Rage, Bolts win in XFL ... but ratings continue to drop

Posted: Monday, February 19, 2001

NEW YORK -- The XFL is losing viewers at a staggering rate.

The fledgling football league NBC-TV jointly owns with the World Wrestling Federation lost another quarter of its television audience on the network, according to preliminary Week 3 ratings, after a 50 percent drop the previous week.

And that bad news comes despite a tight game that wasn't decided until the final play, with the Los Angeles Xtreme beating the Las Vegas Outlaws 12-9 on a last-second field goal.

The preliminary overnight rating for Saturday night's XFL broadcast on NBC was 3.8, meaning an average of 3.8 percent of television homes in the country's largest 49 markets were tuned in at any given time. That represents a 25.5 percent decline from last Saturday's overnight rating (5.1), and a 63 percent fall from the debut broadcast (10.3).

It also left NBC last among the four major networks during prime time on Saturday for the second straight week. The XFL drew about half as many TV households as CBS's prime-time lineup of dramas, and was also well behind ABC and Fox. NBC easily won the night of the XFL opener, boosted by a curiosity factor.

The national ratings for NBC's first two XFL telecasts dropped between 7.5 percent and 10 percent from the overnight numbers. A similar fall would leave the Week 3 national rating somewhere between 3.4 and 3.5 -- well short of the 4.5 rating advertisers were guaranteed their commercials would reach.

The plummeting ratings mirror what happened to the USFL, another outdoor spring football league.

The USFL -- which, unlike the XFL, lured some top talent from the NFL -- went from a 14.2 rating in its first game to 7.4 in its second in 1983. The rating dropped to 3.3 by Week 15, and the USFL folded after three seasons.

BYLINE1:By BARRY WILNER

BYLINE2:AP Football Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The XFL team from Florida heated up in the cold of Giants Stadium to remain unbeaten.

The Orlando Rage rallied to beat the New York-New Jersey Hitmen 18-12 Sunday night, leaving the Rage at 3-0 and the Hitmen winless in as many games in the new league.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jeff Brohm, looking like Steve Young, scrambled 33 yards down the middle, juking three defenders on his way to the winning touchdown with 2:33 remaining.

When the sputtering offenses found some rhythm in the second half, the announced crowd of 25,626 -- perhaps 20,000 fans actually were on hand in 30-degree temperatures with a wind-chill of 8 -- came alive.

Maybe the spectators were more inspired by the gyrating cheerleaders, fireworks and miked players with their primal screams, all staples of the XFL. But they weren't exiting because of dull football and the frigid conditions, as they did the previous week at Giants Stadium.

Bolts 14, Enforcers 3

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Duane Butler scored on a 98-yard interception return with less than two minutes to play as the Birmingham Bolts beat the Chicago Enforcers 14-3 in the XFL on Sunday.

''I saw the pass and just broke on the ball and was able to grab it and there wasn't anybody in front of me,'' Butler said.

The interception was the third turnover by Chicago. The others also came in Birmingham territory, including a fumble by running back John Avery in the first quarter.

''We had interceptions and fumbles at the wrong times and when you do that it makes for a long day,'' Chicago coach Ron Meyer said.

Birmingham improved to 2-1, and Chicago dropped to 0-3.

Avery came into the game as the league's second-leading rusher. He gained 96 yards against the Bolts' defense that limited the Enforcers to 164 total yards.

The Enforcers' only score came on a 33-yard field goal by Andy Crossland in the first quarter.

Bolts linebacker James Willis, the league's leading tackler, had 11 stops. Butler had nine tackles and defensive back Chris Shelling had eight.

James Bostic, who played at Auburn, scored the Bolts' other touchdown on a 2-yard run with 1:36 left in the first half. Bostic rushed for 82 yards on 23 carries.

Bolts quarterback Casey Weldon completed 16 of 27 passes for 152 yards. Stepfret Williams was Weldon's favorite target, catching seven passes for 81 yards.

With the temperature in the 40s, the crowd was considerably down from the more than 36,000 who attended the Bolts' opener two weeks ago. The announced crowd Sunday was 17,582.

The game featured offsetting personal foul penalties that seemed to be borrowed from the XFL's relative, the WWF. After a third-quarter play, Enforcers' tackle Christopher Perez chopped Willis below the neck, almost mimicking a wrestling move. Willis stumbled backward, then shoved Perez to the ground.



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