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Smashmouth ball

XFL nicknames at least sound tough

Posted: Friday, August 25, 2000

NEW YORK -- With team nicknames like Hitmen, Outlaws and Maniax, the XFL left no doubt Thursday about the image it wants to project.

It'll be the New York-New Jersey Hitmen, the Chicago Enforcers, the San Jose Demons and the Memphis Maniax.

Also, the Orlando Rage, the Birmingham Thunderbolts, the Los Angeles Xtreme and the Las Vegas Outlaws.

The eight names, logos and team colors were announced at the World Wrestling Federation's garish theme restaurant and retail store in Times Square.

The smashmouth football names were no surprise -- since Vince McMahon, head of the WWF, is the spirit behind the XFL. The WWF and NBC co-own the league.

Still, XFL president Basil DeVito conceded the names could have been even more outrageous.

''Some suggestions were discarded,'' he said, explaining that he acted as ''an unbiased arbitrator'' when the final decisions had to be made.

Birmingham officials originally wanted the team named ''The Blast'' but the idea was shelved because of negative connotations from the 1963 fatal bombing of four black girls and a 1998 fatal abortion clinic bombing.

''If one-tenth of 1 percent have a reaction to the tragic events of the past, it's not worth it,'' Birmingham general manager Tim Berryman said at a news conference in Alabama.

The eight selections were the survivors of a 53-name list. Focus groups, including young males under 24 that the XFL considers its prime market, helped pare down the candidates.

The macho image extends to the logos.

In Chicago, Enforcers head coach and Hall of Fame linebacker, Dick Butkus held the team's black helmet over his head, the logo a large ''C'' with a fist ramming outward through the opening.

''The color is 'bruise,''' Butkus said. ''It's black and blue.''

While the colors seemed to be more black and purple, no one at the news conference took issue.

The first-time coach said there were some parameters in choosing a name for the new team.

''We agreed that we're not going to have any animals and nothing that flies,'' Butkus said.

In New York, Hitmen general manager Drew Pearson said his team would play ''with reckless abandon.''

''Relentless, in-your-face, hard hitting,'' he said.

DeVito said the XFL, which debuts Feb. 3, had signed no players but had letters of intent from 250, and would have at least 700 in a pool prior to a draft that would assign players to a specific team. The players would be under contract to the league rather than teams.

''The idea is to have a level playing field,'' DeVito said. ''No big-market, small-market teams.''

He said all players but quarterbacks and kickers would be paid the same -- about $45,000 for the 10-game season. Quarterbacks would get between $50,000-$55,000 and kickers about $35,000.

Also, the 38 players on the winning team will split a $100,000 jackpot after each game.

Two games will be played Saturday night, both to be televised by NBC, and two on Sunday, a day game to be televised on cable TV, and a night game, to be televised on the UPN network.



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