So I finally caught up on ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. Last night I watched the episode from nearly two weeks ago about the XFL. It was a good episode. I enjoyed listening to the story of how the XFL came into existence and some of the behind the scene incidents that took place. One thing that did intrigue me though was at the end when it showed founders of the XFL Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol having dinner together.
Ebersol asks McMahon, “Do you have any thoughts of trying again”?
“Yes I do,”McMahon answered without hesitation.”
“I don’t know what it would be. I don’t know if it’s gonna be another XFL or what it may be or how different I would make it. It seems like in some way it would tie in either with the NFL itself or the owners.”
Ebersol then states, “Well certainly the most adventurous owner is Jerry Jones.”
Ebersol continues, “We both know him pretty well.”
McMahon smiles and nods saying “yes.”
Ebersol then stated “You’ve just had a Wrestlemania with him. Jones is and was a real fan of what we tried to do and speaks of it even fondly still today as something that really was trying to fill a need.”
McMahon then comments back, “Why wouldn’t they want to continue with the product, and if the stadium is 25-percent full, it’s better than zip.” So you need to come out of retirement, put the headset back on.”
Ebersol grins at McMahon and says, “We’ll have to use our own money, because I don’t work at NBC anymore”
“I’ll do it with you.” McMahon says.
Ebersol responds “yeah absolutely”
Then McMahon says in closing,
“I don’t know what else we could do that the NFL isn’t doing now, but I’m sure we could find a way.”
While that was probably wishful thinking, one has to ask, could the XFL make a Comback? It’s possible, but I don’t think so. The XFL by far underachieved expectations. It’s hard to imagine a league filled with a bunch of players that couldn’t make an NFL roster or they would’ve been playing in the NFL. The quality did get a little better, but the majority of the games were boring. The pro wrestling feel didn’t help matters much either. Wrestling is very physical, probably equal to or more physical than football, but it’s scripted. I think a lot of people are reluctant that McMahon could create a league that wasn’t scripted of some sorts as well. Plus, there is another league, a four team west coast league that will be catering to younger players kicking off in 2018 so it would most likely be bad timing.
The XFL did revolutionize part of the game we see on Sunday’s today. The sky cam was brilliant. Not everything in the XFL was bad. Who didn’t love those nicknames that were on the back of the jerseys? Nicknames like “He Hate Me” or “Deathblow” and even “Teabagger”. Yes, one guy was nicknamed “Teabagger.” I even praised McMahon with some, but not all of the rule differences he put in place. The opening scramble was far more entertaining than a coin toss. The overtime rules needed tweaked, but was by far better than the NFL’s sudden death. And the commentating was decent. Who wouldn’t love a game being called by Jesse Ventura and good ole JR? It had potential, but ended up failing miserably.
So what caused this league to fail? It was promoted and sold so strongly that millions of people were excited to see it. Surprisingly, 54 million people tuned in to watch the inaugural game. So why did the XFL not catch on and everyone lost interest? It was because McMahon acted way too fast. McMahon’s vision of a new football league sounded great, but like every major project, it needs proper planning and McMahon was just too anxious to bring the XFL to life. Coaches stated that they didn’t even have the complete rule book until days before the opening game. The players were rushed through a small scale training camp and only four teams had exhibition games. Acting to hastily is the reason the game performance was lackluster and why the XFL didn’t catch on. Players didn’t have the time it takes to prepare and get ready. These were guys that couldn’t make the NFL. They needed more time to develop. McMahon pushed the XFL too quickly.
If McMahon can be patient, focus on a valid game plan, and secure another television agreement, then you may see the XFL or a similar league fill the void That the NFL leaves after the Super Bowl in February.
So was the conversation just wishful thinking between to old friends or would McMahon give it another shot? Maybe we’ll find out that answer sometime down the road.