Monday, Feb. 5, 2001 | 11:19 a.m.
The hardest hitting in Saturday night's historic first game of the new XFL football league took place in the stands, not on the field at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Sure, there were lots of explosive sounds on the three-story television screen behind the east-end goal post, but the noise came from a collision of pads.
In the stands, it was bare-knuckled brawling fueled by beer that must have been brought in by a fleet of oil tankers.
But national television didn't bother to show the real action. Announcers virtually ignored it. What, the XFL has an image to maintain? Cameras focused on the sex-driven cheerleaders, not the slugfest among wrestling fans-turned disciples of football.
Where was the guy with the hand-held "steady-cam" who could wade into any action for exciting close-ups? He was down on the football field, where it was safe.
Sales at the beer concessions alone must have made the fledgling league immediately profitable.
Throughout the game drunken fans staggered up and down the stands, lugging armloads of plastic mugs. The spillage from the containers, dousing anyone in the vicinity, was enough to get an innocent bystander drunk.
It didn't take much to provoke an altercation once the alcohol took control of the mob.
One "bouncer," a grandmotherly type in her 60s, looked as if she was going to have to fight her way out of the stadium when she tried to enforce a no-smoking rule and demanded that a large man with a beer in one hand and a cigar in the other get rid of the stogie.
A beer guzzler making his way down an aisle in the first quarter spilled half his juice on an enormous guy trying to watch the game. They spent the second quarter exchanging epithets and hard looks.
Two sections away, a mini-riot erupted among a group of fans. That was quickly followed by two more fistfights.
A phalanx of security police led several of the combatants away.
Too bad. The crowd had already chosen up sides and was rooting for its favorite team of gladiators.
If for some reason the new football league fumbles and isn't around for a second season, wrestling impresario Vince McMahon might consider just renting stadiums all over the country, filling them with people, giving them all the beer they can drink and sending in a squad of cameramen armed with steady-cams.
On second thought, it wouldn't work. Where is he going to find anyone brave enough to go into the stands?