XFL just did not have the right product

May 8, 2001 9:50 AM

Students at college business schools have a textbook example in the XFL’s new enterprise misreading its market and promising more than it could deliver.

Vince McMahon and his partners at NBC failed to understand that the product they needed to merchandise was football, not strippers in hot tubs. Consequently, there was insufficient attention given to assembling and preparing teams, the end result being lousy football that failed to attract the television audience upon which advertising time was sold.

But there is a market for the XFL, albeit not as a competitor or substitute for the NFL, as McMahon so brashly trumpeted.

After all, the average attendance at the games (23,410) was more than Major League Soccer has ever achieved and the TV ratings were about the same as the National Hockey League’s regular-season games.

So the XFL will be back next year but with a more modest agenda, NBC will be out of the picture, but cable networks, tied in with McMahon’s highly successful World Wrestling Federation, will show games. And there will be reduced gimmickry. Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura will be gone, and the remaining announcers will be less shrill and more reportorial.

The big problem is one of image. The XFL is damaged goods and will be a much more difficult sell than at its genesis. Moreover, the WWF, minus NBC, will have to bear the full brunt of the financing.

The net loss for the recently concluded season is estimated at about $40 million. Whether the WWF could sustain such a drain on its cash flow is a matter of conjecture.

Two-Edged Sword

Those who deplore the economic status of baseball in which the small-market teams operating on a low budget are unable to effectively compete with the financial titans of the sport are chortling over the early-season success of the Minnesota Twins and they hope it will continue.

But they should be careful for what they wish. It could be a two-edged sword. If the Twins somehow should win their division or the A.L. pennant or the World Series, it will negate the arguments in favor of changing baseball’s economic structure and reinforce the status quo.

Most Happy Fellow

These are happy days for Joel Quenneville, coach of the NHL St. Louis Blues. His team swept the Dallas Stars in four straight games to advance to the league’s Western Conference finals.

And then, taking a day off to go to the races at Fairmount Park in Illinois, Quenneville hit the Kentucky Derby superfecta for a nifty $62,986.60.

Unhappy Fellow

Johnny Oates was ousted as manager of the Texas Rangers, thus becoming the scapegoat for stupid management that invested a quarter of a billion dollars in a shortstop while ignoring the fact that you can’t win without adequate pitching.

The Rangers’ pitching staff, currently sporting an ERA around 7.00, is on pace to set league records for runs allowed, hits allowed, highest ERA and home runs allowed. John McGraw couldn’t win with such horrible hurling.

Derby Postmortem

All of the hype surrounding Point Given turned out to be just that - hype, a lot of hot air blowing out of California. The suspicion raised by some prior to the Derby that the horses he beat at Santa Anita were a rather mediocre lot may have been confirmed. Point Given will get other chances down the line to prove himself, but in the meantime, let’s cease making comparisons with Secretariat. At the moment, Point Given’s accomplishments are not as good as those of a steed named Dust Commander who, in case you’ve forgotten, actually won the Kentucky Derby (1970)”¦

The biggest waste of time at the Derby was the foul claim lodged by runner-up Invisible Ink against Monarchos. As every seasoned horseplayer knows, short of pulling a pistol and shooting a rival, no Derby winner will ever be disqualified by the stewards at Churchill Downs”¦

Monarchos’ final time of 1:594/5 raised eyebrows but keep in mind that two track records were broken on the same card. Track records are made by track superintendents”¦