When WWE’s Vince McMahon announced that he was going to bring back the XFL — a once failed gimmick of a football league that featured nicknames, insane rules and generally (bad) nonsense — most of us rolled our eyes.
I don’t think the XFL was ever a threat to the CFL, there’s enough talent around the world for another league. They could have co-existed.
As the return of the XFL neared we started to learn more about how the league planned to operate on the field. Their rules were going to be pretty different from what we saw in the NFL, some of the rules were basically CFL rules, which was fine.
The week after the Super Bowl the XFL kicked off, a week I was actually more interested in than the Super Bowl itself. How was the star going to look? What else were we going to see when the games began?
What we saw was football that wasn’t half bad.
For teams that were all brand new in every imaginable way, it could have been a lot worse. The different rules made it interesting. The broadcasts were entertaining, though a bit homer-ish. It didn’t take long for me to enjoy the league. It was probably the best February or March football I had seen in my lifetime. Not that it was a high bar.
What I enjoyed more than anything is that the league was trying to be different – it was fun. They weren’t taking themselves too seriously. There was obvious buy-in from the coaches and players. Coaches tried trick plays, they eventually adapted to the new point after conversion and stopped going for one. Players played at a high level, we saw emotional outbursts, scrums, drama… Overall, everyone seemed to give a damn.
We saw basically none of that in the AAF. Perhaps AAF’ers knew what was going on behind the scenes, so they just didn’t care.
The fans that did go to games seemed to be having a lot of fun. Some markets really bought in, others didn’t.
The kick-off was embraced, we got to hear conversations between the officials and the video replay booth. The league admitted when they made a mistake.
The football was far from polished. So, if that’s all you’re into, I can get why you didn’t like it. The XFL was probably never going to be as clean as an NFL or CFL game, and if you could accept that, you could enjoy it for what it was.
The best description I saw of the XFL was that it was professional college football. Maybe that’s why I liked it. The game was chaotic at times, it was dumb at times, and it was good at times. You never really knew what was going to happen. Kind of like an NCAA football game. If you know me, you know I love chaotic and dumb moments in sports. Especially football. So, I was fully on board.
If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe we would have seen another season of XFL football, which would have put it in rarefied air. Where would have this gone? Could it have lived on in some capacity for some time? Who knows?
So long XFL 2.0, I’ll miss you. You deserved a better fate. It was a wild ride, even if it was a short one.