularly older ones, about a desire to return to the era of "old-time smashmouth football". While this is often voiced, in fact football is far more popular as a spectator sport now than it ever was in the earlier era supposedly longed for, and the move away from "smashmouth" to a more wide-open offense featuring more passing is largely responsible for this. The league was forced to change rules during the season to afford receivers more protection. Notable players included league MVP and Los Angeles quarterback Tommy Maddox, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers after the XFL folded. Maddox later became the starting quarterback for the Steelers, and led them to the playoffs. Another of the better-known players was Las Vegas running back Rod Smart whose name on the back of his jersey read "He Hate Me". (The league allowed, and even encouraged, players to wear nicknames rather than their actual last names on the backs of their jerseys. Apparently all of the teams but Birmingham had at least some players who engaged in this.) Smart later went on to play for the Carolina Panthers, and thus became the first XFL player to play in a Super Bowl, participating in the game's 38th edition. However, nobody has yet figured out to whom or what exactly "He Hate Me" was referring. One of the announcers for the XFL was Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, himself a former professional wrestler, whose involvement was controversial in that some felt that his being an announcer took time away from his job of running his state. On April 21, 2001, the season concluded as the Los Angeles Xtreme defeated the San Francisco Demons in the XFL Championship Game (the "Million Dollar Game"), 38-6. Though paid attendance at games remained at respectable, if unimpressive, levels in all its markets, the XFL ceased operations after just one season due to astonishingly low television ratings. One NBC broadcast received the lowest-ever rating for a major network prime-time television program. NBC itself attempted to win back the audience that it had lost when the Peacock network lost the rights to air NFL games two years previously, which seems to have been the reason behind its both investing in and broadcasting a new professional football league. But despite initially agreeing to broadcast XFL games for two years and owning half of the league, NBC announced it would not broadcast a second XFL season; thus their attempt at airing replacement pro football had flopped. World Wrestling Entertainment President Vince McMahon initially announced that the XFL would continue, as it still had UPN and TNN as broadcast outlets. However in order to continue broadcasting XFL games, UPN demanded that WWF Smackdown broadcasts be cut from two hours to one and a half hours. McMahon found these terms unacceptable and he announced the XFL's closure on May 10, 2001. The operation of the XFL was estimated by both World Wrestling Entertainment and NBC to have lost approximately $70 million. Teams of the XFL: Birmingham Thunderbolts Chicago Enforcers Las Vegas Outlaws Los Angeles Xtreme Memphis Maniax New York/New Jersey Hitmen Orlando Rage San Francisco Demons Standings, 2001 Eastern Division Won Lost Orlando Rage 8 2 Chicago Enforcers 5 5 New York/New Jersey Hitmen 4 6 Birmingham Thunderbolts 2 8 Western Division Won Lost Los Angeles Xtreme 7 3 San Francisco Demons 5 5 Memphis Maniax 5 5 Las Vegas Outlaws 4 6 XFL rule changes: Despite the early boasts of a "rules-light" game made by the WWF promoters and the nearly universally negative reviews from the mainstream sports media, by and large the XFL's on-field professional athletes played a brand of 11-man outdoor football quite recognizable to fans of the NFL or NCAA. Aside from the inane opening game sprint to determine initial possession, there were other major obvious changes made to the game of Football in the XFL. No Kick Converts One of the major and obvious changes was the lack of extra point kicks. To earn a point after a touchdown, teams ran a single offensive down from the two yard line (functionally identical to the NFL/NCAA two-point conversion), but for just a single point. By the championship game, two-point and three-point conversions had been added to the rules. Teams could opt for the bonus points by playing the conversion further back from the goal line. Overtime Ties were resolved in similar fashion to the NCAA and CFL game, with at least one possession by each side at the opponent's 25 yard line necessary to decide a winner. However there were some important differences as well: there were no first downs – teams had to score within four downs, and the team that had possession first in overtime could not attempt a field goal until fourth down. If that team managed to score a touchdown in less than four downs, the second team would only have that same number of downs to match or beat the result. If the score was still tied after an overtime period, the team that had gone second in the previous OT would go first in the next OT. The "halo" rule on kick-offs and punts The heavily-hyped "no fair catch" (announcers tended to mention it on almost every punt/kickoff) rule almost by necessity was paired with a "five yard halo" rule to protect punt returners. Both rule variations were borrowed from Canadian football, and are also part of Arena football. However, since few XFL players had played in the CFL or AFL the resulting inexperience with the "halo" rule led to a tremendous number of "halo"-infraction penalties, which took much of the excitement out of the punt return game (exactly the opposite of the intended effect). The human coin toss (Fumble Drill) A fan favorite was the so-called "human coin toss" before the start of the game, in which two players of opposing teams had to run after the football tossed by an official in order to decide who would gain possession of the ball first. The Amount of Money that Each XFL Player Receives For Each Game The XFL paid standardized player salaries. Quarterbacks earned $5,000 per week, kick-punt specialists earned $3,500, and all other uniformed players earned $4,000 per week. Players on a winning team received a bonus for the week.moreless