Amateur hour

The XFL can't seem to get beyond ineptitude and lame behind-the-scenes material.

Published February 12, 2001 6:35PM (EST)

The XFL's ratings plummeted in Week 2. Maybe people were just curious the first week and didn't come back. Maybe they were unimpressed by the level of play.

And maybe the XFL is just putting on a bad TV show.

Sure, the league and NBC made some improvements to the television product this weekend. There was less reliance on that overhead camera, which looks cool but makes it kind of hard to see little things like how many yards a play gained or lost. And they seem to have cut down on the disorienting switch from the overhead camera to the "regular" grandstand camera while a pass is in the air.

Still, the ineptitude on display is pretty remarkable for network television. At halftime of the Chicago Enforcers-Los Angeles Xtreme game Saturday, we waited to get some examples of that "all access" voyeurism we were promised. Instead, we were treated to silent locker-room shots of players and coaches talking while idiotic wrestling announcer Jim Ross told us over and over that we'd be hearing those behind-the-scenes conversations "a little later."

The XFL's "all access" gimmick is the best thing it has going. Hearing what coaches and players, and players and players, say to each other in the course of a game and at halftime can be fascinating. Xtreme quarterback Tommy Maddox angrily yelling, "If he can't make it, let's don't kick it!" at coach Al Luginbill after a missed field goal Saturday was a great example. (Not at all fascinating are the sideline interviews: Whatever little of note ballplayers have to say to reporters after a game, they have even less to say during a game, especially when they're trying to catch their breath or figure out if they're supposed to be in the huddle right now.)

Anyway, before we could get to the locker-room conversations, we first had to sit through an interminable, pointless conversation between Ross, wrestler turned governor turned idiotic color commentator Jesse Ventura and wrestler the Rock. The Rock refers to himself in the third person. A lot. King Kaufman got bored. King Kaufman wanted to hear the locker room conversations. The Rock kept talking. King Kaufman thinks he had a birthday or two as the Rock yammered on about the Rock.

Finally, Ross told us, it was time to go to the locker room. Cut to Luginbill saying, "... play together as a team. Now come on, men!" and then the team running out the door.

Fascinating! Thanks, NBC!

By King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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