When the NFL regular season ends after the Super Bowl, I’m usually ready for a break, but that quickly dissipates and then I’m left counting down to baseball season, hoping my hockey team is worth watching and rooting for my dysfunctional but talented(?) 76ers. There is no need to go back in time and review the history of past NFL-adjacent league failures, most recently that of the AFL, but this spring (winter, I never understood “spring” sports that started in January…) we have a reboot of a league that once made a splash with He Hate Me and a Vince McMahon WWF-inspired football league, the XFL. The second time around for the XFL already has already generated a buzz that suggests it’s going to be different, and dare we say, here to stay!?
Why is the XFL interesting? Well for one, the players are somewhat decent, ranging from former college players, some standouts, and former players looking for a second or third or fourth chance at getting back to the NFL (notably, QB Landry Jones, RB Matt Jones, RB Christine Michael, DE Kony Ealy, QB Cardale Jones, and WR Antonio Callaway). The NFL has been aching for a developmental league (no, the college game does not suffice), and this presents an opportunity to grow in a professional-style environment for some raw but talented players and potentially, make the jump into the NFL.
The second interesting concept introduced by the XFL is a fan-first mentality, conveyed through enhanced access to the coaches, players, half time speeches, play calling, and referee decision making. If you are someone looking to learn more about the intricacies of the sport, the XFL could be that place for you. Sure, the XFL is not the NFL level of complexity and skill, but the basic concepts are the same and the terminology is undoubtedly close enough where you could pick up a thing or two. During the more professional XFL broadcast, we get in-game player interviews, we get to listen to the coach-QB communication on offense, and the real-time discussions between referees on penalties. If you’ve been wanting to peek behind the NFL’s steel curtain, this is your chance! Also, you don’t get this in the NFL…
Landry Jones slamming a hard seltzer while Bob Stoops is giving his post game speech is yet another reason why the XFL is here to stay pic.twitter.com/xXRo0ZvAS1— Surf & Turf Podcast (@goingdeep) February 17, 2020
Third, the XFL has introduced a few wrinkles to the traditional NFL rules (curious? You can read about them here). The rule changes are interesting because, in addition to a developmental league for players, the league has needed a place to test potential rule changes with a level of competition that will inform them if the rules are worthwhile. The consensus has been that most people LOVE the new kickoff rule used in the XFL, so perhaps these changes could eventually find their way to the big show at some point.
Fourth, the NFL wants to consume our entire year but aside from the draft in April, we are low on football content from February until training camp, and even then, we are not fully satisfied. The XFL playing in February immediately capitalizes on that lack of NFL content and fills in the gaps nicely, with games on weekend afternoons. The XFL is not inundating us, it’s a few games every weekend since the league is small (8 teams right now), so we are getting JUST enough football to keep us satisfied. The question is, could this grow into can’t miss entertainment? That remains to be seen, but for now, throw your feet up on Sunday and catch the game, it’s easy watching and honestly fun, especially with throws like this: