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THE INSIDE TRACK | DIANE PUCIN

XFL Is Helping the Army Be All That It Can Be

February 09, 2001|DIANE PUCIN

If the apocalypse is to come, it will come like this--on the backs of a U.S. Army recruited from the audiences of the XFL.

The U.S. Army is the XFL's biggest advertising sponsor, a marketing partner. There is a "U.S. Army two-minute warning," spot in all of the televised games.

At first, this pairing--the Army and the XFL--seems as ill-conceived as one between Fred Astaire and Madonna.

After all, XFL players can replace their names with whatever they want on the backs of their uniforms. So Las Vegas Outlaw player Rod Smart had "He Hate Me" on the back of his jersey. We don't know who "He" is, but can't you just see the U.S. Army marching into war chanting the new slogan "He Hate Me"?

This is where we want our ground troops coming from? From a beer-swilling, face-painted, 25-year-old who slobbers over crotch shots of cheerleaders and prayerfully hopes to see some third-tier football player have his head taken off because there is no fair-catch rule?

We want the protectors of our freedom to worship at the feet of Jesse Ventura and to think there is nothing cooler in the world than to wait for some goofball on the sidelines to blurt out an obscenity LIVE and ON TELEVISION?

We want the people who will fight our next war to be influenced by broadcast crews who aren't smart enough to come in out of the rain? Or snow? Has anyone thought about what it will be like for broadcasters at Soldier Field in Chicago when they are doing their play-by-play--"Just look at those cheerleaders. Who wouldn't want to date one?"--outside. In February. With the lake breeze?

On the other hand, the latest Army recruiting television commercial has, as its theme, "I Am an Army of One."

This is to combat the feeling that kids today don't want to be part of a big, anonymous group. They want to be individuals. Nobody wants to wear their cool camouflage outfit and have to march the same way as everybody else and listen to some general.

So maybe the Army should be advertising on Laker games. The Army could build a whole campaign featuring Kobe Bryant and "I Am an Army of One."

But it's not so crazy, our tax dollars going into the Army advertising budget on the XFL. At least with the XFL, the Army got its money's worth, something the government doesn't always get. And in a world where $600 toilet seats sometimes rule, that's a big deal. Viewership was more than doubled what was promised to advertisers. NBC had projected a 4.5 overnight rating. It got a 10.3.

And in these days of low unemployment, it isn't easy for the Army to gain recruits. So maybe we should look at the upside.

Our new soldiers have as their hero Gov. Ventura. Gov. Ventura was a Navy SEAL.

He was also a pro wrestler. Since pro wrestling is scripted, it might be a problem if our soldiers think those pesky wars have a pre-determined outcome, but these problems can be worked out later.

And we're guessing that the Army is not hoping to gain many new female recruits with its XFL ads.

As far as we can tell, women are welcomed to attend or view XFL games on TV if they (a) have very large breasts and (b) want to "score" with an XFL player. One drawing card of the XFL is, after all, the excitement of allowing players to date cheerleaders.

Unless the Army is planning on adding cheerleaders, its new XFL-sated recruits might feel a certain loneliness in their service careers.

But the more we think about this, the more it seems the XFL and the Army are a perfect match.

Do we, after all, want the Army spending its ad money on "Temptation Island?" Or "The Mole?" Or the WWF? Because that's where the Army demographic goes to watch TV. At least the XFL is a team sport. It doesn't encourage traitors or whining or self-centeredness.

The Army and the XFL have plenty in common.

Despite all its recent efforts, the Army has always been a pretty sexist place. So is the XFL.

At XFL games, the Army is hosting tailgate parties at 100-foot-by-100-foot Megazones. The Megazones come complete with Humvees and recruiters and fun exercise sports like a rock climbing wall and 40-yard dash.

In the actual Army, there won't be Megazones. There will be basic training, though, with rocks to be climbed and running to be done. The recruiter will have been replaced by a drill sergeant and some of the XFL recruits are going to be wondering why Gov. Ventura didn't tell them about all the screaming.

While the XFL hasn't lived up to its promises of real blood and gore on the field, the Army sure will.

For you XFL fans who have expressed disappointment on various message boards and radio talk shows about the lack of serious injuries in Week 1, please, please, the Army wants you.

And after watching a week or two of the XFL, of sitting through the tedium of minor-league players trying hard to execute professional plays conceived by pathetically resigned coaches, of listening to minor-league announcers, of watching second-rate bimbos posing as cheerleaders, a prospective Army recruit should be prepared for the tedium and drudgery of the Army.

And even better, they won't be disappointed by it.

Thanks to the very overhyped XFL.

*

Diane Pucin can be reached at her e-mail address: diane.pucin@latimes.com.

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