Everyone knew the XFL would have its foes, but who would have expected that three weeks into its inaugural season, the rough-and-tumble league's biggest adversary would be the Not Ready for Prime Time Players?
The rumble began on Feb. 10, when the Chicago Enforcers-Los Angeles Xtreme game went into double OT and ran 45 minutes late. That delayed the start of the much-hyped Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Jennifer Lopez back to 12:15 EST, severely hurting the show's ratings. NBC downplayed the incident; one staffer said, "This proves the XFL isn't rigged. If it was fixed like wrestling, it would have ended when the network told it to." But SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was furious. Although sporting events have pushed back SNL before, as show spokesman Marc Liepis says, "A World Series game is one thing. This was game two of the XFL."
The network acted swiftly to appease Michaels. Start times for games were pushed up by five minutes, to 8:10, long-winded player introductions were scrapped, and halftimes were cut from 15 minutes to 10. Even rules changes were instituted: Now the game clock will run as soon as the ball is spotted after incomepletions and changes of possession. "This is a new league," says NBC Sports spokeswoman Cameron Blanchard. "It's a work in progress."