It’s 2017, and only 16 years after the XFL speared itself into American homes only to get counted-out within a season, the one-year-blunder’s influence on professional sports is still felt today.
Just ask Major League Baseball.
Yes, that boring ‘ole pastime that still manages to profit over $8 billion a year has come-up with another moneymaker:
Nicknames on the backs of jerseys.
Geez, where did they get that idea?
The genius of Vince McMahon still resonates.
It was the XFL, where the X stood for a counter-culture led by pro wrestling that, lo and behold, gave Monday Night Football a run in 1999 and 2000. Imagine that.
So why not football altogether? The XFL was born.
McMahon’s over-the-top persona and even his best WWE personalities couldn’t overcome Saturday nights out, mediocre announcers and bad football, and like that, the league made the defunct USFL look like a success.
But it’s influence still resonates.
In fact, McMahon, along with longtime NBC executive, Dick Ebersol, hinted at a possible XFL redux, at the tail end of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “This Was The XFL.”
Baseball, including the New York Yankees, will have nicknames on the backs of player jerseys in the final weekend of August. Hopefully, Aaron Judge will snap his post All-Star Break slump in time to live-up to his “All Rise” moniker which will be emblazoned above his 99. It’s weird, if you’re a Yankee fan, to see anything but a number on the back of a player’s jersey. Heck, every Memorial Day, Fourth of July Weekend and 9/11, it’s strange to see the Yankees donning different colors in general.
Sure, the nickname thing is another money grab, like the caps and jerseys that are supposedly auctioned for charity afterward, while the replicas are sold for eternity. And some fans have tweeted their disgust at the Yankees and MLB, some even hoping all three weekend games versus the Seattle Mariners get rained-out. But while baseball has stalled in its progress in shortening games, and loses headlines to NBA summer sagas, an over-hyped, underwhelming late-August fight and Colin Kaepernick’s employment status, it’s a smart move—tradition be damned. And tradition was never something that stood in Vince McMahon’s way.
That brings us back to McMahon.
The XFL brought more sideline banter to the public eye, more in-game coaches interviews now employed by all leagues, as well as the swooping overhead kickoff camera.
Now imagine if Vinny Mac and his partner, Ebersol, could follow-through and do it over?
Seriously. Remember He Hate Me? Of course you do, as does someone in baseball’s commissioner’s office. After all, sports is about fun, right? And, Rod Smart, the back with the memorable moniker, ended-up playing in the Super Bowl with the Carolina Panthers. The league MVP? Tommy Maddux returned to the NFL as the league’s Comeback Player of the Year, and brought the Pittsburgh Steelers to the playoffs before a guy named Roethlisberger was handed the keys to Steel City.
Thanks, Vince. Can we have another?
Well, that depends. First, if McMahon wanted to do this the right way, he’d need the NFL to sign-off on it and work with the league, instead of thumbing his nose at it. The NEXT-FL (perhaps NXT-FL?) needs to be a developmental league—something more than the Arena League, or the failed NFL Europe. The UFL? Breaking News: Bills Bust, JP Losman, led the Las Vegas Locomotives to the first league title.
The league folded on 2012 after three-and-a-half seasons.
There is such a thing as Major League Football (MLFB), but it can’t seem to get off the ground.
McMahon could re-brand the XFL, with the NFL’s blessing, teaming-up and not only serving as a developmental league, but an experimental league in working-out the league’s own issues while trying to stay fresh.
Here are some ideas:
*Nicknames on the jerseys would have to return, provided they’re clean. That seems fair.
*Less attention on cheerleaders and more on the game. The whole idea of the XFL selling sex bombed. The XFL needs to shed the WWE “Attitude” Era image.
*Three hour games. Period. The XFL tried this, but vaguely. Here’s an idea: a 180 minute clock. Four continuous 40-minute quarters, with ten minutes reserved for halftime, and two-minute breaks after the first and third quarters, as well as an additional six minutes at the end of a game reserved or injury time, left for the trailing team to decide if they’ll be used. Short commercial breaks will run between scoring changes, as the clock runs as well.
*In the event of a tie, a continuous 20-minute clock, where the first score wins.
*A coin toss is not ideal to determine possession, but if the league partners with the NFL, it’ll like need to keep the status quo, rather than risking injury in a ball scrum like the XFL was known to do. However, that doesn’t mean that determines everything.
Here’s a thought:
After Week One, the team with the better record gets the ball to start the game. If the records are the same, the coin flip will remain in play.
However, the second time the same two teams meet, including playoffs, the team that won the first match-up gets the ball—to start the game. Why?
The team leading at the half gets the ball to start the second half. In the case of overtime, the team with the ball had better score, because whoever has the ball in a tie game at the end of regulation has to kickoff to the opponent.
*Seeing how there’s an analytical push to stop punting, how about allowing teams only two punts per game? Coaches would have to punt with purpose, rather than just punt by default. This will, in turn, aid analytics for the NFL and make the big game more exciting.
*A :25 second play clock to encourage the no-huddle offense. College football ratings have never been higher despite the fact the games have never been longer? Why? The pace. The game looks quicker.
*No extra points. Teams can either take seven with a touchdown, or they can take six and try for two more–from the one-yard line rather than the two.
*Timeouts—same as the NFL. Three per side, per half. But the kicker? Let’s say the team on offense is trying to tie the game. The opposing defense could in effect “stall” the clock out if they have their timeouts. If the game ends, it ends. It’s a reward for wise clock and game management.
*No instant replay. We only have three hours.
*Put the teams in NFL-ish markets where there is already a professional fanbase established. Rochester is perfect for Buffalo. Toledo is ripe for Cleveland. Can’t put the teams in college-towns; that’s a completely different market, has evidenced by the USFL.
*Have NFL teams offer practice squad players and third-stringers the opportunity to play in the league.
*Allow full-blown end zone celebrations.
The NFL, NBA, college football, and now the NBA have all borrowed from Vince McMahon’s playbook. Maybe it’s time for the NFL to tag-team with the father of sports-entertainment and come-up with year-round football, that works for everybody.
Kurt Warner played in NFL Europe, and now he’s in the Hall of Fame. Brad Johnson did as well, and won a Super Bowl, as did Warner, who was two defensive stops from possibly having three. A D-III back named Fred Jackson made his mark thanks to spring ball.
Until a real, 100-yard spring league emerges, those stories are over.