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Q & A: XFL PRESIDENT BASIL V. DeVITO

Q & A: XFL PRESIDENT BASIL V. DeVITO

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An exclusive interview with XFL president Basil V. DeVito Jr., who was in Memphis to watch the Maniax play the San Francisco Demons Saturday night at the Liberty Bowl. How did tonight’s production go? The only thing I was praying for was ‘not an overtime.’ Last week, everything was conspired against us. This [the NBC primary game between the L.A. Extreme and Las Vegas Outlaws] was a great finish right at the last second. A 47-yard field-goal, I don’t care what league you’re in, that’s one hell of a kick. What are the differences between producing this live sport and something scripted like wrestling? I’ve been in production of NBA, rodeo, professional football -- both in the NFL and here -- and WWF, so I think the similarities are that what we are trying to accomplish before the game, when the fan walks in, we are trying to grab and deliver some entertainment and information and bring them through the whole game. Obviously, the challenge here is that the game dictates the pacing. The challenge to us as event producers is to have enough material so that you can work with the flow of the game. That’s the biggest difference because in the WWF, we can control the pace and tempo and leave everybody screaming on that high note and everybody always wants to come back. In wrestling, there are villains and there are heroes. Who are they in this league? You know what, in the old days of the WWF, there were heroes and villains. Today that no longer holds the case. There are not that many people you know in life that you absolutely like. There are no really good, good, good guys. Even with your best friend, there’s a shade of gray in there. There’s not really the blacks and whites anymore. DeVito is interrupted by a phone call from NBC Chairman Dick Ebersol. Ebersol apologizes for mistakes made during the broadcast and says it won’t happen again. DeVito continues the interview. How are your broadcast teams doing? That was the best telecast we have had, and that’s the thing to say each week, ‘that’s the best.’ I think they’re doing well. At first, we had so much explaining to do. You’re starting out with a brand new thing. We knew we had this desire to explain all the differences in who we were and we were searching ourselves. How do you explain yourself? It’s like pick-up lines, the first thing you might say and we had to say something. Now it’s all coming from the field, you have a team that’s 1 and 2 and a team that’s 2 and 1 and they’re going in different directions and that’s what the drama of real sport brings to us. What’s your take on the cold shoulder a network like ESPN has been giving you coupled with the fact that ESPN is owned by ABC? Well, their company spent a billion dollars for the NFL [shrugs shoulders]. The thing about it is, having worked with some of the multiple ABC networks, I will say that there has always been, regardless if there is a conscious point, I don’t necessarily think there is any one person or any memo or specific point of view. But there is a culture. There’s producers in different places and on-air talent and everybody makes an assumption of ‘This is who we are and I’m working all these hours and I know the company doesn’t want me to do that.’ Often, I find it within the culture of that kind of company that everyone will go to that side because that’s the perception. Interesting enough, ESPN.com has utilized the XFL quite often. Our fans are very Internet savvy and that internet group isn’t that dyed-in-the-wool group, so they don’t have that company point-of-view in their head. I think ultimately, we will crawl into that consciousness there. Tonight’s game, they really don’t want to ignore that. People are going to want to know. And if Fox or CNN or MSNBC is giving the score and people are tuning in to see the score and ‘Oh my God, why am I not getting it?’ [another shrug] Is there talk of expansion? We’ll probably expand in year three. I’d like to go four more. When we first started, a four-team division did not seem immediately to be something we would stay with for a while. Then what happened? The NFL went to four team divisions. I think two years from now, when everybody is used to seeing four team divisions, that just came our way. There must be plenty of applications: Especially since we have been playing in [San Francisco’s] Pac Bell park, and we are proving that we can co-exist with a baseball team. It opens up a lot of opportunities if you are looking for a 30-40 thousand-seat baseball stadium.

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