Resurgence of the XFL: How the league looks after week one

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Joe Hermitt | jhermitt@pennlive.com

NY Guardians wide receiver Mekale McKay dives for a pass as Tampa Bay Vipers cornerback Shelton Lewis trails during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 9, 2020. Joe Hermitt | jhermitt@pennlive.com

Zachary Kilby, Assistant Sports Editor

The Xtreme Football League (XFL) is nothing new to sports fans. The professional American football league was originally a joint venture between the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) and NBC, and made its debut back in 2001 

The hype surrounding the debut of the XFL nearly 20 years ago was unreal. Fans were promised a different version of football than the National Football League (NFL) had been offering its audience. Complete chaos was inevitable as the XFL tried to put its brand on the map and compete with a billion-dollar industry. 

However, the lifespan of the XFL was short-lived due to its reliance on subpar gimmicks and lowquality talent on the field. The XFL was considered a glorified version of WWF(E) owner Vince McMahon’s professional wrestling product, hence making the league redundant and undesirable. 

Fast forward to 2020; a time where the NFL is in the process of making football a safer sport. Safety means fewer big hits, which has left fans desiring the hard-hitting, smash-mouth style of football they are accustomed to seeing. No longer can a defensive player lay a finger on the opposing quarterback without seeing a flag fly onto the field. This era of “touch football” is not what fans crave. 

Enter “XFL 2.0.”

With almost 20 years to think about improvements and innovations, the league is making its second attempt at fortune and fame. The focus this go-round is to give fans a glimpse of football during the spring – a time where fans have no football to watch. This also means the league will not compete with the NFL for ratings.

The XFL looks to encourage a brand of football that does not punish players for hitting hard, all while implementing other rules in order to better the safety of the game and viewing experience for the fans. 

XFL Commissioner, Oliver Luck, talked with sports analysts on “Get Up” about how this version of the XFL compares to the original. 

“There is nothing that this league has in common with the original XFL,” said Luck. “We view ourselves as a compliment to the NFL, not as competition…there’s the Super Bowl and then there is no football to watch. We aim to fix that by playing in the spring…we are doing this for the love of the game.” 

Week one matchups in the XFL averaged a little under three million viewers per game, according to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal. ESPN and FOX tried their hardest to give the XFL as much exposure as possible before opening weekend, which seemed to pay off according to TV ratings. 

With a seemingly successful week one in the books, the XFL looks like a brand of football that could be sustainable. Although a lot of the XFL’s success will depend on how much money it can generate from games, there definitely seems to be an interest for the league after being absent for almost two decades.