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Schadenfreude Fridays: The Las Vegas Posse

The Las Vegas Posse were the worst football team ever created, both on and off the field.

To help Commodores across the nation deal with the pain of fresh losses and the lingering memories of historic ones, we're instituting a new feature; Schadenfreude Fridays. The aim here is to comfort Vanderbilt's faithful by presenting train wrecks even worse than the past 35 years of Commodore football. Schadenfreude is pleasure taken from the suffering of others - and since this year's football season holds all the promise of a thousand awkward prom nights, the joy of watching others fail may be one of the few highlights of 2010. These don't necessarily have to be football related or even sports related - just something so spectacularly terrible that it makes Vandy fans a little bit happier to be cheering for their lovable group of three-star recruits with high GPAs and even higher 40 yard dash times.

I have never seen my favorite football team play. Few ever have. Like a fart in the breeze, the Las Vegas Posse left a bad taste in everyone's mouths and vanished into the air, never to be seen again after one gloriously awful season. Instead, they were retired to the rafters with other teams like the Birmingham Bolts, Memphis Showboats, and The Hawaiians in the annals of failed football expansion in the United States. However, what sets them apart is a commitment to terrible planning that makes the XFL look like a well oiled machine.

The Las Vegas Posse were a product of the Canadian Football League's misguided expansion into the American marketplace. The CFL, after seeing the success of Canadian products like poutine and boxla in the states, jumped at the opportunity to bring another failure to their southern neighbors. In this respect, they triumphed proudly. The CFL USA began with modest success in 1993 and had flamed out by 1996. Teams like the Sacramento Gold Miners, Shreveport Pirates, and Birmingham Barracudas had forgettable tenures, but one rose above the ashes to suck more than any other team had before them. They were an embarrassment. They were awful. They were the Posse.

"The Posse was one of the least successful CFL teams, both on the field and off." That's the second sentence of their Wikipedia entry, the claim chosen to sum up their tenure in one fell swoop. Unlike all those times I quoted it during my grad school thesis, Wikipedia actually has this one right.

Problems abounded with the team, from the awkwardness of the confusing plural/singular verb agreement that came with their name, to their woefully undersized practice field, to their location. The Posse played their games in an outdoor stadium in the middle of America's favorite desert, a move that would be difficult in the fall and downright stupid in the summer months of the Canadian football schedule. The stadium was located on the outskirts of town and had no redeeming qualities aside from its ball-scorching heat and propensity to turn healthy grass into sharp shards of hay. Opposing coaches were forced to coax sub-par games out of Canadian born players in the midst of 110 degree heat, though they could be comforted by the fact that the home team had essentially given up trying by the end of the preseason. Capping this was a playing field that didn't fit CFL regulations, and a banner which read "field of imPOSSEable dreams." I have no idea which is worse in that last sentence.

To counter this, the Posse devoted their time to off the field insanity rather than on-field practices, which were difficult tasks considering that their practice grounds were a 70 yard field housed inside the Riviera Casino. Despite the presence of talented players like Tamarick Vanover and Anthony Calvillo, the team was abysmal and the front office knew it, instead finding other ways to draw a crowd. Their cheerleaders moonlighted as strippers, wearing notoriously bare outfits and lingering behind opposing benches in an effort to distract players (and presumably fans) from the action on the field.

Neither group was particularly affected, as the team went 3-5 at home and fans in Nevada avoided the team like they were a murder robot made of angry hornets. Compounding these problems was the fact that their in-house singer didn't know the harmony to "O Canada," and instead sung it to the tune of "O Christmas Tree," offending a crowd that was made up of mostly visiting Canadians. Further on down the line, halftime bikini contests were also a common occurrence in order to stir up ticket sales.

None of the Posse's gimmicks worked. The team slashed ticket prices to $9/seat, but eventually played their second-to-last home game in front of just 2,300 people. In light of the dismal attendance there was no final game in Las Vegas; it was instead moved to Edmonton, where the Eskimos put the Posse out of their misery with a 51-10 thrashing. The team finished the year with a 5-13 record, their fate in Las Vegas sealed even before their season ended.

Though Jimmy Buffett led an effort to bring the team to Miami to continue operations, the CFL's American expansion just wasn't in the cards. The rest of the active teams in the U.S. folded, except for the Baltimore Stallions, who abandoned their city for Montreal and the considerably more effeminate Alouettes team name (based on a song about a skylark. Intimidating stuff, Francophiles). By 1996, the Canadian Football League was back where it belonged - out of the American eye except for slow summer days when Sportscenter needs a few filler highlights. Now, the U.S. expansion is largely forgotten, but lives on in the hearts and minds of the remaining Posse season ticket holders, who show up every Sunday at Sam Boyd stadium and cry a solitary tear for their fallen team, gripping their leftover tickets from a game that was never to be played.

With the Posse's folding, the CFL held a dispersal draft open to the remaining Canadian teams to pick up former players. DE Derrell Robertson, who had been in an unfortunate car accident after the season ended, was a fourth round pick of the Ottawa RoughRiders, despite having been dead for several months at the time. The RoughRiders, realizing their mistake, quickly blamed the league for the problem, rather than their own half-assed scouting.

Vanderbilt fans can take solace that no Commodore had ever played for the Posse, nor had the chance to catch a venereal disease from one of his cheerleaders after an all-night craps session at Circus Circus. Las Vegas's first sports team was the benchmark by which all disbanded football expansion teams must be judged - a standout failure within another failure (The CFL-USA) all under the umbrella of a slightly confusing Canadian product. While the XFL at least gave football some interesting camera angles, the Las Vegas Posse's lasting legacy will be one of apathy and insanity. Bless you, CFL-USA, for showing us what football is like when imagined on piles of cocaine and dropped into an uncaring desert.