“Vince McMahon announces XFL return in 2020.” It’s almost a year now since the big announcement made by Vince McMahon. The headline came very close to being much different.
“Vince McMahon returns to football with The United Football League.” This was almost the announcement made on January 25th of this year.
In 2017, Vince McMahon through his business holdings filed for the trademarks of The United Football League and the UrFL. This was months before VKM enterprises became Alpha Entertainment.
Since the spring of 2001, McMahon had not given up on a starting a football league again, but this time it would be under a new brand and a new vision. A stark contrast from the vision he had nearly two decades ago. The old XFL was dead and buried.
Can you really blame Vince McMahon for having second thoughts about reviving the XFL brand?
No league in the history of sports has the ridicule attached to it that the XFL does. The league where the X means nothing. The brand name itself is notorious but for all the wrong reasons. It’s a punch line, a big joke and is thought of as one of the biggest failures in the history of sports and television. The mainstream sports media and fans saw it as a joke back in 2001, and still to this day. One need not look too far to see the negativity attached to any news or commentary involving the XFL.
In a society where there are created narratives and where perception is the absolute reality. It’s very difficult to change or shake the negative perception that the XFL has attached to it. The league is paying for some of the sins of their past. The past is prologue. We can’t forget the lessons of it.
The biggest hurdle that the XFL is attempting to overcome is the negative stigma attached to it. For all the ardent supporters who think so fondly of the league, there are twice as many people who see the league and it’s attempt at a return as a joke. The XFL to them was everything that was wrong with society and sports. To them, it was trashy, classless, and designed to attract the lowest forms of society.
For all the negatives attached to the original XFL. There were more positives than the naysayers care to understand or even admit. Overlooking the fact that it extended football players and coaches careers, and created careers for future coaches/executives. The league was fan friendly, interactive, and innovative on the field and off. The league itself was way ahead of its time in engaging the fan and bringing them closer to the action than they have ever been.
Vince McMahon getting Oliver Luck to spearhead the new XFL and to follow his vision may have been McMahon’s best hire ever. For a league that is going to be in an uphill battle for credibility. Oliver Luck’s experience and success as an administrator, and in start-up leagues is an extremely valuable asset. The question asked by some naysayers when finding out that Luck is the CEO of the league is usually “Why is someone like him involved with this?”… Luck is respected in many circles and seeing his name attached to The XFL puzzles people. Oliver Luck himself had a negative viewpoint on the original XFL. Part of Oliver’s job is selling the public that The XFL needs to be taken seriously and that it’s going to be a league to be respected.
Everyone associated with the current XFL is going to be fighting the negative perception attached to the league. XFL Director of Player Personnel Eric Galko has even reached out to social media to ask people to have an open mind when it comes to the league. Galko is a respected figure in football circles as the head of Optimum Scouting. He is the director of scouting for YourCallFootball and The Dream Bowl. Galko’s job with the XFL extends beyond just providing teams with scouting reports on thousands of potential players. He is in a position where he has to sell agents and players that The XFL is a viable option. No such sell job needed with the CFL or even the AAF.
The prominent figures of the XFL are all in a position where they are not only selling the league to the public but also to the football community. That means getting players and coaches to buy into the league. It will not be an easy task despite the large amount of money that Vince McMahon is investing on his own.
Announcing prominent cities and stadiums as the league’s homes is not enough. A TV rights package will aid the league in being seen as a reality but it’s going to take a lot of convincing from Oliver Luck and his team, to get football players and coaches to buy in. Convincing them that The XFL is real and that it’s really going to happen and that the league is going to be a world class operation. This will be the difference in having quality play and not having it. If you just have to settle, for whomever will take a chance to be in your league rather than getting the best possible players and coaches under the circumstances.
The truth is that even if Vince McMahon had launched the new UFL this past January. It would have always been associated with and attached to The XFL name anyway. There’s no getting around that. That’s probably why McMahon decided to bring back the XFL name. There’s equity in the brand itself, even if the naysayers will not be treating the league with any type of equity. The XFL returns in name and spirit but the league is going to have a uniquely different resemblance and feel than the last time.
Mike Mitchell is a freelance sports writer, analyst, and a general lover of all football. Mike was one of the original XFLBoard.com Team Reporters in 2001, reporting on the New York/New Jersey Hitmen. We have welcomed him back to the XFLBoard and love his ongoing insightful contributions.