Monday, July 27, 2009
There's a new football league in town. Well, not in your town, probably. But in a couple towns, come October 8th, there's going to be a little extra hitting, a little more catching, and bit more running each week for a couple of months. The United Football League will kick off its inaugural season that day, fielding four WHOLE TEAMS. Okay, so its a baby league, four teams isn't so bad. The cities with teams are Las Vegas (the Locomotives...that's a stupid fucking name), New York (the Sentinels), Orlando (the Tuskers...what is a tusker?) and San Francisco (the motherfucking Rockfish, I shit you not). By the way, google tells me a tusker is a Kenyan beer. Wikipedia claims it is an elephant with tusks, of which there are clearly a large number in Orlando. Urban Dictionary says it is a dude with an erect penis that shows through his pants or shorts who is often seen in bars and clubs full of hot young women grinding and dancing (credit to Gearls). This last definition is my favorite one and seems most appropriate, so we'll proceed on the assumption that the helmet logo of the Orlando team is a barely concealed package in a pair of tight khakis. Besides the aforementioned cities, games are scheduled for LA, Hartford, and possibly Sacramento. LA and Hartford teams are possible should another season follow.
The UFL season is set to a 6 game schedule, so it'll come to an end around Thanksgiving. The television rights went to Versus. So since you won't be able to watch the games live, hopefully their website will have some sort of free or very cheap streaming option. Or maybe you can find a local bar and go a couple hours before the game starts and ask them to turn it on. You're going to need a couple hours because it'll take them that long to stop laughing at your goofy ass.
But the UFL is actually taking a good first couple of steps here. First, they aren't overextending themselves in the first season. They have some interesting names attached to their franchises. Jim Fassel and Denny Green are two of the four head coaches, meaning some interesting scowls and possibly epic locker room meltdowns may be in store. And former Buffalo Bills sometimes-QB J.P. Losman will be leading the Vegas team into battle. The games are scheduled for weekdays mostly so as not to directly compete with the NFL. Most importantly, the UFL is avoiding any and all comparisons with the XFL, which shows they have at least some common sense.
So what does the NFL think of this? Well, some sources say they view the league as direct competition, but others say they are looking to the UFL as a developmental league. The UFL themselves insist they are a top tier pro league, but their actions indicate that they may be comfortable in the developmental roll; each current UFL team is unofficially tied to a pair of NFL divisions. Said team then gets first dibs on any players cut from teams in those divisions who give up looking for jobs with other NFL franchises. So getting scrubbed from Panthers might mean you end up with an erection...or in other words, a member of the Tuskers. Its already looking like a a farm team relationship to me, and really what's not to like about having player development options? Assuming the UFL gets in gear, it might be nice to take that rookie RB sitting on the bench and get him some playing time to see if he's really going to cut the mustard. That way when your starter blows a knee out in week 11, you'll know whether to give the rookie a go or go grab that free agent or trade fodder without having to take a guess.
But that's not why you should watch the UFL. I'm going to tell you why you should watch the UFL: to give the NFL a heads up.
The timing of this league is pretty fortunate for football fans. If you haven't been keeping up, the NFL is nearing the end of its current collective bargaining agreement. Now there's no doubt in my mind a new one would be in the pipe right now if Gene Upshaw, RIP, hadn't died unexpectedly. That threw a big monkey wrench into the works and what we're looking at as a result is an uncapped year in 2010 (which doesn't necessarily mean what you might think because while there is no upper limit to spending, there is no lower limit either and free agency will become more heavily restricted), and a possible lockout in the 2011 season. That's right...no football!
Except now, there might still be football!
I can see the light bulbs coming on. That's right, do your part to keep the UFL alive and kicking for a couple seasons, and you may just get yourself a ticket out of sports hell in 2011. Worst case scenario, we'll still be watching football then. Maybe not NFL, but something competitive on the gridiron. Best case...well, before the UFL, the NFL lockout was a matter of how long the league can wait out the players. If the players call the league's bluff, the league doesn't give a shit; they have a deal where they get paid millions by DirectTV regardless of whether or not a game airs. That's right, their cash is already guaranteed. TV is the majority of the league's income, so they're basically set through 2014 no matter what. The players get shafted of course, but stupider things have happened, and while a lockout is pretty far-fetched, you never know when a union is involved. But something tells me another league out there snatching up hungry fans isn't going to sit well with the NFL if they aren't putting their product out there ever week to compete.
So is it really that hard to put a bit of your time this fall into helping a new league takes its first steps? We're only talking six weeks, a few hours one weeknight each week. The result is that every one of you that catches a game is sending a little message to the NFL, and that message is lockouts are bad for business. Sphere: Related Content