SportsBiz: XFL Me, Baby

Put us on the map and in the mix

If you ask me, sports fan, this whole Amazon HQ2 thing is secondary to a much bigger question about Denver’s worthiness as a first-class, modernist, smartly dressed yet calculatedly relaxed metroplex reflecting a demographically desirable blend of craft beer adoration, upwardly mobile citizenry and insatiable appetite for sports.

Which is: Will we get an XFL team?

Because in case you didn’t make out all the syllables, that voice-of-boom you heard the other day carrying forth over the fruited plain and beyond was that of the legendary promoter/maven/huckster/fanatic/hell raiser supreme Vince McMahon, he of the professional wrestling organization WWE and the brilliant contrivance of choreographed chaos it has rained down across cable television since he coaxed it to life from a few smoking embers of possibility into a goliath entertainment empire over the last four decades. What you heard from WWE headquarters in Connecticut was the familiar growl of the emcee of the extreme, the never-say-die impresario who’s telling anyone who listens that it’s 2000 all over again except this time he means it, this time his vision for an alternative to the staid, corporatized, buzz-killing entertainment that is a National Football League game is serious, self-assured and satisfactorily backed by $100 million of his own sweat-and-nerves capital. This time the XFL, the league that for one shining year gave you barely dressed cheerleaders, jerseys bearing unfathomable nicknames, trick plays, Rod Smart and an MVP in the form of Tommy Maddox (yes, Broncos fans, that Tommy Maddox), the league whose three-letter acronym Vince McMahon apparently kept on a low simmer all these years at the U.S. Patent & Trademark office, is back in business.

“We’re going to give football back to you, the fans,” McMahon promised in January, unveiling the reboot of the XFL for a planned 2020 launch. And then, the money line: “What would you do,” asked a game-faced Vince, “if you could re-imagine the game of professional football?”

What would we do? Vince, this one’s easy. We in Denver have just suffered through a 20-week journey through football hell, a joyless, lousy, moribund tour of gridiron glumness. It wasn’t just that we couldn’t beat the Dolphins, Vince. It’s that when we did win – which was infrequently – we looked like we’d just spent a Wednesday locked down in Conference Room 417 listening to descriptions of the new benefits plan from Ron, the senior manager in HR. 

So to answer your question, Vince, we’d get us a team that’s fun. We’d get us a team of giants and personalities and at least three guys named “Spike.” We’d get us a bobble-head doll of a linebacker who looks like Howie Long circa 1983 and ray-gun it until it grew to two times life-size and then have it toss aside blockers and smother quarterbacks and howl like a hyena. We’d rule, Vince. We’d dance in the aisles. We’d win it all.

And since you’re going to own the entire league – every team, every player contract, every jersey, every roll of ankle tape – we can even save you some bucks by letting you pluck out a name on the cheap from a hilarious romp of entries that showed up the other day on a Reddit thread. Take your pick of these, Vince: Mile High Mayhem, Front Range Fury, Denver Craft Artisanal Pigskinners Ltd. Or the Fighting Mongooses.

Yes, Vince, we know: Some people prefer “Mongeese.” But grammar isn’t the point. The point is we’ve been there, we know how to do this. We supported the Denver Gold back in the days of the USFL. A favorite son of ours, the late Denver cable magnate Bill Daniels, used to own the L.A. Express. There’s a minor league football team right now, up in Greeley, the NoCo Nightmare. You can listen to sports-talk radio all day and not hear anything but Broncos chatter. Even during baseball season.

We love our football, Vince. We love it the way you’re describing it: big plays, short timeouts, two-hour games, no halftimes, simpler rules. You’re talking eight teams, right? That means eight cities. So c’mon, Vince. XFL us. Put us on the map and in the mix. We’ll buy you an IPA named after a buffalo or a mountain pass. We’ll show you the new Union Station. We’ll treat you to a steak at Shanahan’s. All the while we’ll remind you: If Denver’s good enough for those sissy tech punks from Seattle, it’s gonna be good enough for the XFL.

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