Hank Williams Jr. developed a song for Monday Night Football which had the classic lyric line “are you ready for some football?” and this question equally applies to the upcoming season which finally starts tomorrow. After nearly two years of waiting and anticipation, team drafts, coaching staff assignments and training camps, eight XFL teams are finally ready to prove that this league is not just a novelty item but a legitimate football league.
The Seattle Dragons will kick off the new XFL2020 season against the DC Defenders tomorrow afternoon at 2pm Eastern on ABC and Day 1 will finish off with the Houston Roughnecks taking on the Los Angeles Wildcats on Fox at 5pm Eastern. There has been a lot of excitement and anticipation in the air, and on the air as well with Fox and ESPN both running TV commercials promoting this weekend’s XFL games. Fans have been chiming in on social media about how this new league is going to be a cure for the Super Bowl “Letdown Syndrome” which forces people to live in a football-deprived environment until next summer’s NFL training camps open.
What should fans expect of this new XFL? Football fans are scrupulous in their desire to see quality games both on television and live at stadiums and the long term health of the XFL depends on the following factors:
Quality Football: Fans are paying good money to see live games or watching them using networks such as Fox, ABC and ESPN. The failure of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) last year was partly due to the fact that quality football was in question in a number of games, not to mention the rosters were filled with many players whom fans had either vaguely heard of or were relatively unknown players. Each XFL roster is filled with former NFL and CFL players along with many standout college players, and the quality of play should be dramatically different than the product the AAF produced this time last year.
Interesting Changes to the Game: The XFL must immediately let fans know that it is not a feeder or minor league for the NFL but a league designed to promote a different if not better brand of football than the NFL has been producing lately. Fans, players and coaches alike have become largely disenchanted with a myriad of officiating changes that have essentially altered the nature of the game of football in the United States. The XFL is trying to bring some excitement back to the game with rule changes on kickoffs and returns and the elimination of the extra point kick in favor of a 2, 5 or 10 yard conversion try worth 1, 2 or 3 points. What many fans may not realize is that if a defense can cause a turnover during the conversion try, and return the ball to the opposing end zone they will be awarded whatever points the offense was trying to convert after the touchdown. This is not only a unique rule, but a revolutionary rule as well, and game scoring strategies are going to be affected in every game this season.
Stay Around for Awhile: Every football league that has even remotely attempted to challenge the juggernaut known as the NFL has disappeared in the last 50 years from the WFL to the USFL. CFL America failed back in the 90’s, and most recently the Arena Football League and the AAF have all gone to the sports graveyard where you can only find remnants of these leagues on websites and eBay. The XFL tried to bring a new brand of football to America back in 2001 and failed after one single season. Relevance is the keyword for the XFL to survive past 2020. Show football fans that spring football the XFL way is vibrant, relevant, competitive and unique in its brand, and many people will be genuinely excited about next week’s games.
Innovative concepts such as a league-wide practice squad known as Team Nine show that the XFL is thinking ahead and trying to revolutionize players’ careers by developing their abilities better and keeping them healthier and in greater playing shape. However, if the XFL officials fail to capitalize on the huge growth potential for America’s true favorite sport (compare the Nielsen ratings and the advertisement costs of the Super Bowl to a World Series, NBA Championship or the Stanley Cup Finals and you will see that America lives for football) then we may have to wait another nineteen years for XFL 2039 to try again to win over the hearts and wallets of American football fans.
Mike Gambill has joined XFLBoard.com as a reporter for the Houston Roughnecks.