To say that the original version of the XFL was a massive failure was an understatement. Go look back at the “30 for 30” or all the retrospectives that have been made over the years and you’ll see a lot of different problems that caused the downfall of something that at least had the potential to be a great alternative to the juggernaut that is the NFL.
Fast forward 19 years later and it looks like the XFL has righted a lot of those wrongs.
One of the big things they’ve focused on this go-round is player safety. If you watched the original XFL, the scramble replacing an opening kickoff was a big mistake that became evident the second that a player injured his shoulder in one of the very first games.
Now with the new kickoff rule in place that not only makes it safer to play, but is also capable of having big plays. Many have complained about the kickoff being neutered over the last couple of seasons and this might be an answer that keeps one of the most exciting parts of football intact.
The level of play looked much improved in the first week of the rebooted league. Was it on par with the NFL? Not even close, but it was far superior from what we saw in the AAF which saw a clear gap between the top two teams and the bottom two. Parity had been talked about for weeks and it wasn’t anymore apparent with the first game between the Seattle Dragons and the DC Defenders. Former Ohio State QB Cardale Jones looked like he hadn’t missed a beat despite last playing in a football game in 2016 for the Buffalo Bills, leading the Defenders to a victory.
They’ve also created some compelling television in a lot of different ways. The biggest way they did that was by doing something that many leagues aren’t a fan of doing and that’s embracing sports betting.
More and more states are coming to the realization that sports betting is a big money-maker and isn’t going to go away anytime soon. There’s even a partnership with VSIN in place for these degenerate gamblers. When you’re watching the XFL on any of the platforms they air on, the spread is shown on the score bug along with the over/unders being mentioned throughout the broadcast. None of the other major sports leagues have come close to embracing the sports betting side of things like the XFL has.
Another big part of their broadcast changes is a lot of transparency when it comes to penalties and official reviews. The referees in the NFL have been public enemy number one for many Saints fans since the NOLA No-Call which didn’t inform nearly enough as to why the booth didn’t review it, among other things. Senior Vice President of Officiating Alberto Riveron has become the butt end of a lot of jokes this past season and they have taken notice of this.
While this was an AAF idea originally, XFL took it to different places with all of the referees being mic’d up and when a play is being reviewed they head to the booth and show how the proverbial sausage is made. This really helps inform the viewer about the rules of football instead of making you question the officials every Sunday.
However, it’s not an entirely polished product. Case in point is the in-game interviews. For instance, there was an offensive lineman being interviewed and whoever was in control of the dump button didn’t hit it fast enough as he dropped a four-letter bomb on ABC. It’s great to hear from players after a big play or a controversial moment, but sometimes it’s just best to not interview a player after they missed a field goal from inside 35-yards.
Is the XFL going to be a complete success beyond the week one interest? Only time will tell, but the reboot of the league has done a lot of things right and add the fact that there’s a multi-millionaire in Vince McMahon behind it, there’s not a doubt in my mind that it will reach the final game of the season unlike the “Fyre Fest of Football” that was the AAF.