Fireworks lined the skyline of the Las Vegas dessert before the game began Saturday, Feb. 2. The football game of the Las Vegas Outlaws vs the New York Hitmen marked a moment in sports history. The Xtreme Football League began and it was “one of the most eagerly anticipated inaugurations the sport world has seen in a while,” football announcer Matt Vasgersian said before the game.
“To our worldwide television audience,” football announcer Mike Ademle said, “on behalf of the players we want to say thank you for the privilege of competing before you tonight.”
The XFL includes a whole new set of rules to the game of football that make it different from the NFL. Also the players are focused on and off the field throughout the game. The camera ventures into the locker rooms before the game and during the halftime. The physical appearance of the game looks a little different compared to the NFL as well. Announcers are featured in the stands with the fans and an enormous video board stands in the end zone. Firework displays, heart-pounding speakers and possible romantic relationships between the players and the cheerleading squad are all a part of the XFL.
“I thought it was pretty much the same as the NFL,” freshman Louis Verdecchio said. “It is supposed to be so physical but the difference of a couple of rules really didn’t make a difference.”
The players make incredible sacrifices to play for the XFL, leaving jobs and loved ones to go to practices where no money is rewarded till this night, the beginning of Week 1 of the season. The players do not get to see a paycheck until the end of the first game of the season. They are paid according to their position in each play. If the team wins the game, the players are paid a bonus for that game. When the games get more important, like at the playoffs, a bigger bonus is added to the pay. The grand prize for winning the XFL championship game is $ 1 million dollars split between the team. Thus, let the games begin so these players can start bringing home some bacon.
Dick Butkus, director of competition, gives an opening speech before the traditional coin toss would take place in a football game, but he describes what is about to happen.
“In the past all games get started with a coin toss,” Butkus said. He looks to the sold out Las Vegas stadium and yells, “No way, Jose.” He explains how in the XFL players will have to compete for the right of who gets to possess the start of the game.
Donnie Caldwell, Hitmen player, and Jamel Williams, Outlaw player, both line up next to the ref, waiting for the whistle to blow. At the sound they charge down the field for a short distance and dive for the football that is waiting for them on the ground. Williams wins after the ball jumps out of both their arms and he runs to tackle it down a second time.
The cheerleaders go wild, and that would be the best single word to use to describe them-wild. The motorcycle-Victoria Secret look has all the beer slurping men in the stadium and at home drooling. Dance moves are nonexistent but curves are very well-defined. An older man gripping his beer and his rating board with a 10 printed on it for his fantasy lady, is found leaning on the support of the railing as the fans go absolutely nuts over the introduction of the players.
The players come up to the camera and shout-outs begin as if they are on a radio show. Players yell to loved ones, friends, birthday wishes and threats not to mess with them unless harm is welcomed back. The players have more personalized jerseys than the NFL and can write whatever they want on the back.
Throughout the game little cameramen run around the field with their little helmets catching ball angles that are so close you feel you are in the game.
“I didn’t like the camera angles,” Andy Gradel, radio broadcasting lecturer, said. “Everything was too shaky with the hand-held cameras.”
Alongside the sidelines coaches were not wearing earphones to communicate with team officials in towers like the coaches in the NFL. Communication within the XFL teams is done through yelling. Maybe that is why between the both teams the XFL was a step behind the NFL in organization. Turnovers, messy plays and careless errors hold the league back. In one play the quarterback’s arm went forward but the ball went behind him without being swatted.
But errors and bad plays are not going to keep audiences away. The WWF wrestler the Rock announced the future of XFL is going to be long.
“Just like everyone else in America, we are all psyched, pumped, giged and cranked,” the Rock said. “So to all the coaches in the XFL, the players in the XFL, and all the fans in the XFL.just bring it, just bring it.”
To check out the new XFL teams go to www.xfl.com and choose who to root for out of the Birmingham Bolts, the Chicago Enforcers, the San Francisco Demons, the Las Vegas Outlaws, the Memphis Maniax, the New York Hitmen, the Los Angeles Xtreme and the Orlando Rage.