The long-awaited XFL has kicked off and is in full swing. The first games were on February 8th, 2020. Although the XFL seems like it a new idea, there is a full history behind the XFL.
The XFL was originally introduced in February of 2000. The league was created by Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol. Both of the men wanted a more fun version of the NFL, as McMahon was quoted saying the NFL was the “no fun league.” This new league sparked curiosity as many previous leagues have tried and failed to compete with the NFL. McMahon and Ebersol promised to provide a new experience for the fans, such as having cameras on the sideline or huddle and a live microphone system connected to players or coaches. The eight teams are located in Los Angeles, Orlando, New York, San Francisco, Birmingham, Memphis, Chicago, and Las Vegas.
McMahon had talked up the league so much that there was extreme excitement for the first game. Many people wanted to see what the league was all about and was all sports fans could talk about. So to no surprise, the debut game on February 3, 2001, drew 54 million views. At first, the ratings were extremely high and the games lived up to the hype. Due to this, it seemed like this league could survive and compete with the NFL. Unfortunately due to poor planning, the league began to flop.
As the weeks went on, and more and more games were played, the ratings died. Many fans believed the announcers were too boring, the play was extremely sloppy and there was too much wrestling influence in the league. This is no surprise since, at the time of the creation of the league, McMahon was involved in the wrestling community. Many fans also believed the games were predetermined like professional wrestling because the WWE had such a heavy influence. As the ratings died, so did attendance and sales of merchandise. Dangerous and non-stop changings rules, the lack of depth for the rosters of teams, many injuries, lack of time to prepare for the season, and some cheerleading incidents are some other factors that contributed to the downfall.
There were many dangerous rules that caused many injuries. For example, there were no fair catches, which can be extremely dangerous for the punter returner. Also instead of the coin toss, there was a scramble. The scramble was basically just a fight between two players for the ball. Whoever got the ball, won the “toss.” These scrambled resulted in many injuries since it was two guys crashing into each other at full speed. With a very disorganized league came the need to change rules. These rule changes mid-season hurt teams since they had to adjust to brand new rules. Teams struggled to adapt and this led to even sloppier and poorer play, causing games to be even more boring and uninteresting to fans. The smaller depth chart was also a problem for viewers. Each team only had 38 players compared to the 53 in the NFL. The roster difference was the main reason fans had more heart towards the NFL.
Although there were many failures, a few positives came out of the league. The XFL made the sky camera popular. To this day, the NFL uses the sky camera. Also, there were also some players in the XFL that used the XFL to gain the attention of the NFL teams and eventually get signed. A couple of notable players from the XFL who made it to the NFL were Rod Smart and Tommy Maddox.
After the playoffs ended, the league shut down on May 10, 2001. Many questionable decisions and failures led to the shutting down of the league. By the end, the XFL lost $35 million dollars, which pretty much guaranteed the league’s ending. McMahon himself, even stated the XFL was a “colossal failure.” In the end, it was a great experiment, but an experiment of that size required much better planning and decision making.
On January 25, 2018, McMahon announced the return of the XFL. He introduced many rule changes that were created to avoid issues that appeared in the original run of the XFL. Three of the notable changes are the league has two years to prepare, each team will have a 40 man roster and there are no criminal records allowed to participate.
So far, on March 12, 2020, 5 weeks into the league the DC Defenders are 3-2 and at the top of the XFL East, while the Houston Roughnecks are 5-0 at the top of the XFL West. At this point in time, the league seems to be much more successful than the previous XFL, but only time will tell the success of the new XFL.