First impressions are a big deal. Thats nothing new. But the idea has teeth.
Try the first impression a team makes on its home city, the first impression in front of more than 30,000 at the Liberty Bowl. The team wants to prove itself. Those in attendance come with hope in their hearts. The team fumbles that hope away.
Now ask the fans to come back next week, to believe one more time.
Such is the task faced by the XFL Memphis Maniax after their opening loss -- a game marked by costly turnovers; a game that should have been a Maniax win. Las Vegas won because it was the better team, right? Hardly. Vegas didnt total over a hundred yards rushing or passing.
In their opening win against the NY/NJ Hitmen, Outlaws QB Ryan Clement hit eight different receivers 13 times for 189 yards and two touchdowns. But the Maniax defense held Clement to two completed passes before knocking him out of the game. His replacement, Mike Crawley (who played at James Madison for former Memphis coach Rip Scherer) completed only three for a grand total of five completions for 62 yards. Vegas did not fare much better on the ground, rushing for only 97 yards.
But. But, but, but. The Maniax also gave up three fumbles and an interception, all which resulted in Vegas scores (two fumbles and the pass were run back for touchdowns). This gave Vegas 322 yards in Òmiscellaneous yards.Ó Due to Memphis inability to protect the ball, Las Vegas produced 481 total yards!
Hows that for first impressions?
The Maniax need to win Saturday against a San Francisco Demons team that also started hot, beating league favorite L.A. Extreme, before losing to Eastern Division 800-pound gorilla The Orlando Rage. The Demons feature the leagues top QB in Mike Pawlawski, who leads the XFL in completion percentages (67.7 %), and total yards (577).
The Maniax need to continue their defensive intensity. They need to continue their punishing ground game behind Rashaan Salaam, the XFLs leading rusher (236 yards -- 5.4 yards per carry). If Salaam can avoid his penchant for fumbling and continue his torrid running pace, he can live up to the Heisman hype that landed him a first-round draft choice in the NFL.
But the real need is for the Maniax to prove themselves to those fans who come to see their second game. Television coverage is important for the league to succeed, but this community has a big monkey on its back named professional football and its time to start fighting that monkey. To do that, Memphis needs a winner.
The Maniax didnt prove themselves last week. Impressions last. Can the Maniax can shake their shakes and will Memphis fans come back, just once more, to root for a home football team. Just in the name of hope. Stay tuned.