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Are You Ready For Some (More) Football?
Greetings From The Booth!
Just when we were settling in to Spring, this week the Shenandoah Valley was hammered with a Monday snow that left up to 4 inches on our cars, driveways, etc. By this Sunday, the snow will be a distant memory as temps soar into the 80s, just in time for the 95th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, one of my favorite times of the year. This year, even more so, as the Bloom returns in it’s full-fledged glory after no Festival in 2020, and a limited one last year. S[ports is a big part of the Bloom, and I’ll be writing more on that next week.
A quick SU update: after a recent stumble against Roanoke, Hornet Baseball has returned to it’s winning ways, and as of this writing is 23-8-1 and ranked in the nation’s top 25. Women’s Lacrosse will find out how good they are this week when they face number-4 Washington & Lee. Our Tennis teams have been solid this year, and Andy’s Track & Field squad has been strong, especially the throwers and sprinters. All is well!
So, did you watch the debut weekend of the new USFL? The USFL is the latest incarnation of Spring pro football. If you remember, there was a USFL way back in the day that did manage to snag some top names, but fell by the wayside due to financial problems. There have been other leagues that have tried to compete, albeit indirectly, with the NFL, to mixed reviews, like the WFL, which didn’t last 2 seasons. Vince McMahon’s XFL tried to give fans football with a pro wrestling feel, but didn’t catch on. The rebooted XFL was a victim of COVID, but thanks to investors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, plans a return in 2023.
One weekend does not a season make, but doing the eye test, here are my thoughts. Despite the hype from Fox, the product is still sub-standard. There are a few nice players, but for the most part, the 8 teams are made up of college players who didn’t make NFL rosters, journeymen who spent some time in the League, and some D-II athletes.
What the USFL has in it’s favor is a nice TV deal from Fox, with some innovative technology. I really like the helmet cam, which gives the viewer a feel for what it’s like to carry the ball into the line, for example. Fox tried to give Saturday night’s debut game the FOX NFL treatment, but fell a bit short. The sideline reporters were hyping “the incredible crowd” against the backdrop of lots of empty seats. Curt Menefee was clearly out of his element as a play-by-play guy, and Jason Garrett seemed ill-prepared as a color analyst in what was probably an audition for NFL broadcasts down the road.
What is working against the USFL, aside from second-tier players, is not having a team in a major market like New York, LA, or Chicago. It remains to be seen whether a market like Birmingham, in the heart of SEC country, will support a pro team. And don’t forget that in the Spring, USFL is competing with MLB, the NHL, NASCAR, not to mention people getting outdoors and away from the hi-def TV.
The major factor for me is “football burnout.” By the time the Super Bowl ends, fans have had a full season of college football, the bowls, and the CFP games, plus 17 weeks of regular season NFL games, the playoffs, and the Big Game. Is America ready for some more football? Time will tell.
Until the next visit from The Booth, Happy Bloom and GO HORNETS!