Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo
They say every set back has a comeback right? The question of how many times can setbacks lead to a comeback for a spring football league that actually will last? Hell, some of the leading tech, entertainment, and football minds couldn’t get the Alliance of American Football (AAF) to finish an entire season. Which left many even more heartbroken and perhaps a little bitter if this could ever become a reality.
Leave it to non-other than Vince McMahon and his tribe to revive the XFL nineteen years later to see if someone can finally get it right and give football fans what they crave Spring Football. If you’re expecting something like an NFL experience then you are probably going to be disappointed quick. Before you change the channel there is definitely a lot of potential with the way McMahon has repackaged and rebranded this revival the second time around not to mention a better business and financial sense.
The most important thing to consider is this is not something made to take the place of the NFL but rather a pipeline for athletes and coaches to re-develop their pursuit of football while giving fans a platform to enjoy the journey and keep football going. I have been saying this for years that every other professional sport has some sort of alter ego farm club that allows for potential talent to be developed and brought up to the big leagues. Why has the NFL not felt so inclined to follow suit? It’s time for a change and the NFL needs an alter ego to help bring it back to some degree so why not embrace a spring league like the XFL.
XFL Week 1 Saturday & Sunday slate brought in roughly 3.3 million viewers for its debut game and drew an average of 17K in house. The TV deal alone has a substantially stronger footing out the gate that will last through the 10-week slate than that of the AAF. While some of the rule changes and pace of the game can get a bit of time to get used I think this “open book” approach just might be the quirky niche needed to make this stick around for a while. We all know that we would never be able to see a legit stream of a booth review or coaches players getting mic’ed up during play calls during and NFL game that would be a nightmare for most front offices of every league franchise to be that transparent. It is food for thought for the future though!
The alternative approach to rules from kick-offs, extra points and more is something to get used to. It can make the game seem to move at a faster pace as it was intended to or at times leave viewers feeling like they are in slow motion replay over and over again. Again some of these rules the XFL has debuted take the game back to the game but incorporate the entertainment and business aspect that is needed for longevity. The NFL won’t be this transparent overnight but the XFL is a good segway to get the conversation going.
In week one there already has been firing, hiring and injury impact the way Week 2 will be which should be entertaining none the less for those of us needing their football fix. My first take on this second down is that they may just have finally found a way to convert it to the that much needed first down to keep the drive alive. If anything it is good to see NFL veterans alongside many of the college footballs overlooked talent get a second chance to take the game back. Even with a better model the XFL still has kinks to work out for the long haul but if it can continue to progress week in and week out I don’t see why this can’t be something not just football fans should embrace but the NFL itself down the road. The key will not just lie in the hands of the league itself but also the demand for fans to tune in and fill up stadiums to make a case that they want this kind of league to be more than a one-hit-wonder. I will get off this football soapbox of mine and let y’all be the judge and jury on this one!
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Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo is a veteran SEC sports journalist and NFL beat writer. She is our Sr. Editor and columnist for MESPORTS digital. A Brown University graduate who loves good cigars, good games and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Misskyus2011