#039;ex-FL#039; is alive

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 17, 2002

I thought the XFL was dead. You too? Guess what, it's not.

OK, the Vince McMahon experiment in professional football is dead - except for the career of "He Hate Me." There, however, still is an ex-FL. The ex-FL is alive and well in the NFL.

Don't believe me? Let me explain.

Monday Night Football featured the "ball coach" Steve Spurrier and the Washington Redskins against Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles. The announcers, Al Michaels and John Madden, proved the existence of the ex-FL during the game.

Every play seemed to feature a t least one ex-FLer. What is an ex-FLer, you ask. Well, it's simple really.

Watching the game and listening to Michaels and Madden provided the revelation that the ex-FL is alive. The play-by-play was all about the ex-FL. There was Antonio Freeman the ex-Green Bay Packer, Jacquez Green the ex-Tampa Bay Buc and Shane Matthews the ex-Chicago Bear. Those are just a few members of the ex-FL. There are many more, unfortunately.

The NFL no longer provides fans the opportunity to cheer for a player who is a hometown guy. Sure, there are "franchise players." Those players, however, earn their title based on their contracts and not because they are with the same team for their entire career.

This is not a new trend. The greatest wide receiver ever, Jerry Rice, is now an Oakland Raider and an ex-San Francisco 49er. Maybe that was when we, as fans, should have stood up and taken notice.

The league is now more about free agents than the annual NFL College Draft. Who is to say that David Carr will remain a Houston Texan his entire career? Remember, we all thought Drew Bledsoe would always be a New England Patriot.

It is too bad the league has turned into the ex-FL. What would players like Walter Payton, "Mean" Joe Green, Jim Brown and countless others have done if they played in the current day NFL?

Free agency has changed professional sports and I for one do not think it is helping.

Everybody loves a winner, but want happens when the winning team is made up of players the hometown fans don't know.

Of course, the Washington Redskins proved last year that an NFL Championship can not be bought. Management, however, is slow to learn that lesson and continues to experiment with free agency as a cure all rather than trying to build their teams from within.

The NBA is just as bad, if not worse, and MLB is beginning a long trek down that same winding road.

We as fans are missing out.

There are a few exceptions and that is one reason why baseball fans everywhere have to be cheering for the Minnesota Twins. The Twins have built a winning team via their farm system. They have used the amateur draft and their minor league baseball teams to make the major league club into a winner.

Hopefully, the rest of the teams in MLB will see the advantage of building from within and follow the Twins' lead. If that happens, hopefully, the NFL and NBA will see the perks that come from building their teams from the ground up.

If not, teams will soon fold due to the lack of a solid foundation.

Those teams which rely on free agency will miss out on the all-mighty dollar that comes from selling official team merchandise, especially team jerseys with the names of star players stitched across the back.

If not, fans can only turn to eBay and try to make a buck or two on their investment by trying to sell their Green Bay Packer replica jersey with "Freeman" stitched across the back in bright yellow letters.

John Wallace is the sports editor of, and columnist for, The Andalusia Star-News.