A Revamped XFL: McMahon Can Get It Right


(Courtesy of Facebook)

By Faustino Galante

Vince McMahon must make XFL entertaining without being too dangerous. (Courtesy of Facebook)

This past Sunday, football fans were treated to one of the most exhilarating games of all time. Super Bowl LII, in which the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the defending champions, the New England Patriots, was as entertaining as an NFL game could possibly be. High scores, electrifying offensive plays, dramatic story lines, a great halftime show and an underdog victory managed to make this Super Bowl an unforgettable one.

Despite the game’s successes, the Super Bowl proved somewhat lackluster in terms of viewership. According to ESPN, Sunday night’s game, which averaged 103.4 million viewers, maintained the lowest viewership average since Super Bowl XLIII in 2009. This lack of views should cause some degree of concern among NFL executives. Why is it that a game, that in 2015 was the most watched sporting event in history, has lost so many viewers?

The answer is simple: people have become increasingly frustrated with the NFL. Obscure rules as to what constitutes as a catch, politically charged in-game controversies, early retirements, gestapo-esque referees and career ending injuries are just some of the issues that have managed to turn off individuals from the NFL. While it would be erroneous to claim that the NFL is failing as an organization, it should be noted that it in recent times it has become subject to a rising degree of popular criticism. Many have noticed this growing distaste for the NFL, including our President Donald Trump.

On Jan. 25, WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon made references to the various frustrations many NFL fans have showcased in recent months. He subsequently decided in his press conference to announce the relaunch of his 2001 American football league, the XFL. McMahon claimed that, “the new XFL will kick off in 2020” and that he plans to “give the game of football back to fans.” The legend of the XFL is a somewhat bizarre one. With a lifespan of only one year, the league had eight teams and prided itself in fostering rougher play and fewer rules than the NFL.

While it sounded terrific on paper, the XFL experienced extremely low viewership ratings due to the fact that it became a league of amateurs who proved talentless and unfit to play the game of football. It is virtually impossible to compete against the National Football League while suffering through these circumstances.
Despite its past failures, I am a firm believer that the XFL has the potential to experience great successes in 2020. If the right changes are made, McMahon’s football league could theoretically become even more of a success than his WWE. In the following few paragraphs I will put forth certain measures which I believe would lead the XFL to triumph in 2020.

To prevent another trainwreck from ensuing, the XFL should focus on competing with college football instead of the NFL, work to establish measures which entice both young studs and seasoned veterans to become part of their league and tweak its rulebook to specifically counteract preposterous rules which have infuriated NFL fans.
While the NFL has experienced various issues in recent times, the organization is an inexorable one. If McMahon is under the impression that he can compete directly against the NFL, he is delusional.

That being said, I am still a believer that McMahon can learn from the NFL’s mistakes in order to make his organization a more viewer-friendly one. In his press conference, McMahon seemed to indirectly allude to the fact that he desired to undermine the NFL. In reality, it would make more sense if McMahon focused less on competing against the NFL and more on rivaling college football. Nowadays, college football has essentially become the NFL’s “minor league.” While other sports leagues such as the NHL and MLB have distinct minor leagues, the NFL lacks one. The XFL should work to become the NFL’s key minor league.

To do so, the XFL must attract football players who are either still in college or fresh out of college and not yet equipped or talented enough to be in the NFL. This setup could have worked very well for NFL busts such as RGIII, Johnny Manziel and Trent Richardson. Having played for some time in the XFL may have helped them prepare for the NFL and potentially find success in their careers. Young talent would certainly help the XFL avoid failure. Recruiting seasoned veterans would do the same. Being that many XFL viewers would comprise of NFL viewers, having former NFL players join the league would give viewers a sense of familiarity with the XFL.
Seeing your favorite player’s career tank in the NFL as a result of declining skill level is never easy. Giving these veterans the chance to keep playing football late in their careers would satisfy both football audiences and players themselves. Imagine having seen Tim Tebow, Vince Young and Chad Ochocinco play in the same league following the decline of their NFL careers.

Though it would be wrong for the XFL to compete directly against the NFL, McMahon should nonetheless pay close attention to what enrages fans most about the NFL rulebook and make changes accordingly. This past season, for example, the NFL has been subject to intense controversy resulting from its extremely ambiguous rules regarding what should be counted as a catch. An absurd amount of catches have been overturned this year due to minuscule rulebook clauses. Fans have vented their frustrations on social media by repeatedly condemning the league for “not knowing what a catch is anymore.” McMahon would be remiss to not simplify the “catch rules” in his league. Many fans could potentially find greater satisfaction in watching football with a more simplified and easy to follow set of rules.

As Vince McMahon stated in his press conference, the only way for the XFL to succeed is if the league gives “the game of football back to fans.” In the next two years, McMahon should do his research. He should look into a solid group of players to recruit to the league and must take into account the NFL rules that frustrate fans the most. To prevent another debacle from occurring, McMahon must work hard to please football fans.