XFL Press Release: Feb 4, 2000 - Don't bet against McMahon




Don't bet against McMahon

By Bob Raissman
Appeared in the New York Daily News, Sunday, February 4, 2000

On the occasion of Vince McMahon rolling out his plan for a new professional football league known as the XFL the WWF impresario was asked if he was going legit.

"May I never, ever be thought of as legit," McMahon said. "Anything but that."

The tone was strikingly similar to one of McMahon's WWF stars, Chris Jericho, aka Y2J. It is fitting in the second month of the new century, McMahon, a fellow who has often been linked to the decline of western civilization, is starting a new football league.

Vince McMahon

And it was clear, as he answered questions from those in attendance at his new WWF eatery, McMahon doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks about his plan.

When one gentleman informed McMahon that a couple of Wall Street firms, after hearing about the XFL launch, downgraded the WWF stock, the wrestling boss pulled a page out of Stone Cold Steve Austin's script.

"They can kiss my ass," McMahon shot back.

The answers didn't disappoint anyone who views McMahon from a purely black and white perspective. Breaking him down is not simple. McMahon bristled at the notion he was somehow already not "legit." He said this would mean what he does now is illegitimate, explaining the success of the WWF as an entertainment property in terms of TV ratings and revenues voids that characterization.

"But in terms of my personal perception, I am who I am," McMahon said after the press conference. "I'm a bit of a renegade, but a damn good businessman. I'm never going to go legitimate in terms of the perception of me personally, or sellout, as the case may be."

No, this new football league ain't about McMahon's desire to someday be compared to the NFL's founding fathers. Like any other sports venture the goal is the same money. Big money. And it has nothing to do with kicking the NFL's butt either.

McMahon has already achieved that big-time. His Monday night "Raw is War" cablecasts on USA Network have eaten in to a young demographic coveted by the NFL and the ABC Sports suits who televise "Monday Night Football." There is no end in sight to that trend.

Now, what McMahon is attempting to do is take a dead sports period February-April where general TV viewership is high, and use the Super Bowl as a table-setter for his own football league.

Already there are skeptics. Yesterday, all these sports financial analysts were calling around town looking to peddle quotes on why the XFL will fail.

McMahon envisioned this script.

"I love it. I love the long odds, absolutely," McMahon said. "That's what I'm all about all my life. Everyone is skeptical. I even expect people to say, 'Oh my God no. The World Wrestling Federation in pro football oh no!' I don't care what they say because the public understands us."

That's why this thing has a chance. McMahon already has a built-in fan base, a very loyal fan base that no other fledgling football league could count on.

He also can count on football junkies who are looking for something to watch before NFL Draft day hits. Most importantly, McMahon knows how to make his TV product look like an event, especially to viewers between the ages of 12 and 24.

The nationally televised XFL games will likely air on Sunday night, probably on UPN (Ch. 9 here). They won't have much sports competition. The trick will be catching the channel surfers and getting them to stick with the XFL.

To that end, McMahon has brought in Mike Weisman, the former executive producer of NBC Sports. He is a true innovator. Weisman will have complete freedom during XFL telecasts, which means he will be placing microphones and cameras anywhere he wants including in the huddle.

Between now and when the XFL debuts in 2001, many football purists will be hammering the concept. Some will be football writers. Others will come from the NFL establishment. The louder they yell the more they sound like McMahon's critics the better his chances to succeed.

How do I know this? I've seen this script before.


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