Football fans have been given a big gift this spring. Instead of sitting around reading about rosters, free agency moves, and the spring football game for their college team, they’re watching the XFL.
Diehard fans know well what it is by now, since teams have already played two games of their eight-game season. But others may not realize that for the first time in a long time, there is an alternative to the NFL.
What is the history of alternative professional football leagues? There have been a lot of attempts over the last one hundred years to get a second league off the ground.
In 2001, there was the original XFL, the Xtreme Football League. It lasted all of one season, and went the way of thousands of other television experiments.
From 1983-1985 there was a more successful attempt known as the United States Football League. It lasted three seasons and included some well-known players such as Steve Young, Hershel Walker and Jim Kelly.
Will the 2020 XFL be any different? Hard to say. The odds are probably stacked against it, but it sure is fun while it lasts.
The basic premise behind a secondary league is that there are thousands of former NFL and college football players sitting on their proverbial couches, waiting for another shot.
There are also thousands (millions?) of fans sitting on their proverbial couches, staring at their calendars, waiting until August for the NFL to start back up.
It seems like the perfect formula for a win-win situation for all, including the advertisers and team owners forecasting potential ticket, merchandising, and advertising revenue.
The problem often is that the product on the field is not nearly as compelling as the NFL or college. Fans don’t recognize most of the players. And since we don’t know if it will be around more than a year or two, we don’t know if there will be any long-term rewards. There’s not exactly an XFL Super Bowl trophy that fans can lord over their rivals.
Probably the best way to describe this spring fling is low stakes. And that’s exactly what makes it kind of fun to watch.
Don’t tell my eight-year-old son that it’s not worthwhile. He has a newfound love and appreciation of football after just finishing his first true season of understanding and enjoying the game, both NFL and college. To him, this just feels like the next league. He’s still a little heartbroken over the way the Seahawks’ season ended. Of course, he knows the Dragons—Seattle’s XFL franchise—are not the same as the Seahawks. But he’s still tuning in every Saturday to watch the games, and then watching highlights and reading stats during the week. For what it’s worth, he thinks we might have something.
If that is any indication of the XFL’s appeal beyond the elementary-school set, we could be in for a longer-lasting, meaningful league. The games have been pretty exciting so far, with lots of wild plays, such as goal-line pick-sixes and plenty of hail mary-type passes. Coaches are calling high-octane plays and the guys on the field are going for broke, performing like this just might be their shot to get back to the NFL, or to get there at all.
So if you like football but haven’t checked out the XFL yet, give it a shot. It does feel weird to watch football during the spring, but it’s not like there’s much to do anyway right now, with our weather still in winter mode and the baseball season not yet underway.
The only surefire way to guarantee its demise is to ignore it altogether.