With scantily clad cheerleaders, wild player nicknames and football focused on hard hits rather than quality play, the Xtreme Football League (XFL) was a professional football league like none other before. Scratch that, a television program like none other before. The National Football League’s testosterone-boosted counterpart only lasted one season, but after almost two decades, it plans to make a comeback.
The original XFL was conceived in 1999, playing its only season in 2001 during the NFL offseason. The joint venture between WWE and NBC garnered unprecedented hype leading up to the season, but viewership quickly waned after the product on the field did not live up to expectations.
The major selling point of the original XFL was its enhanced violence and gimmicks, contrasting with the strict regulations of the NFL, often dubbed the “No Fun League.” Hallmarks of the XFL rules included no fair catches, no extra point kicking, and a two-player scramble to determine which team would hold the opening possession, reminiscent of “Steal the Bacon.”
North Potomac resident and local restaurant owner, Alan Pohoryles (Disclosure: this writer’s uncle) tried out for the original XFL in Los Angeles in 2000 as a kicker. He played kicker at the College of Wooster in Ohio for 1988-1989 season, and worked out at several combines for the Canadian Football League (CFL) and NFL. He decided to take his shot at the new league. “As far as combines go, it was very similar. They ran all the same drills,” Pohoryles said, “All the hype and the promotion and the rules and the marketing and all was done well before the combine. They were just out there to find the best athletes they could that weren’t on NFL rosters.”
Although he didn’t make the cut, Pohoryles has always cherished his experience at the try-out, and as for the players who did make rosters, their time of employment was short-lived.
Off-field theatrics between on-field personalities- such as “He Hate Me,” “Baby Boy,” and (my personal favorite) “Death Blow,”- became common. The interactions practically cloned that of WWE wrestlers and received a mostly negative reception. Another drawback was that with less rules protecting player safety, injuries would occur constantly.
But now after all these years, Vince McMahon, founder and chairman of WWE and co-founder of the original XFL, will attempt to reboot the league, this time with less sizzle and more steak.
“The XFL will be fan-centric, with more of the things you [the fans] like to see, and less of the things you don’t,” McMahon said in the official video announcement of the XFL’s return.
After an NFL season permeated by more political discord than ever before, McMahon stated that players will not be given the platform to make personal or political statements. He instead would like the focus of the games to be on football, and football only. He also expressed his desire for better quality play on the field, since that was a major factor in the demise of the original.
The inaugural season will feature eight teams with 40-man rosters, playing a 10-game schedule starting in January 2020. The home cities for each of the eight teams has yet to be announced, but McMahon has made it clear that every city is in play. Would a Washington or Baltimore-based team garner attraction from our students? “I probably would be interested to watch to see how it would be compared to regular season [NFL] football,” junior Pittsburgh Steelers fan Maddie Grainger said.
Another feature of the reboot is that any prospective players who holds a criminal record will not be allowed to play. High-profile NFL players over recent years have been caught in slews of legal trouble, leading to much controversy as to whether they should be allowed to compete, so it appears as if the XFL is looking to avoid this situation entirely. “It’s good that the new league won’t be objectifying and sexualizing women or allow criminals to play,” Grainger said.
They say failure is the most important ingredient for success, so will a restructured agenda and lessons learned from the past be enough to keep the new XFL afloat? Or will it be just another television program to roll your eyes at while flipping through channels? Only time- and the fans- will tell.
Front Page Editor