Vince McMahon knows raw is in — so is skin!

Feb 6, 2001 5:49 AM

THEY CALLED HIM PEANUT BUTTER! It took me a while to figure out that was his name. Even in the zany world of characters, the nickname Peanut Butter stands out. To this day, I don’t know his real name. He was simply a loveable racetrack character who made everybody laugh with his stories of how he separated people from their money.

Peanut Butter was smooth. He didn’t come with any crunch. When he told a client about a horse that couldn’t lose, he was as creamy as peanut butter. He spread his wisdom through the clubhouse with style. Gentlemen with fancy suits and collars sought him out. He entertained them with yarns about a horse or horses running that afternoon that satisfied everyone’s appetite. Believe it or not, once in a while, Peanut Butter came up with a winner. It made his legend spread like peanut butter on bread.

I never took Peanut Butter seriously. Although the guys in the press box leaned on him when they were stuck for copy, most of us thought of him as a buffoon. Those of us in the ivory tower didn’t understand how anyone could find Peanut Butter entertaining.

Memories of Peanut Butter and his antics came back to haunt me over the weekend as I skeptically previewed and then amazingly reviewed the XFL.

Vince McMahon is a born-again Peanut Butter. He has a motor mouth and is so identified as the impresario of wrestling that the purists completely disregarded him as he ran over at the lip. Love him or hate him, McMahon knows what the public wants. We live in a noise generation. Young people love it. McMahon is as bodacious as they come. In-your-face is in. So is McMahon’s XFL. Skin is also in. The XFL cheerleaders are in the stands and the cash-paying customers are licking their chops.

In a day and age when a cable television show named "Raw Is War" draws 10 million eyeballs every Monday night, it’s time for a wake-up call for the purists. Things are changing. And we should, too, if we’re trying to sell. Peanut Butter did it with horse tips. McMahon is taking it to a higher level — 30,000-plus spectators who flocked to Sam Boyd Stadium in record numbers Saturday night when the Las Vegas Outlaws made mincemeat out of the New York/New Jersey Hitmen, 19-0.

What’s next? If the XFL continues to grow, the games we loved as kids will meet new challenges. Don’t be surprised to learn of a famous casino family thinking seriously about introducing bareknuckle boxing in our midst. Roar, raw and rage is in. Bet on it!

Looking back, it’s easy to play the red board. That’s a term Peanut Butter certainly used, as do most horseplayers, while they review the race after the red official sign is displayed on the infield tote board.

The wrestling impresario who has partnered up with NBC quietly called a huddle with some of Las Vegas’ best-known oddsmakers. While the rest of the world was forbidden to see any pre-season scrimmage, the bookies watched in awe at a private debut. How smart can you get? Everyone knows football fans love to bet. Although the bookies were skeptical about allowing liberal betting on the first game, it’s a safe bet the rubber bands will be popping the next time around when bettors will be allowed to substantially up the size of their wagers.

I don’t know how far the XFL will go. All I can say — beyond any doubt— is that it played to a standing ovation on opening night. That doesn’t necessarily assure its success over the long haul. But it certainly should remind us that giving the customers what they want is a great way to break out of the starting gate.