Wednesday, April 29, 2009
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Rejoice, sports fans! This one wasn't our fault!

Don't blame us this time

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Rejoice, sports fans! This one wasn't our fault!

No long, painful introspection is necessary. No online polls about whether or not we love sports enough. No regrets that if only we'd bought tickets, maybe we'll still have our team.

Nope. The United National Gridiron League went bust completely without our help.

We're getting better at this, guys. We really are.

So long, Virginia Senators (or whatever your name TRULY was going to be). We appreciate your interest in setting up shop in Salem. But truth be told, we were a little suspicious when you announced last week that you were going to be playing games here in less than a month ... and you hadn't actually set up shop in Salem yet.

"Dear UNGL Player," read the rueful letter Tuesday, which was posted on the UNGL Fan Network Web site. "Unfortunately, due to issues beyond our control, we are left with no choice but to cancel the 2009 season and set our sights on 2010."

Wait for it. ...

"We know this is disappointing news, and we wholeheartedly apologize for any inconvenience this process has caused for you."

Inconvenience? Us? Please! We didn't even get a chance to skip the games!

Apparently, the UNGL brass did not have enough money to do this. This should surprise absolutely no one. Starting a professional sports league is a lot like building a treehouse when you're a kid: The vision is always better than the reality.

The conceptual treehouse has three stories, an alarm system and a mini-fridge. The real treehouse has two planks of wood and a dozen bent nails.

The dream treehouse has Dad cooing over your precocious engineering ability and agreeing to let you invite girls. The finished treehouse has Dad telling you to get that eyesore off of his property.

Salem needn't worry about that. The eyesore, thankfully, never got here. And while that's a disappointing development for players who signed up, hoping to keep playing the game they love, those guys shouldn't be surprised, either.

The league had already jerked those players around, pushing back the proposed starting date several times. Besides, any league that says it will notify you by e-mail if you make the team gives off a strong don't-quit-your-day-job vibe.

But there is positive news for the players. According to the letter -- which is signed by league CEO Marvin Tomlin -- scorned prospects will be rewarded for their faith.

"To show our appreciation to all of our current players who have returned their conditional contracts and been assigned to rosters on each or our (8) teams," the letter reads, without explaining why the number 8 is in parentheses, "they will be AUTOMATICALLY invited to our tryout/draft combine for the 2010 season. You will be notified of the dates and registration process as it approaches."

Awesome! I look forward to covering that tryout/draft combine.

In 2024.

If this seems mean-spirited, it's not meant to be. It's meant to be a celebration. Too often, teams slide in here with little or no plan, then blame us when things go wrong. We're a lousy sports town, they say, as they pack their vans. We seemed better in the brochure, they say as they glance over their shoulders.

Wrong.

It's not us this time.

It's them.

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