Huyghue, the league commissioner, said the sales numbers are “never what you’d like, but people do a little bit of wait-and-see. They want to see what we’re about.”
The longer the NFL’s labor crisis drags on, the more of an opportunity the Destroyers and the entire UFL will have to introduce themselves to fans who are starved for football. But the lockout has also hampered some progress. The league has been unable to nail down a television deal, and many sponsors are hesitant to hand over money until they know what their NFL commitment might look like.
“If we play for a while while the NFL is dark, more people looking for football are going to discover us,” Huyghue said. “I don’t think it’ll be a huge impact, but I do think it has the potential to grow our brand and increase our audience.”
For some fans, the UFL is an alternative to the NFL. For others, it’s simply a complementary league. The five teams were planted in the cracks on the football map between existing NFL franchises — in Omaha, Neb.; Las Vegas; Hartford, Conn.; and Sacramento. Football fans in Virginia Beach have to drive nearly four hours to attend an NFL game.
Joe Ziegengeist, 22, is a Redskins’ season ticket holder who plans to also pick up Destroyers tickets. “I eat, sleep and breathe the Redskins,” he said. “But for me, as long as when I go to the Destroyers games, as long as the quality of football played is up to my expectations — especially with the lockout — it could a big thing.”
A chance to play
When the tryout concluded, the dreamers reconvened at midfield, again taking a knee and again swallowing whole every word from the coach in front of them.
“I tell you what, nothing in the world short of having children, to me, matches what goes on when guys get together, push one another, and all of a sudden, you come to this environment and you’re all at ground zero,” Schottenheimer told them. “You’re all in the same place.”
The dreamers soaked up every word and when it was finished, many approached Schottenheimer, simply to shake his hand and say thanks.
“The thing you have to do is this, if you happen to be one of the chosen, you better pin your ears back and be ready to go to work,” the coach told the group. “It won’t be long before we’re playing games in the United Football League. If you don’t get the phone call, then you have to tell yourself, today wasn’t my day.
“But I still have the opportunity tomorrow to be everything I want to be.”