The XFL Is Back, Baby!

by Rich on February 5, 2018

The XFL is back and I couldn’t be happier!

For those who don’t remember, the Original XFL (OXFL) had only one season, back in 2001. It was all hype and very little substance. All hat, no cattle, as my Uncle George would say. Conceived in the back corners of Vince McMahon’s steroid addled brain, this new brand of football was supposed to be the unholy child of professional wrestling and professional football. Vince and NBC took a look at the landscape and said, “Hey, people like bit hits and hot chicks and generally sticking it to the man. Let’s give them more of that!” And it almost worked. The marketing was fantastic and the opening night saw ratings almost twice what the league had promised advertisers. But then interest, along with viewership, plummeted. Why? Easy.

Bad football.

Now, Vince has decided that he’s learned from his mistakes and is ready to give it another go. And as someone who loves football, I think that’s great. But it’s going to take changing up the recipe a bit if this second go ’round is going to work. And it looks like that’s what McMahon is doing.

At a press conference announcing the return of the league, he used terms and phrases like, “family friendly”, “player safety”, and “football that the fans want to see”. Gone were the not so subtle ties to professional wrestling and promises of a sexier, more violent game. The OXFL had team names that sounded like something out of a bad roller derby movie, evoking images of ex-cons and prison escapees as players. Not this time. McMahon all but promised viewers that his players (he will be the sole owner of the league, so, yeah… his players) would be standing for the national anthem, because “that’s the tradition of sports in this country and we will respect those time honored traditions” (that’s a paraphrase, but I don’t know how to put quotes around one of those, so…). He also made it clear that players with legal issues need not apply. Domestic violence? No thanks. DUI? Not a chance.

Clearly, this new version of the XFL is looking to capitalize on what many see as the fundamental reasons behind the recent slide in ratings for the NFL (Vince also said he wanted to speed the game up by possibly doing away with halftime. Personally, I don’t know anyone who complains about football games being too long other than the people working them, but whatever).

So can this work? Can McMahon pull it off? Possibly. But it will have to get some things just right. The season must start and wrap up when viewers are in the deepest of football withdrawals: early March to early June. The league has to have good players, coaches, officials and broadcasters. Not an easy task, but one made easier with the proliferation of sports cable networks and a raised standard of play in college football. Teams have to be in the right markets. I have no idea how you do that, but somebody better figure it out. And finally, it better be easy to watch. That’s a no-brainer with today’s streaming technology.

If done correctly, and not as a sideshow with “He Hate Me” jerseys, this could be a great second league, and a way for undrafted players to earn their way onto an NFL roster. And think about all the great players who could extend their careers? This could be great. If they get it right. And man, I hope they do!

Because the XFL is back! And I couldn’t be happier!

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