What the heck is the XFL, you might be asking? You can be forgiven for not knowing. The NFL is such a big deal that it can be really easy to forget that there could even be other professional football outlets. That being said, they exist, and the XFL was one of them in 2001. It was pitched as a football league run by the WWE with less rules and regulations than the NFL, and overall more brutal physical play. All teams were owned by the main league rather than individual franchises, and presentation of live games was rougher around the edges than standard professional telecasts. Players had dumb things on their uniforms like one Rod Smart who wore a jersey that said “He Hate Me” on it, cheerleaders dressed more provocatively than normal, and the commentators for games talked more like characters than actual people. Basically, it was the NFL, if the NFL was as much like a Grindhouse satire film as NBC would allow the league to get away with.
Of course, it was all too good (or in some eyes too sloppy) to last. After just one season, the XFL was no more. Now though, it looks like there is a triumphant revival being planned for a couple of years from now. This new XFL would be owned by Vince McMahon’s own Alpha Entertainment rather than the WWE, but with less of a focus on the crude presentation and more of a focus on streamlined football. McMahon hopes to reduce game lengths to about two hours and to keep off-field controversies to a minimum by discouraging social and political gestures as well as disqualifying any person with a criminal record from playing in the league. Other than this not much is known about potential rule changes, but McMahon did say that he will “learn from [the NFL’s] mistakes as anyone would if they were tasked with reimagining a new football league”.
No teams have been confirmed for the XFL yet, though it has been confirmed that the teams will be new rather than simply recycling them from the last attempted XFL. It is hoped that the difference in ownership, the difference in focus, and two years of advanced preparation will make a difference in making this XFL more successful than the last. It should be noted that this success will not be measured in ratings per normal because of– as McMahon put it — “the landscape [changing] in so many different ways” including things like “companies like Facebook and Amazon bidding for sports rights”. Whether or not this will pan out, only time will tell, but the idea of a real competitor for the NFL has us intrigued to see how football will further evolve in the future.