The Sacramento Mountain Lions hired Grant Napear of the Sacramento Kings to broadcast games on Comcast SportsNet California, but the star-power he brings might be too little, too late for a crumbling league.
“Clearly the league is treading water right now, and I don’t think anyone would argue against that,” Napear said. “I know (the United Football League) worked really hard this year to make sure we had another season and, to me, that’s a real positive.”
The UFL faces the daunting task of gaining fans in an NFL-centric nation. The three-year-old league lost both the Hartford Colonials and the Florida Tuskers since last season, due to insufficient funds. In the contraction, the association managed to add the Virginia Destroyers to make it a four-team league.
A number the league must add to, Napear said, if the UFL plans on staying in business.
“They won’t be able to survive on just four teams,” Napear said. “But I think what (the UFL) did this year is they cut the fat out, and said, ‘We have four good ownership groups, let’s build on that and look for new cities next year to see if we can add a couple more teams.’”
The league would have to look in cities where there is no NFL team or a major college team, he said. This makes Sacramento a prime city for continued success, as long as the league stays afloat, but those cities or markets can be few and far between.
Bill Bradley, a former Sacramento Bee sports editor, likened the NFL to an 800-pound gorilla. Wherever it sits, the market is saturated by it, and King Kong’s shadow often reaches farther than just the city it inhabits.
Sacramento, with the 49ers and Raiders nearby, has proved to be a good market for an aspiring football league. In the first game of season on Sept. 17, attendance hovered around 20,000 fans. The Omaha Nighthawks, in the only other Week-1 game, brought in nearly 5,000 fewer people.
Napear, who has been a sports broadcaster in Sacramento since 1987 and host of the “Grant Napear Show” on KHTK 1140 AM, said this area has always supported local teams.
“Sacramento is a great sports town.This has been a great community that has supported all the football teams that have come here in the past,” Napear said. “I’m not surprised; I think it's just another indication of what a tremendous sports town Sacramento is.”
Although incomparable to the NFL’s 67,000 average attendance per game, the UFL has seen a 52.3 percent increase in people filling the stands this season.
In efforts to boost the Sacramento fan base, the Mountain Lions games can be seen on CSN California for the first time since its establishment in 2009. The broadcast team consists of Napear, sportscaster Mike Lamb, former NFL coach Jerry Glanville, KBWF 95.7 FM radio personality Dan Dibley and former NFL quarterback Mike Pawlawski.
The first game marked the beginning for Napear and crew as broadcasters for the MoLos.
“We did the first game last week and I thought it was phenomenal,” Napear said. “It was really professional, and for me, as the play-by-play guy, they were very easy to work with.”
Napear also commented on the state of the Mountain Lions, and said their biggest assets are an effective front office and leadership from head coach Dennis Green.
Napear said he was impressed with the level of play from the Mountain Lions in the first game of the season.
“I though they played pretty well, considering (quarterback) Ryan Colburn has never played outside of college,” he said. “I think they have a good team and a great coach. I’m really expecting big things from them for the rest of the season.”
For now, MoLo fans can rejoice in the fact that the Mountain Lions have the highest attendance in the league. As long as the league does not fold, there will be exciting MoLos football in Sacramento for years to come.
The Mountain Lions continue play Saturday at 4 p.m. at Hornet Stadium against the Omaha Nighthawks.