Inside Hotlanta and the SIAC
By Hal Lamar
Photos by Patsy Collier-Lamar
The "virus" claims another life: ..XFL football!
In the midst of the death and destruction wrought by the coronavirus, another victim has seemingly bit the dust, this time from the sports world.
Last month, the XFL football league was the second go-round for the league which began back in 2000. pro wrestling guru Vince McMahon ceased operations and laid off all players and employees.
Coronavirus was blamed for the decision, according to the league office. McMahon stopped short of saying the league went total bust but did say there were no plans to schedule a 2021 season.This was the second go-round for the league which had its origins dating back in 2000.
Unlike the first attempt at the league which completed only one season, this latest version played it straight and avoided the foolish gimmicks, scantilly clothed cheerleaders and live intereviews on the field with players, and likely to the delight of the athletes, the XFL supposedly paid the athletes for the entire scheduled 10 game season. Teams located in Tampa Bay, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston , St Louis, New York and Washington DC. drew well, all things considered. They averaged 18,000 spectators a game. Accordng to published reports, pay wasn't too shabby either. Active players were paid $1685 a game, $2222 per win on top of a weekly stipend of $1040. League playoffs had been scheduled for the weekend of April 18-19 with the championship game scheduled for April 26.
The XFL "experiment" was the latest attempt to crack the multi-billion dollar world of professional football and the monopoly enjoyed by the National Football League.
The Alliance of American football (AAF) kicked off its first season February 9, 2019 with 8 teams. One of them was the Atlanta Legends, whose intital coaching staff included former Atlanta Falcon Michael Vick. But after complering eight of their 12 week schedule, the league folded and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on April 17.
In 1987, professional football moved indoors with the establishment of the Arena Football League. One of the teams in the league which expanded and contracted over its 32 year life span was the Georgia Force which lasted from 2002-2012. One of its owners was Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. The league folded upon filing for bankruptcy November 27 of last year.
In 1982, the United States Football League (USFL) was created and kicked off officially the following year with 18 teams. The idea for the league came from a Louisiana businessman who saw potential in playing pro football during the spring and summer months. One of those also interested in the concept was Donald Trump, who somehow wound up this nation's 45th president. He bought the league's New Jersey Generals in 1983, the year before its previous owners lured ex-University of Georgia standout and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker to the fold, A $1,000,00 signing bonus and all to the fold and while only a sophomore.
The USFL flourished from 1983 to 1985 but wound up sinking like the Titanic when it, through no small amount of coaxing by Trump, sought to schedule games in the fall and winter months, competing directly with the NFL. The Trump inspired plan, like most of his hair-brained schemes about fighting this killer virus and refusing to listen to the medical and scientific minds surrounding him, lost out.
The USFL folded.
Other attempts to challenge the dominance of the NFL came, sank, or were forced to merger with "big daddy."
The United Football league was established in 2009 and lasted for three seasons with only four teams. One of their coaches was former Minnoesota Viking Dennis Green, leader of the Sacremento, California franchise for two seasons.
In 1973, the World Football League was estabished and played games in the summer and early winter months of 1974 and 1975. What many called the most abysmal failure of any of the pro ball upstarts folded amid a mountain of mismanagement, lack of funds and disorganization.
Two other attempts to challenge NFL dominence came in the late 1940s via the establishment of the All-American Football Conference. The 10 team alignment played from 1946-1949 when a partial merge sent three of the AAFC's teams to the NFL. The AAFC also featured several black players into pro football for the first time. Its playing style and new rules had a great influence on the sport until 1959 when Lamar Hunt, son of billionaire oilman HL Hunt, convinced some colleagues who were interested in team ownership to join him in creating a new league after Hunt's failure to convince NFL officialdom to expand. The American Football league kicked off officially with a night game on September 9, 1960. Through 1969, the league grew, obtaining lucrative TV contracts with ABC and NBC TV networks.
The AFL also set a precedent by exploring and signing players from historically black colleges. In fact, the Dallas Texans, which later relocated to Kansas City, Missouri after the 1961 season, drafted Grambling linebacker Junious "Buck" Buchanan as their first pick in the 1962 draft. Buchanan, a native of Birmingham, Alabama , was also the first player from an HBCU selected as the overall pick of that year's draft. Drafting an HBCU athlete as an overall pick in any draft didn't occur again until 1975 when the Dallas Cowboys selected Tennessee State defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones.
In 1969, the NFL and AFL merged formally. In 1967,a championship game between the two league champs became the precurser for what is now called "Super Bowl I."
Now, will there ever be a football league that will survive as a stand-alone or, like its predecessors, be forced to succumb,merge orbe bought out , run out or die of its own poverty?
It remains to be seen. But as long as the NFL exists and there are players wanting to take their talents to another level (remember , the NFL cannot draft every player at the college level with talent), there will be businessmen and women eager (or crazy enough) to try.
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