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In these final days before the XFL Memphis Maniax journey to Alabama to face the Birmingham Thunderbolts in both teams’ inaugural game on Sunday, Feb. 4, the question of whether or not the league is fake seems more like a soft whisper than any true outcry. Vegas bookies are booking (lightly), teams are practicing. Coaches coach, players play. But if it isn’t faked, that is, if the outcome of the games are not scripted in the same way that XFL co-owner Vince McMahon produces his wrasslin’ “sports” entertainment, then is the XFL for real? Maniax head coach Kippy Brown has a simple reply to this. “This is a fun league,” he says. But “I get paid to win. I’m not here to have fun.” That’s it. That’s the attitude. For all the hype and hullabaloo over how different the various aspects of the game seem to be from the XFL’s more subdued cousin, the NFL, the persona of the coach remains the same. Confident. Honest. Straight forward. Brown doesn’t talk like an amateur because he has been a professional football coach for over 20 years. Of course, how his team -- made up of players from all walks of the amateur and professional football experience -- complements the coach remains to be seen. Even in its best light, the XFL is going to have to work a miracle to be more than just a stopping point where NFL hopefuls can showcase their wares before a national audience in hopes a “pro scout” will look their way. While the league has its salaries frozen per position, the XFL will not be able to lure away top talent from either the college or the pro ranks. Sure, the XFL already pays more per player than any other pro football league that does not have an “N” as its first letter, but that means little when bragging rights come to play and Memphis can still not lay claim to a “real” NFL-caliber team. And even if the XFL is “for real,” another question is whether this team is Memphis’ own or just another footnote in the city’s professional football history. It’s a question we all must ask in order to embrace the XFL. Memphis now has the chance to hold a team that gets its collective face on the nation’s TV sets multiple times a year and even gets to use its Liberty Bowl for more than Tiger football games. More than anything, Memphis gets the chance to run with the big boys, even if those boys aren’t the biggest boys. In the end, this will all depend on the pudding and the proof therein. Sure, the Maniax could be great. Sure, the Maniax could be Wrestlemania. Whichever the case, the real question is whether or not the Maniax will be Memphis.

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