Hey Toledo, get ready to put your hands together for your Glass City ... Goon Squad!
Or should it be the T-Town T-Bones? Or the Rust Belt Rampage?
With WWE boss Vince McMahon announcing he will give the XFL another go in 2020 — and the renegade pro football league reportedly eyeing big and mid-sized markets for its eight teams — it got us to thinking: Toledo should go top rope and throw its name into the ring.
“We have absolutely nothing to lose,” Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said. “Toledo has a great story to tell. Toledo is the sort of scrappy, tough town that I think the XFL would be attracted to, a city that has been knocked down a couple times, that has always picked itself up and is ready to fight again.”
Sure, Toledo faces longer odds than Lloyd Christmas — “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!” — same as the league itself.
The sexed-up original XFL lasted one season in 2001. The latest, allegedly gimmick-free incarnation feels more like a hair-trigger response to your irascible buddy’s complaints with the NFL than a well-thought-out alternative. So far, the league’s platform appears little more than players standing for the anthem and fewer TV timeouts.
But it should be entertaining just the same, and, for my money, the XFL will do better in Toledo.
Where else would it feel like a bigger deal?
No one cared about the XFL in big cities the first time — the Chicago Enforcers averaged 15,710 fans per game in Soldier Field — and no one in saturated pro markets will now, either. The better bet for the novelty league is places like Toledo, which, as a top-100 metro area with a population of about 287,000, is the fourth-largest city east of the Mississippi River without a pro team from one of the four major sports leagues.
Of the three ahead of us, one is a resort city (Virginia Beach) and the others (Louisville and Lexington, Ky.) are swallowed whole by college hoops. That leaves our football-mad burg and the perfectly cozy Glass Bowl as the most sensible landing spot, no?
Fine, maybe not. But you miss every shot you don’t take. Similar to Toledo’s flicked-aside bid to land Amazon’s second headquarters, there is value in the city and its economic development leaders coming together to sharpen their sales pitch.
It’s OK to think big. Take the case of Rod Smart, the running back famously known as “He Hate Me” in the XFL. As you might recall, the once-undrafted, small-school dreamer went on to play in the 2004 Super Bowl with the Carolina Panthers.
“Toledo for a long time has been the ‘He Hate Me’ of American cities,” Kapszukiewicz said. “Toledo has been the butt of jokes. The John Denver song. Trevor Noah making his joke.
“‘He Hate Me’ was someone who had been picked on and made fun of and was not taken seriously, but even he, through hard work and with a little bit of gumption, ended up in the Super Bowl. And it’s the same [with Toledo]. We’ve been picked on and looked down upon for a long time, but with hard work and with a little gumption, maybe we, too, can end up in the Super Bowl one day.”
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