Will the XFL Make Football Great Again?


In what can only be described as an awkward press conference last week, WWE frontman Vince McMahon informed the world that the XFL will have a second go-around, 17 years after the first failure.

I listened to some of the press conference, and have read summaries of the rest of it, so here are the main takeaways straight from what McMahon said during the conference call:

  • The XFL will start play in 2020 and will consist of 8 teams, all owned by the league, which will have 40-man rosters.
  • McMahon himself will not play a major role other than funding the league from the get-go.
  • Players will be expected to stand for the national anthem.
  • Players with criminal records will be prohibited from playing.
  • The game is expected to be faster in terms of runtime.
  • Unlike the 2001 failed league, this XFL will be much more toned down and focused on the on-field product.

Now there are many questions people have raised in terms of the XFL (my first question is what does the ‘X’ stand for?), so I will try to answer a couple of them. One big one is what does this mean for the Canadian Football League?

As far as player interest goes, I’m sure nothing will be known until later, once the league has rules, teams, and coaches in place. Salary will also play an impact in which players decide to play in this new XFL, so it will be interesting to see all of these questions answered in due time, but for now I don’t know how many active players would have the XFL on their radar.

Now, McMahon did say that there were seven months in the year in which there was no football, but that needs correcting. The question asked to him explicitly mentioned the NFL, NCAA, CFL, and Arena Football. If one takes all of those leagues into consideration, there is one month (March) which has no football games in it, so it is clear that McMahon is only thinking about the NFL in terms of “other leagues.”

Much ado was made about Johnny Manziel tweeting several times during the press conference; now the fourth point above would indicate that Manziel is currently ineligible to play in the XFL as it stands right now. Of course, Manziel is in the process of negotiating with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats (I don’t think that is where he will end up…) which could see him land in the CFL on a 2-year contract. If that is the case, he  could potentially be a free agent in 2020 and if his record is clear by then, then it would be all systems go for Manziel to go to the XFL.

McMahon raised a few eyebrows, mine included, when he mentioned that watching a football game for three and a half hours can be “laborious” (Note that the average WWE broadcast on Sportsnet lasts 4 hours) and that his ideal runtime for a game would be around two hours. Part of speeding the game up would involve no halftimes.

Of course the biggest fuss was made when McMahon said that this league would remain politics-free and social controversy-free. Then promptly followed that by saying players would be expected to stand for the national anthem. Given McMahon’s longtime friendship with Donald Trump (McMahon’s wife is in Trump’s cabinet) and Trump’s 30-year feud with the NFL, I’m sure there are backdoor workings involving Trump as a primary force pushing this league forwards for a second time.

While two years can be perceived as being in the not-so-distant future, it doesn’t leave much time for the league to figure out things like cities, stadiums, league administration, broadcasting, and scheduling. Whether or not this league actually gets off the ground remains to be seen, and if it does its impact on the landscape of football and sports is yet to be known.

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