Monday, Feb. 5, 2001 | 11:15 a.m.
Dean Juipe's column appears Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. His boxing notebook appears Thursday. Reach him at [email protected] or 259-4084.
It took sitting in the stands for Saturday's XFL debut in Las Vegas for me to realize I'm ready for baseball season.
Or anything other than more of the same that was on display at Sam Boyd Stadium as the Las Vegas Outlaws took a 19-0 victory over a terrible New York-New Jersey team that was an embarrassment to football players everywhere.
The blowhards who run this league said afterward that any of the eight XFL teams could defeat any previous collegiate national champion, and, believe me, that's just plain hogwash. The University of Oklahoma, ranked No. 1 this past season, would have annihilated that pitiful New York team and it would have beaten the Outlaws, too.
So would UNLV's current team.
The quality of play was lame and the peripheral elements of the experience were nauseating.
Yes, there was a big crowd on hand and, no, I'm not going to rain on these brain surgeons' parade with weekly jabs at this new league and its offensive style and trappings. But, for the sake of the record, let's put a few things in perspective.
In the stands weren't football fans but mindless, drunken robots who saw it as their duty to stand and holler -- and flash gang signs and swear -- not only on cue from the overly amped public-address announcer but whenever a TV camera or cheerleader strolled by. It was spring break without the sun.
The crowd allowed itself to be used like a TV game-show audience, cheering on command. It had to be prepped -- or intimidated -- into responding as the obnoxious announcer prodded the 30,389 on hand with remarks such as the one delivered with a scream a full hour before the game: "In exactly one hour, the eyes of the world will be on Las Vegas. Are you ready?"
The inane come-on was delivered in 15-minute increments right up until game time, and it made the choreographed applause that is routinely used for the intros at televised pro bowling look spontaneous by comparison.
A poorly sung national anthem -- "performed" by an Outlaws cheerleader -- set the stage for a game that had a difficult time getting started. Despite its scheduled 5 o'clock kickoff, only one play had been run by 5:14 and the XFL's claim that it would provide quick and delay-free football had already been exposed as fraudulent.
(So was the league's mandate that its telecasts would be off the air, "no matter what," by 8 p.m. in order to allow NBC's affiliates to air their local news telecasts. Both of the XFL games played Saturday bled past the deadline and, in fact, ran as long or longer than the typical NFL game.)
In the stadium, people were glued to the big-screen TV that the XFL installed in the end zone, and it became a diversion from what was happening -- or not happening -- on the field. The screen not only allowed any number of drunken teens 15 seconds of the type of fame they're never apt to realize again, it provided a chance to meet the players via both videotaped and live interviews.
But how much do you want to know about guys like Outlaws running back Rod Smart, who, rather than have his last name on the back of his game jersey, had He Hate Me stencilled in instead. He Hate Me? What's with that?
And what's with the league encouraging that practice, as any number of players had anything but their names in the spot on their jerseys that has always been reserved for their names?
But that's trivial.
What's more crucial is that everything about the league is loud, lewd and extremely juvenile. It's so slimy you can't help but feel Vince McMahon's hand in your back pocket, fishing around for your wallet.
It's grating to have players encouraged, as they are, to trash talk when the camera's on and it's childish of the XFL to trot out McMahon's pro wrestlers to bad mouth the NFL, as was done repeatedly. So what if Stone Cold Steve Austin thinks -- or is paid to say -- the NFL is making a mistake by dismissing the XFL?
The NFL doesn't need to worry about this new league. The XFL is not a threat to siphon off legitimate football fans, nor will it ever acquire even a single player who could or should be playing in the NFL.
The XFL is for chumps, suckers and the easily led. It's for people who want a hearty dose of belligerence poured over their sports and broadcasters.
It's trash and I'm not going again, having gone this time only because the boss felt one of us ought to see the product live and in person just to confirm how incomprehensibly terrible it figured to be.
They counted me among the 30,389 Saturday but they can count me out from here on in.