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Is The World League A `Hail Mary' Play?

It's noisy here in training camp. But what do you expect from a team called the Orlando Thunder? Taking a break from the shouting and grunting, Mike Withycombe lumbers over to the sidelines. Released last summer by the New York Jets, the 6-foot 5-inch, 294-pound defensive tackle thought his pro football career was over at age 26. But drafted by the Thunder, one of 10 teams in the new World League of American Football, Withycombe has his second wind. So what if it isn't the National Football League? "I'd rather be doing this than flipping burgers or sitting behind a desk somewhere," he says.

On Mar. 23, Withycombe and a host of fellow NFL has-beens will start battering each other for real as the World League commences its inaugural season. Will anybody watch an imitation NFL? This is the third new league since the mid-1970s that has attempted to snag football fans. The last two crashed and burned. The U. S. Football League, the most recent flopperoo, played spring seasons from 1983 through 1985.