This New Version of XFL Might Actually Work
So, I guess I should start by saying maybe I was wrong---the AAF tanked due in large part from a profound lack of funds and planning. They rushed the product to the marketplace trying to get on the field and play before Vince McMahon's XFL and clearly the AAF was not ready.
If you go back and look at the archive---yeah, I said---more than once the AAF would work, the XFL likely wouldn't. With your permission, I would like to apologize for that statement and admit, clearly I was wrong.
Which isn't to say I'm totally convinced McMahon's "Self-Funded" Spring Football league will work, but it likely has a much better chance than Charlie Ebersol's not well thought out version did.
Perhaps the biggest indicator McMahon may be on to something: TV Deals. The XFL will debut in February of 2020 after the Super Bowl. And ever the clever businessman, the fledgling league secured possibly the best of all TV Deals, a deal that will put his product on with not one, but TWO games every Saturday. Not only is FOX Sports willing to televise the games, so is ESPN.
And before we get into the game details---XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck (yes, Andrew's dad) and McMahon have cut a potentially groundbreaking deal with the two biggest Sports Broadcasters in America. The Networks won't pay the league for the rights to televise the games---no, the Networks will instead pay the XFL the cost of a game broadcast (roughly $400,000). It's believed they will split the advertising revenue---though I'm not sure exactly what the percentages there will be. (The network sales staffs will sell spots)
Inveitably the question for those of a certain age is this: Will the XFL be the XFL of 2001? It appears the answer is no.
One of the assumptions I and many others made is the league would pick up where McMahon's slightly offbeat and lowbrow version of football left off when it went away after one bizarre season.
According to Luck and McMahon--the answer to that is a resounding "NO".
The league will and is still working on game innovations much like the AAF tried this year in order to speed up games and lessen the opportunity for injury. They've not come up with specifics and likely will not terminate kickoffs and extra points (they've not committed to anything yet other than a less than 3-hour game). They appear to be experimenting with a lot of different things including POV cameras.
The other assumption many of us had is this would be a political "F-U" to the NFL and NFL Player Anthem Protest. It came from McMahon's assertion the league would require all players to stand for the National Anthem before each game. While that is a bit of a pandering maneuver, it has largely been made irrelevant over time.
Easily the hardest part of this type project is financing and McMahon---for all of his Carnival Barker tendencies has plenty of money to get the league launched. He sold a ton of his WWE stock in order to build a financial base deep into the hundreds of millions. The extra year the XFL has spent organizing has allowed them to hire some interesting coaches---Bob Stoops and former Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman among them and they've had time to build programs.
The players will get paid. They may not get rich off of this--but there's money out there. Players will be divided into "Tiers" and get paid accordingly. Some making as much as $60K per game or as little as $5K.
The league has 8 initial franchises, all based in bigger TV/Populations centers with St. Louis being the smallest.
Listen, any business launch on this scale comes with a pretty big risk. Trying to gain traction in a very saturated marketplace (Sports) is never easy. Spring Football will directly compete with Baseball's early season, NCAA's March Madness, the NBA, Hockey, Soccer, NASCAR and more. Granted none of them have the NFL's cache, but collectively it's enough.
If you look underneath the hood, so far the XFL is doing it right. Building the support system needed to run something like this takes time. While the AAF had a pretty good idea and some creative rules---it became clear early on they had organizational issues that probably could have been worked out on a longer time frame.
Will I tune in to watch the XFL? Maybe. I am curious to see what they do. I do remember the original XFL and looking back on it now---it was pretty bad. The football wasn't great---and the attempt at making it "Soap Opera" like or similar to a WWE type event failed miserably. Like the AAF, it drew viewers in the beginning but once people saw it for what it was, they moved on.
Let's hope---or at the very least see if that will be the case in just under a year when football's next---"New Thing" launches....