by John Furgele
Lost in the shuffle of turkey, NFL football and Tiger Woods were two dramatic events that occurred in what most would call minor league sports. The United Football League wrapped up its first season with the Las Vegas Locomotives beating the Florida Tuskers 20-17 in overtime to win the UFL Championship and $5,000 per man. The announced attendance was 14,801 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Vegas.
I’m sure that most Americans did not watch the game or have even heard of the UFL, but the quality of play was better than average. The league did not hide behind gimmicks, they tried to sell football, which unless it’s the NFL is a hard thing to do. The league has solid coaches in Jim Fassel, Jin Haslett, Dennis Green (though he doesn’t look too healthy) and Ted Cottrell. All have NFL experience and Fassel, of course, led the Giants to the 2000 NFC Championship and a Super Bowl appearance.
I’m sure the league will fold soon, if not next month, perhaps after next season. Reports indicate that the league will lose $30 million in its first year, a figure that “was expected.” Well, expected or not, do you continue to play at that much of an operation loss?
I will root for the league to come back. I watched a few games and liked what I saw. The players can play and it was clear that they were coached well. But, I’m an old softie. I like the underdogs. I watch bowling on television and watch non-BCS conference football games. I was more pumped for BYU-Utah than I was Alabama-Auburn and so be it. I also watch MLS soccer and took delight in the 2009 MLS Cup. I’ll trumpet the league, but they don’t need me to watch, they need the regular sports fan. I do think if people like football—and all indications are that Americans do—then why wouldn’t they give the UFL a chance? I’ll tell you one thing: the UFL Championship Game was much better than Lions-Packers and Cowboys-Raiders, a lot better. For as good as the NFL can be, it can also be painfully bad. Simply, there are a lot of boring, sloppily played games in the NFL. But, the fans don’t care. They watch and watch some more. My point is if you like to watch football, then why not watch the UFL and the NFL.
Yesterday, the 97th Grey Cup—the CFL Championship Game—was played in Calgary between the Montreal Alouettes and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. For those scoring at home, there have been 43 Super Bowls and 97 Grey Cups, so let’s give our neighbors up north some credit about football. This game had everything. The underdog (Saskatchewan) jumps out to a 17-3 halftime lead. In the 4th quarter, they lead 27-11, but back comes Montreal. They score to make it 27-17, then get the two point conversion to make it 27-19. They score again to close to 27-25, but miss the two pointer. Their defense needs a two-and-out (only three downs in Canadian football) and they get it. They drive down to the 40 and line up for a 43 yard field goal to win the game. The kicker misses, but Saskatchewan is called for too many players on the field (they had 13, in the CFL, you’re allowed 12). The kicker (Damon Duval) gets another chance, this time from 33 yards and of course, he makes it to give the Alouettes a 28-27 win in one of the zaniest and dramatic games I have ever seen.
This weekend was nutty for me. I watched football on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and none of it was NFL football. But, between the UFL, the NCAA and the CFL. It was good. Very good. I hope that next year, more people will join me and watch some UFL and CFL football as well.