Plastic.Com and the XFL

A new web site I’m really impressed with is Plastic.Com. It’s sort of a pop culture Slashdot that picks up a lot of cool stories around the web that even I miss.

Anyway, today someone posted an item digging at the low salaries that the XFL is paying. The only problem is that XFL salaries are pretty high, as I pointed out on the Plastic site. The XFL pays a straight $4,500 per game fee to its players.

Compare that to the Arena Football League. Keep in mind the following salary structure was put in place only after the AFL players threatened to strike. Rookies receive a minimum of $900 per game. Two year veterans earn a minimum $1,250 per game, and three year veterans earn a minimum $1,450 per game.

$4,500 suddenly looks good. It looks even better when you consider that a lot of players in the AFL actually earn less than the minimum. The contract the AFL has with players allows for players to sign with a team at less then the minimum in order to help a team stay under the salary cap limit (and why the AFL then insists on calling these pay levels “minimums” — since obviously the aren’t — escapes me).

One person replying to my post did note that a straight up comparison wasn’t quite fair since the rules changes in the XFL make it much more dangerous than the AFL, but it’s hardly a secret that in any venture rewards are often commensurate with risk.

A bigger problem with the XFL that another person pointed out is that the XFL itself owns every team. In most professional leagues the individual teams are franchises which have to follow certain rules but for the most part are quasi-independent of the league itself. In the XFL, however, the individual teams are essentially just brands for different products owned by a single corporation. The track record with such ownership structures is not good because decisions tend to be made for the good of the league as a whole rather than for the good of an individual team, not to mention there isn’t the same intensity level for a team to win when it doesn’t really matter to the ultimate owner of that team how well the team does so long as the league in general is succeeding.

Finally, I forgot to mention the single best rules change that the XFL is introducing, which is its method of resolving overtime. I detest the NFL version where whoever scores first wins. The XFL uses a modified version of a system used at lower levels of football. In overtime the ball is placed at the opponent’s 20 yard line and the offense has 4 downs in which to score. Then the opposing team has the same opportunity.

In the XFL version, a team has to match or beat its opponent’s success. For example, suppose Team A throws for a touchdown on its second play in overtime. Team B also has to score a touchdown within two plays or be declared the loser.

And You Thought Internet Patents Were Out of Control

Just when it looked like no one could top the insane patents some Internet companies are granting comes word that Smuckers has a patent on the good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Actually what they specifically have is a patent on a crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich (i.e. the edges are crimped so the peanut butter and jelly is enclosed entirely within the bread).

A Michigan company, Albies Foods, that has long made pasties started selling crustless PBJ sandwiches to its customers and got hit with a cease and desist order from Smuckers.

Journalists Suck Up to the Unabomber

The Smoking Gun has outdone itself this time with a collection of letters donated to the University of Michigan’s Special Collections Library by none other than the Unabomber himself, Ted Kaczynski. The letters are a fascinating insight into the media circus — they consist of pitch letters from television personalities wanting to interview Kazcynski and were donated to The University of Michigan along with other correspondents and documents to and from Kazcynski.

For the most part, the television reporters are more than willing to kiss Ted’s ass to get an interview. Greta Van Susteren lets Kazcynski know that she thinks, “You are an extremely smart man.” A letter from a 20/20 producer informs Kazcynski that an interview with Barbara Walters will allow the Unabomber to clear up “what you think are misconceptions about you.”

But the most disgusting of the letters has to be from that bane of all existence, ABC-News’ Good Morning America. GMA correspondent Dan Dahler wants to convince Kaczynski that just because the Unabomber hates all technology doesn’t mean giving a TV interview would be compromising his principles,

I know I represent a form of technology abhorrent to you, but I also know from reading excerpts from your journal (released by the government – so I wonder if they’re accurate representations??) and descriptions of the intricately made explosive devices that you have a talent for using anything at hand for your purposes.

And journalists always wonder why people dislike their profession so much.


