In a few months the XFL — the WWF/NBC football league — will kick off what Vince McMahon calls a return to “smashmouth football.” If you believe McMahon, the National Football League is populated by whimps who are scared to death to get hit.
I don’t know which channel McMahon is watching, but I see NFL plays every weekend that I’m surprised somebody isn’t outright killed. Take a bunch of men that big and that fast and put them on opposite sides of a football field and it as Rich Gannon once put it, it’s like watching a car crash.
FeedMag.Com’s Ben Godar really hits the nail on the head on this point,
There’s a reason that pro football plays don’t look as aggressively confrontational as they used to, and it’s not because the game is going soft, but just the opposite: Players today are stronger, larger, and faster than ever before.
…Fifteen years ago there were only around twenty players over three hundred pounds. Today that number is well over a hundred.
Anybody else remember when the Chicago Bear’s Refrigerator Perry was considered a freak and somewhat of a sideshow because of his size?
On the other hand, I enjoy football for precisely the same reason that Godar does, which also happens to be why McMahon despises the modern game — there is as much thinking and creativity in today’s game as there is brute force.
Complex traps, counters, and screen passes have become the mainstay of an effective running game. Winning football has become as much cerebral as physical.
Anybody with the physical size can play “smashmouth” football, but to run the sort of stunts that a defense such as Tampa Bay runs requires a great deal of skill and intelligence that many players lack.
There are a lot of good athletes in the Arena Football League, and that league emphasizes high scoring, basic football. And for the most part it’s extremely boring — almost like a caricature of real football. I suspect that the XFL will find the same problem.
Personally, since they are going to spend a lot of money on it anyway, I’d prefer McMahon and NBC to take the XFL in the direction that sports writers seem to fear most — make it into a completely fake sports opera. Better yet, abandon the whole football schtick, invent a sport that involves a lot of violence, and build a fake league around that.
An enormous part of the appeal of sports are the goings on outside the lines, and a well-managed sports soap opera might actually succeed. If forced to compete on its merits as a legitimate sporting event, however, I doubt the XFL will have what it takes.
Feed daily. Ben Godar, FeedMag.Com, November 16, 2000.