September 26, 2016

Six In One – The UFL

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

For our half-dozen points this week – and considering the drought of NFL action – it seems like a good time to take a look at the United Football League.

More football? Intriguing. You’re reading the words of someone who appreciates Canada’s wide-open-spaces version of the game, as well as Arena ball’s claustrophobic freneticism. (Good news, AFL fans: after having to sit out this winter, they’re trying to refresh for the 2010 season). It’s admirable that a group of businessmen want to start up another moneymaking league not called the NCAAs.

As a matter of full disclosure, I’d love to work as a UFL promoter. Maybe it comes from reading too much about Bill Veeck, but getting in on the ground floor of this thing looks exciting. Sure, it could be the XFL or the USFL, but it could also be minor league baseball: an inexpensive, up-close look at a beloved sport. 

With that in mind, six things for the UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue to consider. And yes, I had to double-check that spelling.

Name Your Teams: The league has proposed starting four franchises this fall, yet we have no idea what the team names are and won’t until mid-July. Delaying this could become a huge problem as branding becomes key. In the early 1990s, the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars made millions on memorabilia before the teams even hit the field. We’re a sports-nut nation: people enjoy new teams and tend to support their hometown franchises. Heck, if Boston started a WNBA team, you think they wouldn’t sell hats and jerseys?

 (I know the perfect name for that hypothetical squad, by the way: The Boston Banshees. As proof that no idea is original, I’ll note that this was also the name of a local cycling club.)

You’ll Thank Me Later: continuing on my naming hot streak, here’s my list of monikers for the proposed UFL team sites through 2010.

Hartford Locomotives – call them the Locos for short
Las Vegas Bats – avoids the tempting-yet-best-left-untouched gambling issue.
Los Angeles Mayas – Mysterious and powerful, with kick-ass graphics.
New York Squid – who messes with a squid? They come out at night and look weird.
Orlando Racerunners – a speedy lizard indigenous to Central Florida.
Sacramento Salmon – the Chinook swim up the Sacramento River annually.
San Francisco Kingfishers – a local bird known for its hunting ability.

Hey, Commissioner Huyghue, take any of these you like. I’ll just put them on my resumé. (A free t-shirt wouldn’t hurt, either.) Keeping with that theme …

Stick With Your Mascots. No matter what they are, eventually they stick with you. If you remember the debut of Wally the Green Monster in 1997, your probably recall cringing. Yes, Wally was better than an actual Red Sox mascot because socks don’t do anything except get dirty, get washed, or get lost. Still, having what resembled a nauseated, morbidly obese Muppet running around Fenway didn’t exactly inspire fan loyalty. Now? He’s beloved. Go figure.

The worst mascot ever was the 1996 Olympic symbol Izzy the Whatizit, which looked like a Saturday morning cartoon character inspired by Hieronymus Bosch. Why is Izzy the worst ever? Lack of commitment. Potential fans looked at that thing and thought, if the people charged with creating this monstrosity couldn’t take the time to figure out what it is, why the heck should I?

Seriously, they should have removed the lightning bolts, changed the shoes, and called it “Georgia the Blue Frog.” Nice and easy. The lesson: most names are kind of dumb anyway, but over time, they tend to grow on fans. Regarding the NFL, you don’t hear anyone asking questions like, “What, exactly, is a Packer?” or “What if Paul Brown’s surname had been Leibowitz?”

Although, you must admit, “the Cleveland Leibowitzes” has a ring to it.

David Beat Goliath: While the UFL has preached catering to underserved markets, their first four site proposals include Las Vegas (cool), Orlando (great), New York (what?) and San Francisco (unh?).  Not sure where they’re going with those last two. Yes, the New York franchises actually play in New Jersey, and San Francisco hasn’t been a regular playoff contender since stone-washed jeans, but we’re looking at two of the more rabid fan bases in the NFL. Put in a simpler way, while someone who owns a couple of Niners jerseys may hesitate to plunk down the money for a Kingfishers jersey, a Sacramento native who’s a half-hearted Niners fan would be more likely to spring for a Salmons uniform.

Improve The Website: This has happened over the past few days (serves me right for not posting this column sooner). The league has added video from various tryouts and taped interviews with noteworthy players (ex-Patriot Jermaine Wiggins is a fine example). Still, the UFL should let their designers loose, with the type of video-game graphics that cause psychological damage in lab rats.

I’m also surprised at the lack of in-house media promoting a fan-friendly face for the UFL. A broadcaster commenting on league events would bridge the gap between the league board and the fans. (Again, I’m available: not only do I write about football, I used to work out.) It’s important to see and hear some of the tryout players and coaches in action; it would help to have a media type fill in the blanks.

