With the Super bowl comes the end of the NFL season, which is rather disappointing for many football fans, but there may be an alternative.
I spend most of my time on Sundays watching football from September until February, which leaves me at a bit of a loss for what to do with myself now that the season is over. But Vince McMahon — known for making pro wrestling popular through his work with the WWE — is bankrolling a new league: the XFL (which is bizarrely not an acronym for anything).
Except it isn’t that new. This is the second XFL. The first failed spectacularly in its first and final season back in 2001.
The first league was a joint venture between NBC and the WWE led by McMahon, and was a colossal failure that lost tens of millions of dollars. The league was criticised for having dangerous rules, showing clips of players being all but harassed by cameramen on the sidelines and close-up shots of women’s bodies, and featuring some pretty terrible football. After the failure of the league, McMahon promised that it would return, and 20 years later, here we are.
The production, rule changes, and quality of play so far seem to have greatly improved from the first iteration of the league, though I have not attentively watched every game. The league does show some promise and has implemented rules meant to make the game safer and more entertaining. The regular larger media presence and more traditional style gives me a little more hope for this league. At the same time, my love of the NFL is very tied to my love for the New Orleans Saints, which is not easily replicated.
With only eight teams and no history, it might be hard for the XFL to attract fans. Two years ago, the Alliance of American Football failed due to a lack of funding and support after its inaugural season, which raises questions as to whether a second football league is even sustainable from a business perspective. With the high possibility of failure in mind, why should fans get invested in such an unpredictable venture?
Despite this uncertainty, I’m still going to give the XFL a try. The league itself can only survive if it attracts viewers, and having a minor league could be good for the football world. It could mean that high school players have a way to earn money off of their talents as they try to earn a spot in the NFL, instead of going through the NCAA which prohibits its “student-athletes” from receiving any material benefit for their efforts. It could also mean a second opportunity to prove themselves for players who can’t quite make it in the NFL (though the Canadian Football League sometimes serves this purpose).
What I hope it means is more football in a time of year without any, but whether that will continue, and whether it will be football worth watching, remains to be seen.