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CNN Today

A Football League of Their Own: XFL Debuts This Weekend

Aired February 2, 2001 - 2:52 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to talk about the XFL right now. On the field, promoters say it's a stripped-down, blood- and-guts version of American-style football. Sounds warm and fuzzy, doesn't it? But it may be the sideline antics that make or break the new XFL, kicking off tomorrow.

Here's CNN's Frank Buckley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, XFL AD)

ANNOUNCER: There's a new brand of football coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's called the XFL.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hut!

BUCKLEY: The players, former NFLers and castoffs from other football leagues. Hungrier players, say promoters, making no more than $50,000 a year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, XFL AD)

DICK BUTKUS, DIR. OF FOOTBALL OPERATIONS: How about this? Kill the guy with the ball.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: Old-school great Dick Butkus is the league's director of competition, but modern-era media mogul Vince McMahon is the man behind the league.

VINCE MCMAHON, XFL CREATOR: The XFL is a live reality show inside arguably the best sport on television: football.

BUCKLEY: McMahon is also the man behind this: the highly- successful World Wrestling Federation. McMahon says the XFL will not be faked football. But there will be cameras in the huddle, different rules to speed up play, no "in the grasp" rule to protect quarterbacks, no watching a ball roll dead on punts. BUTKUS: You can make your move to the refrigerator or the john when you see it's fourth down. In our league, I think it's going to create a little excitement because there is no fair catch.

BUCKLEY: The league is marketing itself to young males.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The XFL cheerleaders: Don't worry, we'll teach them how to cheer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: Cheerleaders allowed to date players and display their personalities on TV.

KARLA, CHEERLEADER: I think the XFL cheerleaders are going to start a new stereotype for cheerleaders.

BUCKLEY (on camera): Some XFL teams will use the same stadiums used by NFL teams, like Giants Stadium here in East Rutherford, New Jersey. But critics of the new league say the level of play in the XFL will fall short of the NFL.

(voice-over): Others say it will play -- to the lowest common denominator.

PHIL MUSHNICK, "NEW YORK POST": The XFL's game plan is the same as the World Wrestling Federation's game plan. It is to sell sex and violence under the cloak of some sort of a quasi-sport or some sort of a competition that really serves as just a prop.

BUCKLEY: But players, like Charles Puleri, a backup quarterback in other leagues and a bit player in the movies -- he's the fireman loading Ben Stiller into an ambulance -- see the league as an opportunity to shine.

CHARLES PULERI, QUARTERBACK: Between the white lines, it's going to be professional football. What happens outside of the lines is: Who knows?

BUCKLEY: Other leagues, like the USFL have come and gone. But this one is backed by McMahon's marketing machine and NBC, "Jesse the Body" the Governor Ventura providing color commentary on its broadcasts, McMahon predicting his new league will set the bar for the NFL in the future.

MCMAHON: They're going to say: Geez, why can't the NFL be more like the XFL? And, quite frankly, they're going to have to be, because we're going to break new ground and allow the fan access to this game, which is something the NFL has never done.

BUCKLEY: Frank Buckley, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: All righty now! Can't wait for that one.

JOIE CHEN CNN ANCHOR: Wait until they get into, like, ballet: World Wrestling Federation ballet.

ALLEN: You think that's going to happen?

CHEN: Yes, that's the next thing.

ALLEN: OK.

CHEN: You heard it here first.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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