If You’re Going to Blog, Blog: As of Monday the 15th, Commissioner Huyghue had blogged three times in June, putting him two ahead of the Globe’s Bob Ryan but far behind most bloggers.

Listen, I understand that this “information age” in which we live contains a hell of a lot of useless information. What I’d like is a twice- or thrice-daily accounting of what the commissioner is doing. Again, this might be a job for his assistant or the aforementioned media person: is he in New York? Is he planning a trip to Las Vegas? Has he decided on names for his freaking teams? Make no mistake: the tweeting (twittering, whatever) has been consistent. Maybe he could stick to that and cut out the blogging altogether.

I know I sound critical, but I want the UFL to succeed. It’s fun to take on a new team and get involved in its ups and downs. It’s also difficult to have too much football.

Chris Warner can be reached at [email protected]

Comments

  1. I have read up on the UFL. I, like you, have always wanted to see an alternate league succeed. I liked the USFL and followed it fairly closely. I was upset when they tried to move from the Spring and disappointed when they folded. The quality of football was high. I watched the XFL, it sucked. The quality was poor, but the worse thing was it was just poorly run and not designed for real football fans I think. No surprise given Vince McMahon’s involvement.

    With the UFL, I think they have a chance to be sort of a minor league quality alternative for awhile. Then who knows if they can get established. But the one thing I will say is, from what I have read, is they have some serious quality people involved in the league. From the Commissioner, to the investors and hiring experienced coaches, I think that gives them a shot. They have gotten some serious deep pocket people to get involved and they seem to have a good business plan. The 2009 season is really just a test run…4 teams, 6 weeks. If there was a work stoppage in the NFL in 2010, when they probably will role out at least 4 more teams and a full schedule, they would be set to really take off.

    I think they got a chance. Maybe its the root for the underdog mentality in me, but I will at least give it a chance and am thinking of going to a game when they play one in Hartford this year.

    • Chris Warner says:

      Whether it’s a college team moving up a division or a new NFL franchise, it’s always exciting when football comes to town. I’m looking forward to the expansion and seeing how they do in the underserved markets. should be fun to watch.

  2. Good point about the UFL not really doing a lot to get out there. I live in Las Vegas and am looking forward to learning more about how the new league will take shape. JIm Fassell will coach the Vegas Whatevertheirnamesare. Outside of that, I really don’t know much of anything about the league or the team that’ll play here. I suppose that’ll change soon, though.

    If the UFL gets some big names from college that might not ever be NFL material (a Graham Harrell perhaps?) and pairs them with no-name guys that fell just short from making an NFL roster, but might later (a Kurt Warner or two?), there could be compelling enough storylines to capture some attention.

    I really like that they’re looking at a short season. I’ll probably go to a couple games, but no way I’d go to seven or eight games. That short schedule is evidence that some people that know what they’re doing are involved.

  3. Maybe its not such a bad thing if they ease into it. Our expectation may be a lot of hype early (seems we’ve seen that from the other leagues who have tried this) but if these guys intend to coexist with the NFL maybe a modest approach is best. Less pre-hype gives them more flexibility with the public if they need to tweak certain things later on. Greg sees this as a test run sort of season, and if that’s the case, maybe they’re better flying under the radar. I assume they’re bankrolled as suggested of course.

    • Chris Warner says:

      From what I’ve seen and read, each owner buys into a franchise (low to mid seven figures). They’ll be broadcast on Versus.

  4. b holmes says:

    bill hambrecht lives in san francisco which is the reason for that location.

  5. b holmes says:

    terrific piece btw. i’m looking forward to the ufl if only b/c a competitor may bring some innovation to the existing league.

  6. Chris Warner says:

    UFL had its draft Thu. night – found out about it via draftdaddy.com. What’s wrong with that picture?
    http://www.ufl-football.com/press/2009/06/19/_premiere_season_draft

    P.S. Brian Toal goes to Vegas. And that’s not a movie title.

  7. Johnny T says:

    I regged some of those suggestions. Let’s see if you make me rich!

  8. Johnny T says:

    You got a name right (Locomotives); wrong city…..

  9. Chris Warner says:

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/orl-orlando-tuskers-name-rumor-ufl-072809,0,7060872.story

    Las Vegas Locomotives. Sure. Because when I go to Vegas, I think of public transportation.

  10. Bruce, NV says:

    I’ve been to the website twice to buy season tickets. It takes you to a link for a list. Haven’t heard back yet. Bad omen, JP Losman or not.

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