Could The XFL Succeed In Its Second Try?
With Vince McMahon’s XFL football league returning in the near future, is it possible for it to find success?
After weeks of speculation, the XFL will return in 2020.
Vince McMahon, chairman of the WWE, officially announced the league’s return Thursday afternoon.
McMahon also announced the league will feature eight teams, and that players will be required to stand for the National Anthem.
Oh, and that Johnny Manziel is ineligible to play.
The league was originally founded in 1999, and only stuck around for one season in 2001. The XFL proved to be a colossal failure during its first run.
With its return now certain, it’s fair to get excited — or skeptical — about its return. McMahon reviving the XFL, an already controversial football league, at a time when football is at its most controversial time, is outstandingly risky.
If you’re a football fan, then you should be excited, if for no other reason than more football. The XFL will provide fans of the sport an additional place to get their football football from. It’s obviously not going to be as big as the NFL is, but it will certainly generate more excitement and hype than the Arena Football League.
During its inaugural season, the XFL got some things right.
The skycam feature implemented during broadcasts was ahead of its time, and something being used in today’s NFL. Additionally, the elimination of a kickoff, in favor of a “scramble” — think lacrosse faceoff — was an innovative way to start the game. The league deserves a semblance of props for the few things it got right.
And while the play wasn’t NFL-caliber, it wasn’t God-awful, either. A variety of XFL alums went on to play in the NFL, including a select few who won a Super Bowl. The most known success story is Tommy Maddox, who played in the XFL before becoming a starter for the Steelers.
But where the XFL accumulated the majority of its fanfare was from allowing nicknames on the back of jerseys. That’s where the world was introduced to Rod “He Hate Me” Smart.
Obviously, the league had some unbelievably large flaws, too.
The play was sloppy-ish, as the players didn’t have much time to actually gel as a team before stepping onto the field. The XFL also had wrestling announcers broadcast the games. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why that may irk some football fans who don’t care one iota about professional wrestling. The Championship game was originally referred to as “The Big Game at the End of the Season,” and there was a blatant over-sexualization of its cheerleaders.
Oh, and one of the announcers — Jesse Ventura — constantly antagonized one of the team’s coaches, as the XFL seemed to try to implement a wrestling storyline into its football league.
With that being said, the XFL has a chance to succeed — if McMahon and company can learn from their own mistakes.
An issue many had with the league during its first go-round was how over-produced it was. It felt like a secondary WWE show at times, which isn’t what it should be at all. The XFL should serve as a secondary league for football fans who are seeking an alternative to the overly politicized, overly strict NFL.
The XFL can give players a chance to breath and actually have fun. It should stand to serve as an additional platform for players either a) Are seeking an alternative to the fine-heavy, fun-sucking NFL b) Not good enough to play to in the NFL, but want to gain more exposure than they’d get in the CFL or AFL, or c) Wanting to enhance their brand and have more fun.
During its first try, the players simply had fun when on the field.
“When I got there, I was surprised about the money they were paying out. I think starting off, they made it so fun to play … they could have sacrificed and not paid the players so much, and I think the league would have been around longer,” Yo Murphy said, according to Matt Crossman of SB Nation.
Guys would have fought to play in that league because it was fun. That makes up for a lot. As long as you pay your bills and take care of your family, the opportunity to play and compete in professional football makes up for a lot.
Players like Robert Griffin III and Tim Tebow come to mind when trying to fantasy draft an XFL roster. The league would be a perfect place for players who were jettisoned from the NFL — for one reason or another. Additionally, legends like Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens would only bolster the star power and watchability.
If the XFL emphasizes player freedom, it’s more likely former stars opt to join the fray.
Furthermore, this gives coaches a chance to breath new live into their careers as well. If a coach can find some success in the XFL, then their chances of returning to the big leagues will likely sky rocket.
In a way, the new-look XFL could be similar to “Longshot” in Madden 18.
There are some rather easy improvements that should be made. Players need more time to practice before hitting the field. The league needs more clearly defined rules that won’t change in the middle of the season. The announcers should be actual announcers, and not ones taken from Monday Night Raw.
The biggest challenge facing the XFL is legitimacy. Since Vince McMahon’s name is attached to this product, it’ll be hard for many people to look at it as anything other than the WWE’s version of football.
The resurrected XFL needs to distance itself as much as possible from the ultra-popular wrestling company. During the first trial of the league, the XFL had wrestlers appear on field before the game, and ran promotions where the wrestlers talked about how much they like the XFL. The only time McMahon’s WWE employees should be on camera at all is if they’re in the crowd, enjoying the game. Anything other than that runs the risk of the XFL being too over-produced, and too much like a wrestling show.
I’m honestly not sure how much control McMahon will have, but if all decisions are up to him, then the league’s likelihood of succeeding seems slim.
If we’re basing the projected success of the XFL on McMahon’s track record with the WWE, then there should be at least a modicum of optimism. Comparatively speaking, the aforementioned oversexualation of cheerleaders and sheer violence found in the XFL fit perfectly in line with what was being broadcasted on WWE’s weekly programming.
It was a time when women were seen as tantalizing filler, and violence was catastrophically apparent.
But things are widely, astronomically different in 2018. The women’s wrestlers are given much more screen time, as well as the same opportunity as the men. And while violence still remains in an art form that’s based around perceived fighting, it’s incredibly more tame than it once was, with chair shots to the head being completely outlawed.
That kind of progression from McMahon’s multi-million dollar business is promising.
Whether the XFL will succeed in its second trial remains to be seen. The one certainty, however, is that the resurgence will be entertaining.
Talk Giants with Ryan on Twitter: @ryandisdier