Craven football

XFL : WWF's new league has little to do with the game and all to do with targeting viewers.

May 08, 2000

VINCE LOMBARDI is probably turning over right now. In February 2001, a pop sport will be taking over NBC's Saturday night prime time programming.

World Wrestling Federation, which has given television viewers scripted, soap-opera wrestling, will be offering its version of "extreme" football.

At present, we know very little about the XFL, as its pro wrestling impresario Vince McMahon has dubbed his new league. There are no players on any of the rosters of the eight teams. There are no general managers and no coaches. Besides a $30 million contract with NBC, there is precious little to this league except the promise to attract millions of young male viewers.

NBC, which lost its contract to broadcast NFL games, apparently is so anxious to resume broadcasting professional football games that it is willing to buy a 50 percent ownership in the new league.

NBC executives also believe that the WWF, the hottest draw on cable television, will build its lagging Saturday night audience. Some cynics point out that NBC has not had a decent Saturday night program since the "Golden Girls" went off the air.

The league is promising a hard-hitting, quick game. Players and coaches will wear microphones so the audience can listen in on the curses and barbs football players regularly exchange.

There will be no "fair catches" on punts.

Showboating after a touchdown will be encouraged if only to build bitter personal rivalries (sound familiar?) and increase viewership.

Money is the name of this game. NBC, the network that used to broadcast performances by its own orchestra led by Arturo Toscanini, apparently now believes that any form of entertainment -- no matter how crude -- is now acceptable for programming.

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