The XFL returns to Camping World Stadium for the first time in 22 years. The Orlando Guardians are part of the third XFL and play their first home game Sunday. The team was blown out last week in Houston 33-12. The atmosphere for their home debut may be different than the last time the XFL took the field in Orlando.
I have no idea what the crowd will be for Sunday's game and if it's 8,000-10,000 maybe that's a good crowd.
Back in 2001 when Vince McMahon debuted the first XFL Orlando was one of the major markets and there was a different buzz in the city. McMahon put his WWE flair on the hype and more than 36,000 fans turned out on February 3, 2001. The team, coached by Galen Hall, won six straight to start the season and finished 8-2 before losing in the semifinals. Jeff Brohm was the team's starting quarterback. He is now the head coach at Louisville. Brohm got hurt in a game and suffered a concussion and was advised not to play the following week. But Brohm did play in week 6 because he said "this is the XFL." Not sure that works today.
The Rage and the original XFL was gone after year one because McMahon saw ratings drop significantly after early success and he lost a ton of money.
That brings us back to today with the latest version of the league. The Rock and his ex-wife-Dany Garcia- are the financial backers for the league and confident this attempt at spring football will work. TV ratings last week were below expectations and the challenge will be to grow the audience. ESPN is the media partner and has heavily promoted the XFL and provided great time slots for games.
It is never a question of talent in these leagues, it is always a challenge to survive long enough financially to generate enough of a viewing audience and local fan interest. I am not sure what makes one think this version of a spring league works but it's not my money. But at some point the investment must see a return....
Nuggets: Speaking of 2001, when the Orlando Rage played in Orlando, that year Tiger Woods won Bay Hill for a second straight year. He would actually win the event again and again to make it four straight. He would add four more wins at Arnie's place and anyone who has lived in Orlando since back then can remember what that tournament was like when Woods teed off. From his early pro-am tee time to his late Saturday and Sunday afternoon magic(pun intended- see what I did there...Magic). Woods is not expected to be a late addition to the field for next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational. Woods played at Riviera last week and made the cut. He is not expected to play again until the Masters. I am not sure Woods will ever play at Bay Hill again and that's sad. The one-time area resident used to cherish the event. Now it's a distant memory...Orlando City returns to the pitch tomorrow to begin the 2023 MLS season as they host the New York Red Bulls. This season begins the MLS new media deal with Apple. While there will be many matches still available on traditional channels, the majority of games are shifting to the streaming platform. The question is whether Orlando City fans will find their team when they realize they are no longer on the local channel they used to be. The team and league believes you will find their games and they hope you are willing to pay for access to those games. It is an option many other pro leagues and college conferences are monitoring the public consumption of MLS. With the expected bankruptcy of Diamond Sports for their regional sports networks, MLB and the NBA believe a streaming package will be a big part of their future. The question is whether that future is sooner than later...Went to Magic game last night and still in shock I paid $5.50 for a bottle of water. I have said it for years, the price gouging fans face at games is insane and not necessary. Same goes for theme parks and just because they "have you" doesn't mean they need to get you...
Final note: Speaking of water...Zephyrhills Water comes from Zephyrhills, Florida. The town was originally called Abbott but changed its name in 1910.