Well, after weeks of speculation and rumors, Vince McMahon made it official on January 25 with the announcement that the XFL will make a return in 2020, and folks let me tell you, this is a horrible idea.
I get Vince saying it will be gimmick free, and a more straightforward version of football that cuts out a bunch of the stuff that drags out games and can make them dull, but it doesn’t matter much if you cut all those boring things out, when the action on the field itself is going to be boring, here’s why.
When the XFL originally launched in 2001, football at all levels was on the rise, so it seemed like a perfect time to try to cash in on the craze. NFL ratings were starting to jump towards the insane numbers we saw over the past few years, before a drop the last couple years. The Arena Football League was on the rise with more than a dozen teams, and games soon to be broadcast weekly on ESPN and NBC. So for Vince McMahon and NBC, it made sense to try and get in on the football action by starting their own league.
Needless to say, with dropping TV ratings for both college and NFL games, and participation in the game at the youth levels way down after countless researches saying that the game basically slowly kills you, football is not as desirable or popular as it was in 2001 when the XFL might have been a good idea. Add in that the league isn’t slated to start until January 2020, presumably right after the Super Bowl to cash in on people still wanting football, and what makes you think that the league is going to be successful?
There are countless leagues and teams that try to make some sort of minor league football work all over the country, be it indoor or outdoor football, and all of these leagues have teams that fold-up shop almost weekly, or sometimes the leagues themselves go down in a ball of flames. The once-popular Arena Football League is down to four teams; the National Arena League, which fancies itself as a competitor to the AFL thought it would have 12 teams this year…they have six; The Indoor Football League, viewed as the second best indoor league, had to pay to steal two teams from a rival smaller league in order to have a season this year. And it’s not getting any better as those teams and leagues compete for a smaller pool of players to try to take the field.
There are only so many football players who are willing to put their body and lives on the line for a living, and the NFL and CFL are currently the only places that pay players enough to take that risk. The original XFL came close to that, and they’ll need to again if they want anything close to the caliber of good play. Add in that Vince says no players with a criminal background will be allowed to play and it further limits the number of potential players you have to choose from.
But again, in two years who knows what the talent pool will be like as it continues to shrink. So while the XFL might be a shot of nostalgia that a handful of people and cities might be excited for, I promise that the action on the field is going to be bad, and ultimately, that’s what keeps fans away, no matter how many gimmicks you add or take out. It can be the most straight-forward, simple football ever, but if the guys playing it stink, then nobody is going to care.
But if that’s how Vince McMahon wants to spend his money, nobody is going to be able to convince him not to do it. I’ll honestly be amazed if the league ever plays a game. I’ll believe the XFL is actually back when I see the first kick-off sailing through the air on opening day in 2020.