News & Politics

After Train Wreck NFL Season, Vince McMahon Hints at a Return of the XFL

(AP Photo/Charles Bennett)

We are nearing the end of an NFL season that has seen the league’s ratings and popularity plummet. It isn’t all just because of the political nonsense either. NFL rules have deteriorated the game to the point that it is almost unrecognizable. Just last week the Pittsburgh Steelers had an apparent victory taken away after what should have been the winning touchdown catch was ruled not a catch. What constitutes a catch seems like it should be easy to define, but the NFL has managed to screw even that up. After last Sunday’s game, former coach Tony Dungy spoke for almost every football fan outside of Massachusetts:

What is a football fan to do?

Enter wrestling impresario Vince McMahon.

For one weird season back in the year 2001, McMahon fielded an alternative professional football league called the XFL. The emphasis was on fun, a notion that the NFL has all but abandoned.

Alas, the timing wasn’t right, and the XFL quickly went away.

During an installment of the ESPN documentary series “30 for 30,” McMahon said that he has thought of giving the league another go.

According to The Washington Post, McMahon may be making some moves to do just that. The Post reports that McMahon recently sold around $100 million worth of his shares in the WWE and is funneling the money into another company of his called Alpha Entertainment LLC. That company was established by McMahon “to explore investment opportunities across the sports and entertainment landscapes, including professional football.”

There are also reports that Alpha “has filed for several trademarks associated with the XFL.”

While there has been no official announcement from McMahon, it would at least seem as if he is positioning himself to relaunch the XFL.

The timing and circumstances really couldn’t be better. He’s had a decade and a half to figure out what he did wrong the first time around. More importantly, the NFL is aggressively alienating fans and, with the recent extension of chairman Roger Goodell’s contract, doesn’t seem terribly interested in changing its ways.

The original XFL featured some of pro wrestling’s dramatic presentation flair, and it also encouraged the players to have fun by doing things like letting them put nicknames on their jerseys (something Major League Baseball copied for a weekend this past season).

Football fans were happy with the NFL back in 2001. Another professional league wasn’t really needed then. Now, however, an alternative to the NFL is precisely what the viewing public needs. Those of us who have stopped watching football this year are still football fans. If we are presented an alternative to the dour, replay-laden, convoluted-rules NFL, we will probably watch.

Some may make the case that the XFL would feature less talented players, and that would be true. However, the NFL’s rules are sucking the football skill out of the talent pool it has. The league’s lust for parity continually dilutes the on-field product as well. What’s the point in watching an elite quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger throw a last-minute game winning touchdown if the stupid rules are just going to say that it isn’t a touchdown? (Full disclosure–I’m a Steelers fan.)

Paraphrasing “Field of Dreams”– if you relaunch it, we will come, Mr. McMahon.

I’m looking forward to wearing my #MFFA (Make Football Fun Again) hat.