The UFL debuted this past week with a two-game slate (Photo courtesy of BleacherReport.com)
Florida, Las Vegas Win in Season Opening Weekend
(Special Resolution Sports Editorial)
New York, N.Y. (Monday, October 12, 2009) – The upstart United Football League made its debut this past weekend, with the Las Vegas Locomotives and Florida Tuskers scoring victories in their first-ever action. The UFL currently features four teams for its debut run, with the season scheduled to conclude with a championship game in Las Vegas the day after Thanksgiving.
The UFL boasts four head coaches with impressive NFL resumes in Jim Fassel (Las Vegas Locomotives), Dennis Green (California Redwoods), Jim Haslett (Florida Tuskers) and Ted Cottrell (New York Sentinels). The league is currently running its “premiere season” with three of the four franchises playing games in different markets so strategic decisions can be made next year in terms of expansion and venues. The UFL targets NFL-caliber talent on the playing field as well, giving the opportunity to players that might not step onto the field on Sundays to showcase their skills. The league also possesses former NFL starters such as quarterbacks J.P. Losman and Brooks Bollinger, runningback Tatum Bell and defensive end Simeon Rice, among many others.
The schedule for the UFL is slated for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evening games so it will not directly compete with college football or the NFL, and players are free to join NFL rosters once the UFL season concludes in November.
As far as the action on the field, the first-ever UFL game was played this past Thursday with the Locomotives knocking off the Redwoods at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, 30-7. Former Buffalo Bills starter J.P. Losman went 21-31 for 226 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Locomotives in the win, with former Arizona Cardinals tailback Marcel Shipp gaining 69 yards on the ground to lead all rushers.
The action resumed two days later with the Florida Tuskers defeating the New York Sentinels by a tally of 35-13 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Former New York Jets quarterback Brooks Bollinger led the Tusker attack with a four touchdown performance, and Tatum Bell accumulated 70 yards on the ground to lead the Florida rushing attack.
Now, back to the league as a whole. The launching of a professional football league brings with it many obstacles and a laundry list of critics. Vince McMahon and the defunct Xtreme Football League can be given a good deal of the blame for that, but the fact of the matter is this. If there was any sport in this country that leave Americans wanting more, it’s football. The UFL has no intentions of getting into the type of bidding wars with the NFL that killed the United States Football League, nor does it have the intentions of creating such gimmicks as a pre-game scramble for ball possession like the XFL. They just want to play entertaining football and provide opportunities for players to achieve life-long dreams of either reaching the NFL or retiring from the league on their own terms. Whether or not the critics give it the chance to succeed remains to be seen.
What’s really unfortunate is that everyone gets excited when a new football league appears to be on the horizon, but so many people are quick to turn their backs and join the rants about why the league can’t succeed. The truth of the matter is that the UFL appears to be our one shot at a supplemental, yet legitimate, professional football league. They have the mental backing of sports marketing mastermind Frank Vuono and former Jacksonville Jaguar executive leader Michael Huyghue as its Commissioner, as well as the financial involvement of WR Hambrecht + Company CEO Bill Hambrecht and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, the same Tim Armstrong that was an instrumental figure in turning Google into a billion dollar powerhouse. I think those guys know a little bit about success.
The UFL currently has TV deals with Versus and the Mark Cuban owned HDnet, so fans will be given the chance to see this league for themselves if there is not currently a team in their market. Maybe if we all just opened our minds a bit and gave the UFL a chance, maybe even gave it a little support, all of us football fans could get the chance to have a second long-lasting professional outdoor league in this country.
Behind closed minds and eyes, we might blow our last shot at this opportunity. Much like those players, coaches and executives that have been given a second chance at a life that did not exist a month ago, we’ll be stuck waiting on the next league to come along. The problem is next time we’ll probably be relying on a league that will prove itself illegitimate and wondering why the UFL didn’t make it. This is our shot to make sure that doesn’t happen. Like the league name says, let’s get united on this one.