It's easier to find out-of-work supermodels than athletes good enough for the NFL, which is the short answer why the Lingerie Football League will survive for another day and the Arena Football League won't.
An AFL players' association official confirmed Tuesday what was rumored for some time: The league, which had already suspended the 2009 season in hopes of returning in 2010, has given up. It "seems to be inevitable at this point," regional director James Guidry told The Associated Press, that the AFL will formally announce it's ceased operations any day.
"I feel bad for the fans," Philadelphia Soul wide receiver Chris Jackson said, "because for 22 years it was one of the most unique, most loved, most fun sports I've ever been a part of."
For those keeping score at home, the demise marks the fourth time in the last 50 years an outfit tried to make a living basking in the reflection of America's 800-pound sporting gorilla.
The American Football League launched in 1960 and survived nine years before being arm-wrestled into a 1969 merger. As far as success stories, that's it.
The World Football League, which boasted stars such as Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Danny White, folded in 1975, 10 weeks into its second season. Things were so bad by the end, the Birmingham, Ala., sheriff's department ambushed the winners of the World Bowl in the locker room and confiscated their uniforms.
Some 10 years later, the United States Football League featured Doug Flutie, Steve Young and Jim Kelly. The legendary George Allen coached. The bombastic Donald Trump owned. But not for long.
The USFL folded its tent three seasons later, after winning an antitrust case against the NFL and being awarded $3 for its trouble — about $1.5 billion less than it was seeking.
The XFL took its shot in 2001 and failed, disproving the notion nobody ever went broke selling sex and violence. That because the league, the brainchild of then-NBC Sports boss Dick Ebersol and World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman Vince McMahon, forgot it was trying to sell football.
They put cameras in the cheerleaders' locker room, carnival barkers in the announcers' booth and tweaked the rules — no fair catches or quarterback-in-the-grasp stoppages — to ensure the maximum number of collisions. But once the games actually began, it became apparent the XFL had plenty of actors, but too few athletes.
In that regard, nothing has changed: There's barely enough of those to fill out the roster of the 32 NFL teams.
That won't affect the Lingerie Football League, which plans to turn what began as counter-programming during halftime of the Super Bowl into a full-time enterprise. According to the LFL's Web site, its players are already in training camp and preparing for the season opener Sept. 4. Chances the league will make it to the end are skimpier than the uniforms.
More to the point, an enterprise called the United Football League will launch in October, with four teams playing six games in seven cities and ending with a Thanksgiving weekend championship. According to the league's mission statement, its goal is "to fulfill the unmet needs of football fans in major markets currently underserved by professional football."
Toward that end, the four franchises will be headed by former NFL coaches: Jim Fassel in Las Vegas, Dennis Green in San Francisco, Ted Cottrell in New York and Jim Haslett in Orlando. The UFL also has a commitment from quarterback J.P. Losman, who started twice for the NFL's Buffalo Bills last year, and TV deals with the Versus network and HDNet.
It also has a cost-containment strategy — players will make around $35,000, compared to millions in the NFL; tickets will average around $20 per game, compared to an average of $72 for the NFL — and plans to position itself as a complementary league, rather than a rival. And the first player who could make the jump, if the cards fall fortuitously for the fledgling league, is none other than Michael Vick.
The disgraced former Atlanta Falcons' quarterback, has yet to receive an offer from any NFL team, and if his status doesn't change by the time training camp gives way to the regular season, the UFL might just have its marquee attraction.
Then again, promoting an outlaw image didn't work out all that well for the XFL. As an indictment by a grand jury earlier this week for former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress reminded, the best villains are still made, not made up. The NFL has never been short on troublemakers, the difference being that the ones who are eligible on Sundays can also play.
Yet another startup league is waiting in the wings, backed by a group of investors who plan to revive the USFL's original business plan and stage games in the spring. Whether it survives, or like most of its predecessors, lasts just long enough to provide the NFL with a few innovations worth stealing, remains to be seen.
But here's a few words to the wise, the same ones that could have been engraved on the tombstone of every rival league that thinks America's desire for football is unlimited:
It's the game, stupid.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com