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  • Wednesday, August 23, 2000

    XFL could be blessing for players

    By JIM TAYLOR -- Calgary Sun

     Here's what I do if I'm a CFL hotshot being wooed by the Extreme Football League.

     Through my agent, I tell Vince McMahon I will sign one or a series of five-month contracts, February through May, providing each contains a clause that makes me a free agent June through December.

     I further instruct my man to inform my CFL team that I will play for it with my usual full-blown flair from training camp through Grey Cup. And I graciously accept both salaries.

     Well, why not?

     All I'm doing is turning my chosen profession into a year-round situation, just like lawyers and doctors and pipe-fitters and waitresses and sports writers.

     OK, the old bod might suffer some from the continual wear-and-tear, but no more so than the mental and physical stress of people in less romantic jobs, taking a second job to feed the kids or doing a full shift to pull down the extra dough for night school classes to get the education that might lead to the job that gives them a better chance.

     Where is it written that professional football has to be part-time work?

     If a player wants to put in the time and effort to make some extra money, why should he be stopped -- and legally, COULD he be?

     There is precedent.

     NFL Europe -- The World League of American Football until someone noticed the initials spelled W-LAF -- is a spring league just as the XFL will be.

     Players have jumped directly to the CFL without a break. The only difference is that they then become CFL property and require a release to go back.

     It's not even a new idea. The great Walter Payton wanted to play for both the Chicago Bears in the fall and a USFL team in the spring.

     He was shot down, but in these times when every law short of those of physics is a violation of someone's human rights, who's to say how the courts would rule should a player take a league to the wall?

     Yes, it would require co-operation.

     But from the XFL's viewpoint, it might make sense.

     As matters stand now, with the agreement allowing NFL clubs to sign CFLers entering their option years, the Canadian league is a much better route for aspiring NFLers than a flyer in an ersatz league where a guy heading for the end zone might be clobbered by the referee or a chair.

     For the CFL, it could be a partial answer to an XFL salary structure it can't possibly match.

     It could get confusing if, say, the NFL signed a CFLer heading into his option year only to learn that he's the XFL's from February through May.

     But the seasons still won't clash.

     How many CFLers does the NFL take every year anyway, and how many of them stick?

     Somewhere between the CFL's semi-panic and the brash overconfidence of the crawly Mr. McMahon lies the truth about the XFL's chances.

     NBC's 30% ownership and ready-made TV slots give it a chance.

     But America has proved on at least three occasions that it considers spring football a crock.

     If attendance is restricted to wrestling fans, their tractor caps sideways and set on lock, it's doomed.

     In the meantime, it's just a whole new set of job opportunities in one of the more unusual professions.

     Maybe both leagues should axe the anthems and play Moonlight Becomes You.



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