COVID-19 claimed its first professional sports league casualty when the reborn spring pro football league, the XFL, decided to pack it in for good last week.
There hasn’t been an official statement from the league confirming its demise but the highly respected Sports Business Journal ran a detailed cover story on it. An email I sent to the league’s commissioner, Oliver Luck, bounced back to me, as did my missives to other XFL officials.
When the XFL suspended operations in March it announced that it would pay its personnel the compensation they would have received for the season. Fans and media were informed through its website that it would return in 2021.
What happened between then and mid-April was that the XFL’s parent owner, World Wrestling Entertainment, started hemorrhaging money in ways that it could never imagine. It had to run a very stripped-down version of its annual Wrestlemania extravaganza from its Orlando Performance Center with no spectators.
The WWE depends on big arena shows across the world and the pandemic has obviously hurt. The bad economics forced the WWE to announce that it was laying off a number of grapplers including Curt Hawkins, who was a frequent visitor to Citi Field whenever the WWE partnered with the Mets on a promotion.
Although its teams only played five games each, the XFL has no reason to be ashamed. The quality of play was surprisingly good.
The league wasn’t afraid to experiment with new rules such as eliminating the extra-point kick on a touchdown to instead have a sliding scale on extra points by that saw teams run a play from the 2-, 5-and 10-yard lines.
Other innovations were that the kicking team could not start downfield to stop a returner on the other team until that player touched the football. There was also a shorter play clock, which meant more offensive plays were called.
The XFL also provided affordable weekend football for families whose budgets would never allow them to attend an NFL game.
Speaking of the WWE, I was saddened to learn of the passing of its popular ring announcer Howard Finkel. Finkel was adept at getting a crowd worked up at the villain du jour. A great example was his introduction of Russian heel Nikolai Volkoff (who in reality was Josip Peruzovic from Croatia). “Mr. Volkoff requests that you all rise and respect his singing of the Soviet national anthem!” he said proudly into his mic at Madison Square Garden back in the ’80s.
Fans immediately pelted the ring with garbage as Volkoff started warbling. Finkel had done his job once again.
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Life and style
“The One World Together At Home Concert” provided some much needed entertainment on a dull Saturday night while nicely saluting those who have continued to work on the front lines during this scary time.
The Rolling Stones, whose members are all in their mid-70s, gave the most memorable performance, in my opinion, with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Mick Jagger surprised me by showing that he is actually a pretty good acoustic guitar player.
The show was the brainchild of Lady Gaga ,who opened the evening with a jaunty piano rendition of the Charlie Chaplin-penned “Smile,” which is a tune most associated with Nat King Cole.
April 22 marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day but obviously the novel coronavirus overshadowed it.
In spite of that, ecological sustainability is resonating with the public more than ever and private industry is responding to market demand.
A case in point is a company with a humorous name, Go Sili (gosili.com), which is making reusable cups, straws, bowls and food bags from silicone. Even though silicone is manmade and is best known for, shall we say, a certain kind of cosmetic surgery, it is nontoxic and can easily be recycled.