Today’s USA Today had a small blurb about HeroMachine.Com. Hero Machine is a nicely done application using Flash that lets users generate artwork of super hero, fantasy and science fiction characters using a mix and match interface reminiscent of an electronic version of paper dolls. There are other programs out there that do this, but they’re not free, as Hero Machine is for the moment, and they don’t usually have the superb artwork that Jeff Herbert has created for Hero Machine. The superhero stuff is a lot of fun.

Ironically, it is one of most annoying aspects of comic books that landed Herbert’s site in USA Today — the exaggerated and almost always absurdly out of proportion breasts that comic arts give female characters. Herbert’s female characters are well endowed, but apparently that isn’t good enough for some folks who keep writing him asking for move cleavage. I liked Herbert’s response to those folks.

Exaggeration is part of the genre, but it’s always bugged me. You’re supposed to be this athletic figure; how would you do all that if you had these breasts flopping around in the wind? I’m not going to have ‘Superboobs’ here – it’s just a personal point of honor.

(For what it’s worth, I always assumed the big breasted super heroines had bras made out of some as-yet-discovered super alloy).

Anyway, I hope Herbert finds a way to make money off his venture as Hero Machine is a great application.

Best and (mostly) Worst of the XFL’s Version of Football

Okay, the XFL season starts this weekend. I’m not convinced, but I am curious. MSNBC has a lot of good information about the league (couldn’t have anything to do with NBC’s part ownership of the XLF, could it?) but they hide it all in stupid pop-up boxes.

One of the things I had trouble finding, for example, is exactly how the XFL rules will differ from NFL. The main differences turn out to be,

  • No “in the grasp” rule — the NFL protects quarterbacks by blowing whistles and ruling them down before somebody smashes them to the ground. In the XFL, quarterbacks are fair game, period. I was unable to find out whether there is an intentional grounding rule, but I’m assuming there is. I don’t have a lot of opinion about this rule except that while fans might like watching quarterbacks get slammed to the ground, I doubt they’re going to like watching their team have a different quarterback every other week. How will the XFL build any fan base or team loyalty with the revolving door situation that’s going to develop with lots of injured quarterbacks?
  • All punts over 25 yards result in a “free” ball — once a punt travels 25 yards, it can be recovered by either team. In the NFL, punts can only be recovered by the kicking team if it first touches a member of the receiving team. This would be pointless if it weren’t for the next rule.
  • There are no fair catches — in the NFL a player receiving a punt can call for a fair catch. Basically this is a promise by the player not to return the ball any further in exchange for the defense promising not to smack the living daylights out of him. In the XFL you can’t do that — if you’re going to field the punt, you’re going to risk getting smacked. This will certainly be the most controversial XFL rule and the one where something is most likely to cause serious injury. Take a special teams player weighing 220 pounds running at full speed and then smack into some moron rendered defenseless while he’s trying to field a punt, and the result is a potentially lethal collision. It’s this sort of rule that really crosses the line and makes critics question the legitimacy of the XFL as a sport as opposed to a simple excuse for WWF-style mayhem.
  • No kicking Point After Touchdowns — this, on the other hand, is a rule the NFL should adopt. The kicking game is the most annoying part of football. In the XFL you can’t kick the extra point, but instead have to run a play, probably from the 5 yard-line or so, and punch the ball into the end zone.

Animal Rights Activist Jailed in the UK

Yesterday I mentioned the ongoing protests and actions taken by animal rights activists in Great Britain where activists almost succeeded in shutting down Huntingdon Life Sciences. Today Ananova reports that animal rights activist Charlotte Lewis, 28, will spend the next six months in jail for her actions against HLS.

Lewis sent at least two threatening letters and mailed them to employees of HLS. Forensic scientists managed to match her DNA with DNA found in the saliva residue on the back of stamps that Lewis had used to mail the letters.


Animal rights woman jailed over threats. Ananova, January 31, 2001.