- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2001

I've been trying since Saturday night's premier telecast on NBC to think of something positive to say about the XFL after all, I don't enjoy being a churl and now I think I've got it.
The new league makes the "McLaughlin Group" tower of babble, which precedes it locally on Channel 4, sound like a bastion of civility.
This is no surprise. We knew going in that the XFL was created for a specialized audience: People who simply can't get enough football and/or who consider violence, sex and rudeness to be proper components of life in this 21st century.
The XFL's publicity machine has identified the target audience as males aged 12-24. If I were in that category, I might sue for libel.
True, watching the XFL can be fun for about 15 minutes, because of some interesting innovations. After that, you might feel like a vegetable that has been through the blender.
Supposedly, NBC isn't risking much because Saturday night prime time is a loser in the ratings. Trouble is, the addition of the XFL could cost the network what remains of its reputation as a serious outlet. Pretty soon, only "The West Wing" will distinguish NBC from the Comedy Channel.
Actually, the Comedy Channel might have been preferable the other night, because what came over from Las Vegas wasn't very entertaining unless you enjoyed watching possibly intoxicated fans saying things like "whooooo!" (Which, unless you're an owl, always seems pretty irrelevant to anything.)
Since the XFL sprang unbidden from the cash-conscious cerebral cortex of WWF maven Vince McMahon, it was perhaps appropriate that the single lowest point of the first telecast was perpetrated by pro wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who addressed this gem to absent NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue: "Some NFL people have said the XFL is a non-issue. A non-issue? You be careful, Mr. Tagliabue, or that non-issue just might bite you on your [posterior]."
That must be what they mean by speaking for posterity.
And naturally, or otherwise, the telecast's quality level was enhanced by countless shots of cheerleaders taken by a cameraman who must have been lying on the ground so as not to miss a single jiggle. Like they say, Wonderbras take funny bounces.
(New football chant: "Push 'em up, push 'em up waaaay up!")
The league's diligent researchers even uncovered a young woman named Paola who murmured, "By day I'm a law student, and by night [letting her hair escape a bun and fall to her shoulders] I'm an XFL cheerleader." Well, whooooo!
Nearly everybody on the premises seemed to be miked except, judiciously, those fans within heavy-breathing distance of the cheerleaders. The electronic eavesdropping gave us little additional information, though, unless you were unaware that coaches on the sidelines occasionally complain about calls.
The instant interviews were mostly nonsense, too: "We have to stay positive." … "The difference was that they wanted it, but we had to have it." … "All we have to do is execute."
Two of the funniest involved Las Vegas Outlaws running back Rod Smart, who won the night's ungrammatical prize by having the words "He Hate Me" on the back of his jersey. Asked the reason by sideline announcer Mike Adamle, Smart replied unhelpfully, "Because they [sic] hate me, man." I guess the poor guy has trouble with personal pronouns as well as grammar.
Another time, after a 27-yard gain by Smart, Adamle grabbed him on the sideline and said, "Tell us about the play." Instead, Smart looked around like a deer caught in the headlights and dashed back onto the field. Probably he'll get a call from McMahon this morning.
I got so caught up in the presence of microphones that I expected to hear screaming when one player went down with a possible serious knee injury. And if he had needed surgery, hoo boy. Hold that anesthetic, in the name of phony TV realism.
Probably I should say a word or two about the "commentary" of Jesse Ventura, the ex-'rassler who was moonlighting from his day job as governor of Minnesota. Here it is: "Get lost."
With the Outlaws burying the New York/New Jersey Hitmen in a manner that must have made losing coach Rusty Tillman yearn for the days when he was a special teams star for George Allen's Redskins, NBC finally cut away to the much closer battle between the Chicago Enforcers and the Orlando Rage. Regardless, the telecast ran well past its scheduled 11 p.m. ending time, which must have made affiliated stations the unhappiest they've been since "Seinfeld" went off the network in 1998.
All in all, the evening should have been a galloping bore for anyone old enough to dress himself or change channels. If the XFL is what we have come to culturally, perhaps we should weep bitter tears. Either that or laugh until tears come to our eyes.
And just think, this so-called season has 12 whole weeks to go until what it calls the "Big Game at the End." Never perhaps has spring seemed so far away.

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