UFL: On Its Last Legs, Sadly



The United Football League held its title game in Virginia Beach on Friday night in front of just over fourteen thousand faithful. This is just proof of Jerry Seinfeld’s assertion that fans simply cheer for laundry. The league provides a quality product at affordable prices in markets that should be starving for the new national pastime.

Jim Fassel is the head coach of the Las Vegas Locomotives and Marty Schottenheimer is the leader of the Virginia Beach Destroyers. The two men have accomplished momentous things in the NFL for long periods of time. They chose to hitch themselves to this fledgling situation rather than become coordinators or enter the college game because they correctly felt that the games would be played at a very high level.

A major problem for the league has been the lack of television exposure. Last season the squads were broadcast on HDNet and Versus. This year brings no national partnership because the teams had to pay the production costs in the past. Without this, anonymity has been a major obstacle to overcome. Fans obviously love to follow their teams when they are on the road. With gaps occurring between home dates, the casual observer loses interest when he is presented with other choices during a busy sports time on the calendar.

The teams play in the same time of the year and on the same dates as college. The UFL does provide a superior alternative, but alumni and residents of states have a special affection for their respective amateurs. The tradition of watching them is entrenched in the lives of those who do so. Anyone who has attended a night game within the SEC or a Big Ten late morning game understands that the event is unparalleled anywhere in the country. The camaraderie and memories associated with these rivalries is second to none because it truly is the name on the front of the jerseys that matters rather than those on the back.

The scheduling changes crushed the league this season. It started late due to their lack of preparedness because the NFL started on time. It also ended early because the organizations wanted to save money on their expenditures. With only four regular season games played by the clubs, it makes the idea of a title game a little disingenuous. This is about twenty percent of the NFL when one considers both regular season and playoff games in the equation.

The United Football League has struggled for the same reason that the Phoenix Coyotes have had their growing pains in Arizona. Both have fan bases that have little history with the team. Both of the followers wonder if their team will compete next season in its present form. Neither has a close geographical rival to make reasonable road trips a true possibility. The probability of winning a title holds no ecstasy for either. Will the population of Phoenix throw a ticker tape parade through downtown if the team wins the Stanley Cup during one hundred fifteen degree afternoons?

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