Monday, Feb. 5, 2001 | 11:19 a.m.
Topless men with painted bodies ran around pounding their chests.
Cheerleaders dressed in hot pants and bra tops gyrated to rock music and grinded with slovenly fans.
Saturday's debut of the XFL was everything XFL officials advertised.
Flashy, bold and loud.
Firebombs exploded on the field before the Las Vegas Outlaws tackled the New York/New Jersey Hitmen 19-0, in front of an announced crowd of 30,389 at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday night.
"It's exciting," Las Vegan Dennis Regan said. "Absolutely exciting.
"I like the new format, the different rules. And the microphones, big time. I like the sounds you get to hear, the hits and the fact that you can hear them call the plays. It's an original idea."
Some of the spectators sitting on the south side of the stadium thought so too, except they couldn't hear the audibles being projected over the loudspeakers. Twenty-four players and two coaches had microphones attached to them during the game.
"It's muffled on this end," Las Vegan Mary Anderson said. "It's a good idea, but it's hard to hear.
"We'll hear a few words, but then the rest will cut out and we just get to watch what happened on the big screen."
The Outlaws scored all of their points in the first half. Quarterback Ryan Clement completed 13-of-28 passes for two touchdowns and 188 yards while Paul McCallum made 23- and 31-yard field goals.
Overall, the Outlaws' inaugural game was received warmly by locals and tourists. Sunday's XFL game at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco and Saturday night's game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., were also sold out. Already, the San Francisco Demons have sold out their remaining home games.
Regan said he was so impressed by what he saw in the first game that he was going to buy season tickets.
The Outlaws were impressed by the response of the bawdy crowd.
"It felt good out there," said Outlaws running back Chrys Chukwuma, who rushed for 28 yards on seven carries. "This is my first professional football game and the crowd was hyped; the place was packed."
Ben Sassenfeld of Boulder, Colo., and friends P.J. Ledorze of Sun Valley, Idaho and Justin Hautanski of Seattle were three of six brazen XFL fans who painted the letters on their chests to show their support for the new league.
Las Vegan transplant Jeff Oszakiewski moved to the city in 1994. The Outlaws' season ticket-holder used to attend Las Vegas Posse games, but said he was turned off by the lack of local interest.
Oszakiewski, a season ticket-holder, was impressed with the crowd's response to the fact that the traditional coin flip to start the game was replaced with a mad dash to the ball. The team whose player grabs the ball wins its choice of receiving or kicking off to start the game.
"That really was exciting," Ozakiewski said. "I was expecting them to flip the coin then all of a sudden there were two guys running for the ball."
But not everyone in Sam Boyd Stadium was bowled over by excitement. Some thought the game was too slow because of TV timeouts, and others thought the caliber of players would be much higher.
Hitmen quarterback Charles Puleri was regarded as one of the best in the league, but was awful Saturday. The Outlaws' defense had a lot to do with Puleri completing just 6-of-19 pass attempts for 71 yards with one interception. But if he couldn't handle the pressure of the Outlaws he certainly couldn't even ride an NFL bench.
Charles Layne and Charles Newsom drove to Las Vegas from Phoenix expecting to be wowed. They said they were sedated instead.
"I'm extremely disappointed," Layne said. "The length of the game is so, so slow.
"There was way too much hype in between plays."
Of particular offense to Layne and Newsom was the pregame spectacle that included everything from player introductions to video messages from WWF superstars like The Rock.
"Player introductions on the field," Layne scowled. "Are you kidding me?"
Two other Phoenix residents, Vince Kelly and Ben Ashton, didn't mind the hoopla. Kelly and Ashton bought their season tickets five months ago before they were available to the public from a sympathetic Outlaws employee who found out that the two were planning on driving six hours to each Las Vegas home game from Phoenix.
The two roommates answered in unison when asked why they would travel so far when Arizona has its own NFL team.
"You can only stomach the Cardinals for so long," they said.
Ashton, dressed in a Outlaws jersey and cap, expects the XFL to deliver what they're missing at NFL games.
"I like the cameras on the field, cameras in the locker room," Ashton said before adding, "I'm not opposed to them promoting the cheerleaders."