Monday, March 16, 2009

This Is Why Your Upstart Football League Fails: WFL

This is the NFL:




In 2005, it made 5.7 billion dollars in a market for which it has no major competition. So they’re pretty much playing a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos, except that the marbles are diamonds, and they broke the other three hippos.  

“Gee Whiz!” You must be thinking, if you are a man of moderate fortune and worse impulse control. “If I could come up with my own NFL, could I be eating some of those diamonds?”

The short answer? No. The long answer?

(This is the first in a series of hilarious doomed professional football leagues that did not even come close to making it.)

World Football League (1974-1975)



But I’m Sure It Was Special in its Own Way!

Absolutely. The WFL was revolutionary in that it realized the best way to get the NFL’s attention was to start rampantly stealing its players. And not one or two who’d accidentally killed hookers and needed to go where no audience share could find them, like the other upstart leagues. 

60 of them.

This was back when NFL players were amongst the most poorly paid professional athletes, and when the WFL came to town with its promises of shark tanks, pirate doubloons, and a monorail, the floodgates opened.  So you can credit the WFL with introducing the weird greed induced psychosis that some NFL players tend to drift into.



The Oakland Raiders lost both their quarterbacks, and the loss of three star players completely derailed the Miami Dolphins’s Super Bowl streak, a blow from which they did not recover until whenever it is that they finally recover from that. 

So how could this possibly go bad?

Have you ever purchased an NFL player? Of course not. You have a rent-controlled spleen.

The vast majority of upstart leagues are eventually dragged behind the barn and shot because of money issues. But in every league besides the WFL, the only thing they require of players is that you’ve looked at a football once, and didn't eat it right away. 

Add to the mix the fact that the WFL was giving away or severely discounting the majority of its tickets, and this meant for financial problems straight out of a Dickens novel. 

Players from the Portland Storm were reportedly fed by local citizens, while the Florida Blazers had to survive on McDonald’s vouchers. The Charlotte Hornets had their uniforms impounded, presumably because they had left them in a fire lane.

Along with teams demanding relocations (amongst them, no kidding, the Detroit Wheels), the team’s hemmoraging bottom line was such a laughingstock that, at the World Football League’s championship game, in order to avoid embarrassment over possibly bouncing a check, the prize money was just stacked in cash on a table in the middle of the field.

Oh God, it’s horrible, KILL IT.

In true WFL fashion, the day after the World Bowl, the champion’s uniforms were confiscated by sheriff’s deputies. And when you’ve become that wacky league best known for having your clothes repossessed, it’s probably not a good time to make a play for Joe Namath.

Joe, to his future internet lulz credit, actually did consider joining, but then he realized he was Joe Namath, and re-signed with the Jets. The WFL died of a broke(n) heart shortly thereafter.

Fun Fact!

This league has the great distinction of not actually ever having a single franchise out of the United States, though not for lack of trying. The furthest they got was Hawaii, where they were most likely stopped for indecent exposure. 

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