X Chromosome Football

“This will be a blast!” barked Vince McMahon, the man who turned wrestling from a pseudosport into a hugely profitable pseudosport, in comments last week. He was talking about his latest spawn: the XFL, the new extreme football league, which will hit the field next year. Though it isn’t clear whether fighting will be part of the fun, McMahon did mention high-tech touches like helmetcams, which will bring viewers inside huddles and even locker rooms. (What, no crotch-cup cams?) But the best assessment of the new game was McMahon’s response to the question of why he decided to start a football league: “Because figure skating sucks.” (Munch on that, Rudy Galindo.)

A man of manly speech, McMahon also asserted that the XFL was “not for pantywaists and sissies”—in case anyone wondered. But, requisite homophobia notwithstanding, it’s interesting to consider the connection between extreme football and the ongoing incursion of women into sports reserved for men. Women’s rugby will surely beget women’s football, leaving red-blooded, brew-chugging, SUV-buying boys without a league of their own. And now that the audience for NFL games is becoming more and more like the crowd that watches Sports Night (meaning, sexually mixed), it seems inevitable that superdudes want to move football as far as possible beyond the point where women can enjoy it. Clearly, the real inspiration for the XFL (that’s X for smashmouth, pal) is the growing power of women to claim male space.

But what if it turns out that girls just wanna have X-fun? Stay tuned for seal-pup clubbing?

Mike Versus Martin

Mike Richter may have snared Best Goalie honors at this weekend’s NHL All-Stars skills competition—defeating five other netminders including Martin Brodeur—but he still trails his cross-river colleague when they meet in contests that count. Brodeur’s play jump-started the February 2 come-from-behind Devils victory, running his and his team’s regular-season unbeaten streak against the Rangers to 17 games (12-0-5). In those 17 games, Brodeur has surrendered only 29 goals—an average of fewer than two a game. By comparison, Richter has allowed 41 Jersey goals in 14 of those games. Why do the Devils bedevil Mike? Former NHL coach Pierre McGuire, now a Sports Illustrated commentator, breaks it down for Jockbeat: “The Devils’ explosive line of Peter Sykora, Jason Arnott, and Patrik Elias forces the Ranger defensemen to retreat. The Devils also play outstanding hockey along the boards. The Devils’ big forwards clog the slot area in front of the net and that traffic hurts, because most of the Rangers’ defensemen don’t clear the crease well. Richter, who is smaller than Brodeur, has a harder time controlling pucks around the crease area. Also, Richter doesn’t handle the puck nearly as well as Brodeur.” Does this mean that if the Devils dominate the two clubs’ home-and-home series this week we’ll see a Brodeur feature in The New Yorker?


  • In the most runaway “runaway” anyone in Friday’s MSG crowd could remember, Regina Jacobs won the women’s mile at the Millrose Games by a full 14 seconds. After the race, Jacobs—a Berkeley M.B.A. who was the 1999 World Championships silver medalist in the 1500 meters and is currently the only American at any distance over 400 meters to achieve greatness in track—seemed oblivious to the woeful futility of her Millrose rivals. That’s because her thoughts are never very far from one thing—Svetlana Masterkova, Russia’s 1996 Olympic and 1999 World champ. “All I’m thinking about when I’m running is Masterkova and how she’s probably thinking, ‘Ha, ha, I can just beat anyone anytime I want to.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Oh no, you can’t,’ ” explains Jacobs. “I’m going to have something special planned for her [in the Sydney Olympics]. She hates to hurt. I’m getting better. She is not. I know how to beat her now.” All right then. About 40 hours after Millrose, the 36-year-old Jacobs set an American 1000-meter record of 2:35.29 seconds in Boston. . . .
  • BellAtlantic dialed a wrong number in its new TV ad for long-distance service. Boy, about 10, excitedly phones out-of-town Dad to tell him he finished the youth-league baseball game by striking out the other team’s best hitter, using the pitch Boy and Dad “worked on, for hours!” Dad: “And hours . . . ? And hours . . . ?” Boy: “Yeah! My curveball!” Boy’s next call to Dad should be to tell him how much surgery and therapy will cost—to repair the damage that throwing the curve caused his preadolescent arm.


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