The United Football League is set to kick off this Fall after a false start in 2008 and the question is, what are the chances of failure? Well, if history teaches us anything – it’s a virtual lock.
Over the course of the last 30 years or so one lesson has been made abundantly clear. The NFL rules. There are no pockets deep enough to compete (in this case the UFL is the brainchild of a Wall Street investor who made a killing and a former Googler who now runs AOL).
You also can’t make marquee players out of washed up NFL prospects (we’re talking about you JP) and fans are not really interested in “innovation” (the UFL will play their games on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.)
So what’s the point? Well… this is America. And Americans love spectacular failure. For, like a month. At the most. So far that’s the only innovative concept that looks like it will work. The season is set to start in October and the hilarity will be over by Thanksgiving. The perfect length of time for yet the latest future footnote of any encyclopedia entry about the NFL’s total domination of the pigskin, the gridiron and the heart of the Alpha Male.
To get us in the mood let’s take a look at some of the previously dismal attempts to compete with America’s real game and see what lead up to their ultimate humiliation.
With the kind of fanfare usually reserved for death defying tractor trailer rocket-cycle jumps, XFL maverick Vince McMahon promised to make the most serious dent in the NFL fan base that he hoped would succeed for years where all else failed. How? By turning the game into a Death Cage wrestling match, complete with player nicknames and in-your-face stadium seating.
The eXtreme Football League barely scraped by to a fizzle at the end of a single year in 2001. I do miss the upskirt cameras in the Cheerleaders locker room though. The NFL should think that one over again.
In 1991 the World League of American Football counted on expanding the fan base for American football throughout Europe and eventually, the entire world. In fact, it was actually the NFL that came up with the idea.
After 2 years, however the teams dissolved and were reformed into NFL Europe franchises. Even they died out. Who killed them? The NFL. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!
The main problem though was the confusion on the faces of European soccer fans who showed up at games spoiling for a fight. Turns out not even they could muster the kind of loyalty it takes to ignite a good old fashioned goon squad riot.
The earliest and most hilarious attempt to challenge the NFL, hence the most affectionately remembered. In 1974 the World Football League (or the “Wiffle” as it would become known) actually made a serious stab at competing against the 4 year old NFL with some startling rule changes (touchdowns were worth 7 points), unique goal post alignment (rear-line rather than front-line) and the first outrageous Star salaries (Larry Czonka was lured away from the World Champion Miami Dolphins for 3.5 million bucks) that at first seemed to promise a long run.
But it all came crashing down in 1975 when fans failed to show up, teams were relocated to poorly picked markets and we all got tired of trying to figure out who was who in those outrageously colored pants. Still, some good came out of it. It turns out some of that innovation did rub off on the big boys at the NFL… eventually.
Seasons have become longer, both pre and post. There is Thursday football now, in addition to Monday Night. Penalties for holding and ineligible receivers became less stiff and now result in a loss of a down. And best of all?
Football in Summer!
It only took 35 years. That’s about the average gestation period for change when David takes on Goliath. So if we’ve learned anything, it’s this:
NFL really stands for “New F*cking Leagues” don’t stand a chance!
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