The Week That Was: RIP XFL

    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 respect 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 with the outbreak of the coronavirus in mid-March it announced that it would pay all of its personnel the compensation they would have received for the entire 2020 season. In addition,  fans and the media were informed through its website that it would be returning in 2021.

     What happened between mid-March and mid-April was that the XFL’s parent owner, World Wrestling Entertainment, started hemorrhaging money in ways that it could never imagine. It was forced to ran 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 has badly hurt. The bad economics forced the WWE to publicly announce that it was laying off a number of its grapplers including Curt Hawkins who was a frequent visitor to Citi Field whenever the WWE partnered with the New York Mets on a promotion.

     Although its history comprised of only five games XFL officials have no reason to be ashamed. The quality of on-field play was surprisingly good.

     It was also not afraid to experiment with new rules such as the elimination of the extra-point kick on a touchdown and instead having a sliding scale on extra points by letting teams run a play from the 2-yard line, the 5-yard line, and the 10-yard line.

     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 clock between plays which meant more offensive plays were called.

     The XFL also provided affordable weekend pro football for families whose budgets would never allow them to attend an NFL game.

      Speaking before of the WWE, I was saddened to learn of the passing of its popular ring announcer Howard Finkel.

     Finkel was adept at getting an arena 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.

   “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 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 22nd marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day but obviously the novel coronavirus coverage 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 ( which is making reusable cups, straws, bowls, and food bag from silicone, Even though silicone is man-made and is best known for shall we say, a certain kind of cosmetic surgery, it is nontoxic and can easily be recycled.

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