When the Alliance of American Football capitulated on April 17, 2019, the dream of spring football seemed dead in the water. Fans saw the revived XFL as their last hope. Some desperately clung on to their optimism and others had well-earned reservations due to the train wreck that was the 2001 XFL season. Many predicted the XFL would crash and burn, as the AAF did. Well, with the XFL heading into its fourth week, it looks like they’re going to be just fine. I mean, they sold more tickets than the AAF’s lifespan before week 1. The revamped XFL had a lot of hype going into its inaugural season, knowing Vince McMahon announced the league the same year the AAF did. But it’s obvious the two-year gap allowed the league to take its time and develop a solid basis for years to come, unlike the AAF.
The killing blow for the first XFL was its overreliance on ‘Attitude Era’ WWF shenanigans and ignorance towards player safety and snappy on-field play. This time around, the XFL learned its lesson. The most appreciated aspect of the new XFL is it's quick and in your face on-field play. There are no cheerleaders, elaborate shows, or forced trash-talking episodes. Rules like the continuously running clock and the double forward pass both speeds up and spices up gameplay. Just plain old football with a quirky twist. To go along with this, the XFL brilliantly gives fans countless inside looks to the game. From mic’d up play calls, official reviews, to interviews during the games. Already there have been some awesome interview moments where, unlike the first XFL, the emotions and trash-talking were genuine.
Has the XFL been perfect? No, but that’s the beauty of it. The XFL isn’t going to be a direct rival to the NFL. It isn’t going to offer the same level of football as the NFL, that’s just reality. The XFL isn’t going to compete for marquee signings. All of these players are guys who were either never given a chance in the NFL or long forgotten. Just look at former Ohio State National Champion Cardale “12-Gauge” Jones. Besides a brutal week 3 showing versus LA (4 of his 5 interceptions thus far were thrown in that game), he has been electric. He’s consistently showed off his rocket arm and his unwillingness to let a play die. He was receiving MVP chants week 1. Legendary. He only played one game in his 4 year NFL career, and it was a 4th quarter mop-up appearance for the Bills after they benched E.J Manuel.
The top QB in the XFL was even more ignored than Cardale. P.J. Walker spent three worthless years as a practice QB for the Colts and never touched the field. The moment he touched the field for the Houston Roughnecks, he set it on fire. So far he’s leading the league in passing yards (748) and TD’s (10) and was the league’s first Star of the Week. He and receiver Cam Phillips are the reason why Houston is undefeated. P.J. is even getting linked to NFL teams thanks to his brilliant performances. Then there’s the feel-good story that is Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, who went from being homeless to becoming a preseason sensation for the Browns. He’s currently on the Guardians’ IR, but could be called up at a moment's notice. These are guys who are laying down everything for their football careers.
Yes, there has been some subpar QB play but there’s an element of comedy in that. Former Raiders QB and current Guardians QB Matt McGloin talked his way to the bench after playing like trash and it was hilarious.
You don’t get moments like this in the NFL. Former Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman has also been a source of hilarious ridicule, much in part to his poor tenure with said Bears. To be fair, it has only been a few weeks in a brand new league with different rules. Although there hasn’t been many laterals and double forward passes, coaches are slowly but surely starting to get more jiggy with the new options. With these types of players competing, its easy to ridicule any poor play that may come but fans need to be realistic and enjoy the XFL for what it is. Additional, quirky football. Sometimes its best to turn the brain off and enjoy.
One aspect that is helping the XFL prosper is their fantastic social media presence. The XFL twitter stays active and posts highlights when they come. They even keep fans entertained during the week with some solid memes. The XFL also takes advantage of the rise of the sports gambler. Every game they feed degenerates (it’s a polite nickname) the over/under, spread, the works. They update their board with live bets for those types of bettors. But perhaps the best use of their social media comes with their partnership with Bud Light Seltzer. The post-game chugs these players do are legendary and get more and more creative with each week. Art in motion.
Again, you just don’t see this kind of light hearted fun in the NFL. These players are guys who enjoy football, no extra drama, nothing. Pure blooded football guys. With the XFL creating new and tight knit communities, especially in cities like St. Louis and DC, fans and players alike can call this fun and beautiful league home for years to come.