Whilst wandering 200 TV channels, I came upon a United Football League game on Versus, which, by the way, is a legitimate sports network (Tour de France, NHL, IndyCar, MMA, second-tier college football, for openers). Versus does all right. And there’s Doug Flutie doing color commentary, and Doug’s doing all right with color commentary. I decide to stick around for ten minutes and mock the game.
The Las Vegas Locomotives are hosting the Florida Tuskers. (Three of four UFL teams are connected to their cities in name only. The New York team lives and practices in Florida. The San Francisco and Las Vegas teams live and practice in Casa Grande, Arizona, flying to their games on game days and returning to Arizona that night in order to avoid hotel costs. Over the entire 2009 season, the California [San Francisco] Redwoods will spend three days and zero nights in California.)
This Locos/Tuskers game is played at Sam Boyd Stadium before a small group of relatives and those few others without gas money to make it to a casino buffet. I’m exaggerating, but not to the extent the UFL does. Attendance figures were announced at 14,209. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that attendance was less than one-third of that.
And yet this is a good game, better than the XFL...much better than I thought it would be. I wind up seeing all of it. Tuskers won 29-15. Their quarterback Brooks Bollinger passed for 310 yards, three touchdowns, was 24 for 32 overall. Players knew what they were doing; coaches knew what they were doing. It was fun to watch.
The UFL is strange at first look. Four teams, six-game regular season, and half the league qualifies for the championship game. Their season opens and closes in the midst of the college football season, the NFL season, baseball playoffs, and World Series, start of the NBA season, start of the NHL season, finish of NASCAR Sprint Cup…in other words, the UFL competes with every big-time sport the country has to offer.
Some look at this and say, “How?” Others wonder, “Why?” Here’s the UFL money breakdown, at least if you believe all the sums are accurate — which I don’t, but it’s a place to start. Each team owner throws down $12 million, and the league adds another $12 million. Four owners, one league, equals $60 million. The UFL has a two-year broadcast agreement with Versus for $70 million, which, upon closer examination, seems to mean the UFL is paying Versus to broadcast their games. The league is also broadcast on HDNet, a cable-television network known only to a forgotten demographic.
The UFL started out with a $6 million salary cap, projected average ticket price of $20 (NFL average is $72.70), and the hopes and dreams of one corporation, two investment bankers, and the husband of the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Frankly, things haven’t gone that well, and this is aside from those god-awful uniforms and team logos. Now throw in the zero dollars spent on advertising and promotion — you get the picture.
MediaPost reports that the UFL debut game was seen in 220,000 homes while that week’s Tuesday-night NHL game was seen in 405,000 homes. Considering that the country hates hockey almost as much as it hates soccer, this is not a good number.
And it’s probably not a great sign that two tickets for the UFL inaugural game (Las Vegas vs. San Francisco) could be had for free if you made a $10 bet at the Station Casino sportsbook. Or you could purchase them online for $7 to $42.
Ron Kantowski, a Las Vegas Sun columnist, wrote, “But anybody who pays $42 for a ticket when you can get two free ones just for betting $10 on Florida and laying the points needs to have his helmet examined.” The Locos have since repriced most of their tickets to $10.
Contrast this with another new professional football league. This one has a franchise in San Diego. Talking about the San Diego Seduction, one of ten teams in the Lingerie Football League. Their Eastern Conference consists of teams in Philly, Chicago, Miami, New York, and Tampa. Western Conference has teams in Dallas, Denver, L.A., Seattle, and San Diego. The league plays a 20-game season running from September to January. Playoffs and championship game are in February. It’s indoor, 7-on-7 tackle football.
The Seduction plays at the Sports Arena and tickets go for $28 to $125. Most women are movie-star beautiful, they are dressed in very tight panties, bare belly, bra, accessorized by shoulder, elbow and knee pads, plus helmet.
Here’s the scary part: they can play.