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AP photo by Brandon Wade / Dallas Renegades cornerback Josh Thornton warms up for an XFL game against the St. Louis Battlehawks on Feb. 9 in Arlington, Texas.

Until just before 3 o'clock Sunday afternoon, my plan was to watch the entire XFL game between the Dallas Renegades and the Los Angeles Wildcats, then share my thoughts on the new league.

And, no, this wasn't because I was suffering from professional football withdrawal. I don't dislike pro ball, but I don't miss it when it's over the way I do college basketball, the Masters or Wimbledon.

However, it had occurred to me earlier in the day that I was once a huge fan of the Birmingham Americans during the summer of 1974 when they began their quest to become, as it turned out, the only champion ever crowned by the World Football League, mostly because the WFL went out of business the following year.

Even if it wasn't the NFL, and even if the Americans' uniforms were confiscated by Hibbett Sporting Goods as soon as their 22-21 title win over the Florida Blazers inside Legion Field was over the night of Dec. 5, 1974, because the franchise never paid for them, it really was fun football while it lasted.

And maybe the XFL will have better financial luck than the WFL, the United States Football League, the original XFL — which lost $35 million in its lone, loony 2001 season — or the Alliance of American Football, the most recent alternative pro league to collapse.

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AP photo by Steve Luciano / Tampa Bay Vipers defensive back Anthoula Kelly tackles New York Guardians wide receiver Mekale McKay during an XFL game on Feb. 9 in East Rutherford, N.J.

What little I saw of Sunday's game as the Wildcats hosted the Renegades didn't look like a product with a long shelf life, though. It actually looked a lot more like a raggedy college game between a couple of schools that didn't yet have much cohesiveness.

Then again, I didn't get to watch all of it because just before 3 p.m. my cable went out, along with my phone and my internet, which just goes to show that bundling has its shortcomings.

In this case, it also had its rewards. For within a few minutes of this seeming catastrophe of modern life — my two teenage daughters actually had to speak to each other rather than texting while sitting less than three feet apart — they asked me if I wanted to play the board game Life with them.

Now I hadn't played a board game of any kind since they were in kindergarten. And I hadn't played Life since I was about their ages, 15 and 13, which was close to 50 years ago. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so we gathered together in my youngest daughter Ella Beth's bedroom. She and Julia Caroline got me up to date on the rules — you spin a wheel now, though I'm pretty sure you rolled dice once upon a time — and the three of us actually conversed and laughed more more than we probably had in years.

And to prove that life can sometimes imitate Life, I wound up with two kids, a charming cottage for a house and a steady if unspectacular payday. If I hadn't needed to spend $30 to remodel my yard (the game, not real life) I might have actually beaten JC and EB rather than finish third.

Sadly, a few minutes after our game concluded, the cable, phone and internet returned. Turned out I could watch the final 20 minutes or so of the football game, with the Renegades up 6-3 late in the third quarter when I tuned it in.

It got better, of course. Dallas won 25-18, which beat the spread, as ABC's broadcasting team was quick to point out, but the teams failed to cover the projected points total of 45.5.

There was also this insightful sideline interview with Wildcats receiver Nelson Spruce after the second of his touchdown catches: "Open. Touchdown."

That was it. Two words. Makes you wish the NFL and college football would force its athletes into similar conversations, doesn't it?

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AP photo by Brandon Wade / Running back Cameron Artis-Payne, who played at Auburn and in the NFL, is now with the XFL's Dallas Renegades.

This isn't to say nothing about XFL 2.0 is enjoyable. The kickoffs — designed to force returns — are a nice touch, as is not having point-after kicks, which are replaced by running a play to score one, two or three extra points, depending on which yard line you choose to run the play from.

And though the XFL is just two weeks old, the Wildcats pulled off the first 3-point conversion in league history to briefly pull within 19-18. The Wildcats had been down 19-9 before Spruce's second score.

It was also fun to hear "mic'd-up" Renegades offensive coordinator Hal Mumme (the former Kentucky head coach) and his Los Angeles counterpart Norm Chow, who once ran the Tennessee Titans' offense. Interestingly enough, Chow performed his duties from the press box while Mumme paced the sideline.

In classic Mumme fashion, the author of the Air Raid offense repeatedly told quarterback Landry Jones: "Get them on the line. Play fast. Let's do it again."

Former Auburn star running back Cameron Artis-Payne also looked like he should be in the NFL again after running for 99 yards and two touchdowns for the Renegades.

And a pretty decent crowd showed up at Dignity Health Sports Park for this one, though with tickets ranging from $30 to $71, how could they not? Parking for a little league game usually costs that much in L.A.

That doesn't mean the XFL will last. March Madness will soon be here to pull attention away from semi-scintillating football. After that comes the Masters and the start of Major League Baseball. The original XFL drew well on its opening weekend, then swiftly declined.

As for me, I'm kind of hoping my cable, phone and internet go on the blink at the same time next week. Win or lose at the game of Life, I had the time of my life sharing an electronics-free hour or so with my daughters.

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Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

 

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