When word got out that pro wrestling impresario Vince McMahon intends to bring back the XFL, the cellphone of former Las Vegas Outlaws QB Ryan Clement began to light up. You’ve got two years to get in shape, the text messages said.
Clement is 42 and like Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” he won’t be making a comeback. He is delighted the XFL appears to be making one.
To paraphrase the walk-off line from the classic movie: “All right, Mr. McMahon. We’re ready for our close-up.”
But will Las Vegas even be in the picture? Doesn’t appear likely. With the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas coinciding with the planned return of the XFL, a local tourism official said he would be surprised if the new stadium authority didn’t obtain a no-compete clause at Sam Boyd Stadium.
They will probably love XFL2 in Salt Lake City and places like that, Ryan Clement said.
Football in brief
“It sounds like they are getting rid of halftime and will have a two-hour game in a simpler format,” said the former Miami Hurricanes quarterback, speaking from his Denver-area home. “There’s going to be more football opportunities for guys, for coaches, more media opportunities. I’m excited.”
It also sounds as if guys won’t have to sacrifice a body part to satisfy the blood lust of football fans. In its first incarnation, that was mostly what the XFL was about. It also was about scantily clad cheerleaders and wrestling announcers as broadcast booth analysts and a “scramble for possession” instead of a coin flip.
The XFL lasted only one season. Football fans either tired of scantily clad cheerleaders (doubtful) or of the mediocre brand of football (probable). But Ryan Clement pretty much owes his post-football career to the XFL’s blood lust.
During the Outlaws’ second game, he suffered a separated shoulder after being face-planted after the whistle by Shante Carver of the Miami Maniax. Carver received a 15-yard penalty. Clement received a prescription for pain killers, which became an addiction.
When the pain killers turned him into a zombie, he literally went to pot. Marijuana got him off the opiates. Clement went back to school and got his law degree. He now owns a consulting business that advises lobbyists and proponents of the burgeoning medical marijuana industry.
Brian Bosworth, stepping in for Jerry “The King” Lawler, said in the broadcast booth that hitting quarterbacks late “was going to kill the XFL.” Clement said the threat of football-related Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy sure diluted the talent in a youth football league in Denver in which he was coaching.
“Parents will let kids play lacrosse or soccer but will not let them play football,” he said. “I think Vince has read the tea leaves. He is reacting to the market again. He is not going to make the same mistakes twice.”
Long odds remain
It remains to be seen if pro football devoid of unnecessary roughness and halftime and scantily clad cheerleaders will resonate with football fans. But also do not forget that it was the XFL that gave the NFL sky cam and quarterbacks with microphones, which is how Peyton Manning barking “Omaha” at the line of scrimmage became a thing.
And then there was “He Hate Me.”
— ESPN (@espn) January 25, 2018
When Clement returned from his shoulder injury, his primary responsibility was to hand off to a little running back from Western Kentucky named Rod Smart — aka “He Hate Me.” XFL players were encouraged to put nicknames or whatever they pleased on the back of their jerseys, something major league baseball copied last season during the advent of Players Weekend.
Smart was quick, but there were lots of running backs in the XFL with good foot speed. “He Hate Me” was the only one who would play in the Super Bowl (for the Carolina Panthers).
Clement said he considered putting the name of a buddy’s tavern on the back of his jersey before settling on his surname. He would not go on to play in the Super Bowl like his buddy Rod Smart. He did not play another down of professional football, unless you count his time with the Colorado Ice of the United Indoor Football League.
But when Vince McMahon announced he was bringing back the XFL, Ryan Clement’s cellphone lit up again and again. People remembered, and that made him happy.