Messrs. Hambrecht, Armstrong, and Cuban? Miguel Cervantes Called…

31 05 2007

…He already wrote this story.

So, this UFL thing? Our thoughts, after this clicky thing:

Bill Hambrecht and Tim Armstrong: two dudes who want to create a new football league. Fine. There are enough NFL castoffs to go around. That doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Note that the following comes from It’s Still Football’s exhaustive* study of the only non-NFL football league in this country to only struggle like the asthma-afflicted kid trying to complete the mile run in 10th grade. You may remember the World League The USFL? The XFL? They’re the kids who DIED doing the mile run, because the athletic kids mocked them so badly that, after they got lapped for the third time, they dragged themselves off to the swamp behind the stadium and threw themselves in. Now they’re becoming petroleum.

Let’s address why they’re screwsville and why the AFL has managed to become that kid who somehow made it through the run in a reasonable time, but never looked particularly athletic, and always sort of kept to themselves and their weird-but-pleasant friends, and out of nowhere started doing plays and being kind of funny, so maybe they’re not cool-cool, but the cool kids talk to them, and they’re relatively well-liked. Not that I know that guy. Where was I? Ah yes, dumb-ass ideas.

Hambrecht’s plan includes “an eight-team league playing in cities with no N.F.L. presence, at the same time of year as the N.F.L. , with a startup in the fall of 2008.” You’re going to play in the fall? AGAINST the NFL schedule? Oh, and a little thing I like to call COLLEGE FOOTBALL? Please. As a (reportedly) very savvy Wall Street Guy, you have to be smarter than that. One of the major reasons that the arena league has been able to shuffle inexorably forward like a helmeted-and-padded zombie** is that they have never competed directly with either of those two institutions. Never ever. Never ever ever. Ever ever ever ever ever ever. Because it’s stupid, it’s foolhardy, and it’s a death wish. Oh, and the “clever” idea to play on Friday nights, when the NFL never plays isn’t going to help. Even in the under-served markets, there’s high school football on Fridays. That’s just rude to those kids. Won’t someone think of the children?

On the other hand, they do have Mark Cuban, who apparently wants to get in on the team they’re looking to put in Vegas. Didn’t Cuban and Donald Trump have some billionaire’s slap-fight a while ago? (Answer: yes. Hee.) I hope and pray that Cuban’s interest stems from this grudge, and his thinking goes something like, “The Donald’s shitty alterna-NFL was a total disaster. I’m going to make a faux-NFL too, and as long as I make at least $3.77, I’ll have beaten that sonofabitch.” Oh, you wacky bazillionaires: is there anything you won’t do?

Mark Cuban

“Really? You don’t think this’ll work? What could go wrong?”

Mind you, I like Cuban. I think Mark Cuban’s a riot, and Donald Trump is a banzai wackmobile, so I’d rather Cuban succeed than Donald. The only good thing Trump did is getting the crappy Sun Times buildingon the river replaced with something pretty.  Cuban already has his thoughts up on blog maverick, and they seem pretty reasonable. Unfortunately he doesn’t address the biggest concern, which is the fact that the fall market is already saturated with football, and a new league has to operate with limited overlap to get any attention. #6 on his list is “It’s a great TV product,” which is dead-on, but unfortunately, every major network (right?) has a deal with the NFL and NCAA. So, good luck on Versus, TBS, or USA. Again, the AFL used the fact that they’re not running concurrently with the NFL to finagle TV time on ESPN and NBC.

As an aside, Mark, if you want a niche football team so badly, buy the Gladiators, and make them a Vegas Event. I’ve talked about this before, and it bears repeating: IF YOU’RE GOING TO PUT A TEAM IN LAS VEGAS, DO IT RIGHT. Fix the Gladiators, Mark, or give me the $30 million you were going to use for your United Football League. I could sure use the cash.

Speaking of cash, perhaps most intriguing is the idea of throwing money at NFL players who, due to NFL salary cap restrictions, would be payed more modestly as a second-tier player in the NFL than as a first-tier player in the UFL. I can’t decide if this is genius or folly. You see, another part of the AFL’s survival can be contributed to the fact that teams haven’t been able to throw obscene amounts of money at playersdue to the AFL’s salary restrictions. It’s kept any team from going broke by spending most of their capital on, say, Daunte Cullpepper, hoping for the best, and still ending in the red. However, it has kept the AFL from pursuing marquee names. When It’s Still Football gets excited about Adrian McPherson, Shaun King, and assorted Northwestern alumni, you know it’s kind of a shallow pool. Though again, if you’re going directly up against Goliath on his territory, on the very weekends he traditionally crushes peasants beneath his mighty fists, you’re going to need a slingshot filled with people more interesting than Chad Hutchison, so an all-or-nothing approach might behoove them.

So far, it’s just Bill, Tim, and Mark, searching for more obscenely rich people to – best case scenario – develop expansion opportunities for the NFL, and be absorbed like the (A doesn’t stand for Arena) AFL. The only city that’s likely to be a truly good idea is Mexico City, and Las Vegas might work. If any UFL competition pops up in Los Angeles, the NFL’s going to fast-track some other team’s relocation or expansion, so that’s unlikely to be a good idea. And if they try to gimmick it up with new rules and whatnot, be prepared to flush that “NFL’s NBDL” dream down the drain, too.

It all comes down to this: they would do well to note that the Arena League is the only league to have survived longer than 4 years in competition with the NFL because they haven’t competed directly with the NFL. There’s more than enough room for extra football, but not on the NFL’s terms.

Good luck?

*Note: Not actually exhaustive.
**Note: My similes are AWESOME.

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