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Bob Dunning: Putting the ‘ex’ in XFL

Last weekend I tried to watch the brand new XFL and give it a fighting chance. I really tried. Honest I did.

365体育滚球There were two games on Saturday and two more on Sunday.

365体育滚球If you get to the Pearly Gates and tell St. Peter you missed church on Sunday morning to watch an XFL game, I doubt he will be sympathetic. Then again, maybe he’ll let you in under that old standard of sports — the Mercy Rule. In other words, he’ll feel so sorry for you that he’ll give you a heavenly pass even if you don’t deserve one.

Yes, Saturday and Sunday. With only eight teams, it was easy for all games to be televised without any conflicts.

365体育滚球There were Renegades and Roughnecks, Wildcats and BattleHawks, Guardians and Defenders, and Dragons and Vipers.

365体育滚球Yes, with so many professional sports franchises these days, we’re clearly running out of viable nicknames. And what was with those lime-green Tampa Bay helmets? Was Goodwill having a sale?

The previous XFL, which was born and suffered a quick death several decades ago, was all about gimmicks. Players didn’t have real names. Instead, they had self-assigned nicknames plastered on the back of their jerseys. Remember “He Hate Me?” Enough said.

Weird old-school XFL camera angles not only took viewers into the offensive backfield, they also made folks run for their nausea medicine.

This time around, we were promised, there would be no gimmicks. Just good, old-fashioned American football like we love to see it.

I don’t know if the folks who dreamed up the XFL were lying about no gimmicks or if they don’t know a gimmick when they see one.

The announcers were obviously schooled to play up the “no gimmicks” theme as well, even as gimmick after gimmick was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public.

Instead of the coin toss, I’m surprised they didn’t have a tug of war through a pool of mud between the team captains.

365体育滚球The madness started with the opening kickoff, where one lonely kicker stood at his own 30-yard line, while the other 10 players on his team were lined up 35 yards away on the opponent’s 35-yard line.

365体育滚球Everyone but the returner on the receiving team, meanwhile, was lined up at their own 30-yard line, just five yards away from the kicking team. Close enough for a full body hug, for sure.

No one on either team — except the kicker or returner — was allowed to move until the returner touched the ball, and then unbridled mayhem broke loose.

The first time I saw it, I didn’t know if I was watching professional football or a game of Capture the Flag at summer camp.

If someone manages to score a touchdown, no kicker will be running onto the field to attempt the extra point. The goal posts are there just so it looks like a real football field.

The head coach will have a difficult decision to make after a score. Have the ball placed at the 2-yard line and be awarded 1 point for a successful run or pass, place the ball at the 5-yard line and get 2 points for success or place the ball at the 10-yard line and get 3 points.

How about 4 points if the ballcarrier runs into the end zone backward, does a summersault and lands squarely on both feet?

365体育滚球If you don’t think a 3-point conversion is a gimmick, you need to find a dictionary now.

I’ll concede it may well be that this football-crazed nation is demanding more football. But we want real football, not some circus-act facsimile thereof.

Just once, I’d like to see one of these so-called “spring” leagues announce that “we have adopted the exact rules of the NFL” or “we have adopted the exact rules of college football.” Then, and only then, would we know for sure we’re getting the real thing.

365体育滚球After all, fans love the NFL and fans love college football. No one is demanding that the rules be changed. No need to mess with perfection.

None of the “innovations” the XFL has introduced will make the game better or more exciting or more fan-friendly.

Instead, they simply remind us once again this is not real football.

One of the XFL’s stated goals is to finish its games in under three hours. Apparently, they know that folks watching at home will not be able to take it any longer than that before switching to “Bowling for Dollars.”

The XFL. The “X” will soon stand for “Ex.”

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

CalMatters


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