An open letter to Vince McMahon


Dear Mr. McMahon,

I greet you as that out of professional respect and not in homage as your WWF/E persona, which I imagine is you “turned to 11” in some ways.

Today you’ll announce the reformation of the XFL. The league will reportedly relaunch in 2020. While news on franchise locations may be scarce until months from now, I wanted to plant this seed in your head.

The former Laurel Valley High School site in New Florence (or St. Clair Township), Pennsylvania.

While the old field may look out of place when trying to shore up deals in much larger markets, Laure Valley sits on the eastern ridges of Westmoreland County, making it part of the Pittsburgh market. While the school is about 60 miles away from Heinz Field, it’s right off Pennsylvania Route 711, making it easily accessible those with functioning vehicles.

Now the facility itself isn’t impressive, but it has hosted some great football moments in the past. I’m sure there’s still chatter of the goal-line stand to beat Bishop Carroll in 1997, or the swing pass touchdown in the fourth quarter to beat United two weeks later.

If you’re worried about capacity, don’t. It was estimated that 3,000 people were there on that Saturday afternoon to watch the Rams beat the Lions.

Yes, I did say “Saturday afternoon.” See, the stadium doesn’t have lights, meaning that all games kicked off in the afternoon. What better way to celebrate the rough-and-tumble image of the XFL than to settle things in daylight. Like men.

If you’re worried about the playing surface, rest easy. There hasn’t been a varsity-level football contest on that field since 2009 – a 32-0 win over Blairsville. While youth football has been played on the site since the high school was voted to be closed in April 2010, the grass has hardly taken a beating in the years since.

It’s housed conference and district champions. Heck, the 1978 team was deemed to be the top small school team in Pennsylvania by a poll in the years before the PIAA held a tournament to determine such things. Champions have played on this field and they can play there again.

As for a game-day experience, think nothing of it. The Laurel Valley boosters routinely had one of the best concession stands in the area and I hear you can get a public-address announcer pretty cheap. Or at least the guy who announced games during the final eight seasons of the program’s existence.

While we’re partial to “Rams” as a nickname, I’m sure the community would support anything that the WWE/Alpha Entertainment/XFL machine produced.

We hope to hear from you soon, 

– Shawn

#TBT: Send it in, Jerome!

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 10.08.50 AM

Usually when asked to explain why I chose to rest my college rooting interests on the University of Pittsburgh – or Pitt, as the locals call it – I harken back to a time when Craig Heyward straight-up ruined lives as a running back for the Panthers.

Heyward was the nation’s leading rusher and all-American on a Panthers team that went 8-4 in 1987, the first year that I really started noticing sports in general. That 10-0 win over Penn State maybe solidified that love. Who knows?

This isn’t about “Ironhead,” though. This is about the moment that left zero doubt in my mind that I’d give my heart to an athletics program that would constantly leave me wondering why I’d do such a thing.

Enter Jerome Lane. Exit a backboard at Fitzgerald Fieldhouse that didn’t see the end of a win over Providence on Jan. 25, 1988.

Heck, it barely made it through the start.

(OK, let’s just wrap our heads around the fact that 1988 is already “30 years ago” … OK, now I feel super old)

Nevertheless, with Sean Miller – yup, the current men’s basketball coach of Arizona – leading a 3-on-2 break, a dish to Lane on the right of the led to this …

Schoolchildren should be required to reenact this dunk in class plays. If only for the sheer absurdity of a small child replicating Bill Raftery’s “SEND IT IN, JEROME!” call on that day’s ESPN broadcast.

To a then-7-year-old version of myself, this made basketball awesome. Pitt was already “neat” as I probably said … OK, maybe I said “it” while championing the school because rhyming was pretty darn cool to the second-grader who was destined to one day break a backboard himself.

(Update on that: So, I claimed a couple Nerf hoops with ferocious dunks in my youth, but never got to break an actual backboard that would have mattered. I was blessed with height but zero jumping ability. It led to a couple full-court sprint dunks with a volleyball that I could palm, but never a legit dunk with a basketball and actual opposition)

As far as the Pitt basketball team that year. This was a team that had been ranked No. 2 in the nation twice by the AP Poll. A stunning overtime loss to Vanderbilt in the second round wrapped the Panthers NCAA Tournament run. It was the first of many way-too-early exits I’d endure as Pitt fan. 

Watching the Lane dunk on loop this morning, it still feels to me that I made the right call.