The XFL is back. Is it better than ever?
A rebooted version of the XFL has begun in earnest this week. Team names were revealed in August and the next two days will see 71 players added to each of the eight teams' rosters. League-allocated quarterbacks (College Football national champion Cardale Jones among them) began Tuesday's opening day, followed by a selection of offensive skill players in the morning. Offensive linemen will be taken in the afternoon, with defensive linemen and linebacker soon to follow. Secondary and all other positions will be taken tomorrow.
The league's player selections and proposed innovations have some believing that this new XFL will end no better than its single-season predecessor in 2001. Others see it simply as the Alliance of American Football with a new coat of paint. An inside look, however, show the the XFL is in a place to do something few spring leagues have done before: succeed.
Football is Still King
Americans can't agree on much these days, but three things seem relatively unanimous: it's not cool to defend communism, Dwayne Johnson is awesome, and football is our favorite sport. Complain as the public will about phenomena like poor referees, Thursday Night Football, and the Pro Bowl, NFL games still draw ratings the other major sports leagues salivate over.
Look no further than the NFL's annual schedule release day. The mere attachment of times and dates to games we knew were happening for months (in the case of 14 of 16 games, years) in advance makes the public go crazy. XFL organizers can carry on in the quest to make a football a yearlong affair.
They're In the Money
The infamous AAF didn't fail because no one was watching. Ratings for their opening weekend games on network CBS beat out a Saturday NBA prime time game on ABC, and several late-season games were "flexed" to TNT. The AAF failed because of poor financial practices, ones that cost many people a great deal of money. Poor financial planning led to its demise after eight weeks, two short of a full regular season.
While it's impossible for us on the outside to be completely sure, this doesn't appear to be the case for the XFL. Vince McMahon, overseeing the resurrection of one of his most infamous flops, has made the monetary leaps to ensure the new league goes the way of the AAF. Earlier this year, McMahon sold shares of WWE stock, earning $272 million that he's putting toward the new league. If anything, the XFL will almost certainly have the money outlive the shortened AAF.
Viewership may, once again, be healthy, as instant TV exposure is also another major XFL selling point. Whereas most AAF games found their way to NFL Network or CBS Sports Network after Week 1, the XFL's new media deals will see their games air on the networks of Fox and ESPN.
The Right People (and Intentions) Are Involved
For those wary of the showman McMahon's continued involvement, rest assured: the new XFL has vowed to eschew the wrestling-inspired gimmicks and kayfabe that the former league became infamous for. Potential innovations are still planned, but nothing to the tune of, say, "The Scramble", the lampooned coin toss substitution.
Heading up the new league as commissioner is Oliver Luck, who is far more than Andrew's father. The elder Luck, formerly an NFL quarterback and NCAA/MLS executive, has been an enthusiastic new face of the league, one who truly believes in this new spring crusade. Football prowess can also be seen on the new coaching staffs. Another former national champion, Bob Stoops, heads up the Dallas Renegades, while former NFL bosses Marc Trestman and Jim Zorn lead the Tampa Bay Vipers and Seattle Dragons respectively.
Nostalgia is an instant moneymaker at the modern cineplex. Nine of the top ten highest-grossing films of 2019 are either sequels (Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home), reboots (The Lion King, Aladdin, Joker), or spin-offs (Captain Marvel, Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw). One of those movies will undoubtedly be unseated by Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
The shadows of the former XFL can be felt by casual and diehard fans of football alike during the autumn circuit. Much like Tommy Wiseau's The Room, some glorify the former XFL for it's "so bad it's good" variety of football. On the more positive side, innovations first introduced in the 2001 version have gone on to become staples in sports, including the "SkyCam" and, much to the chagrin of Gregg Popovich, in-game interviews. Such a revival also has the strong potential to make an impact on social media.