For a good four months out of the year, I build my entire Sundays around watching football. Those are often some of the happiest days of the year for me. I’m also not alone. Here in America, football is the most popular sport by a stunningly wide margin. Despite recent political whining, the public’s appetite for football is as strong as ever.
However, in the time between the Super Bowl and the NFL draft, there’s a gaping hole in the sports world that neither hocky nor basketball can adequately fill. For decades, some have tried to fill that hole with spring football, but with limited success. As a lifelong football fan, I really wanted at least one to succeed, if only to make the wait for the next NFL season more bearable.
That was why I was so heartbroken in 2020 when the second iteration of the XFL went under, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This league had everything going for it. I even cheered it on. It had all the makings of a successful league that could finally succeed long term.
Then, COVID-19 happened it all went to hell. I cannot overstate how disappointing that was to me and fellow football fans.
For once, this wasn’t a matter of a league not doing things the right way. It was just a matter of the worst possible timing. Seriously, who could’ve predicted that a once-in-a-century pandemic would come in and upend the world, as we knew it?
Even though the XFL was eventually brought back from the brink of oblivion by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, my hopes are still very fragile. Earlier this year, the XFL tried to make waves by reaching out to the Canadian Football League for a potential collaboration. That went nowhere and understandably so. Neither league is in a position to take bold risks like that.
As disappointing as that was, the XFL did make an official announcement of sorts, courtesy of the Rock. In a YouTube video from the XFL’s main channel, the league announced its return in 2023. It’s keeping the same logo and the same motto. It wasn’t flashy, but this is probably the most we’ll get for now.
While I like that something official came out, a part of me remains skeptical. Don’t get me wrong. I really want the XFL to get another shot. If ever a league deserved a mulligan for circumstances beyond its control, it’s this one. No other failed football league had to deal with a global pandemic. This it not like the AAF or the USFL. This was bad timing and worst circumstances.
That said, this video leaves me unconvinced and worried. I know that 2023 is a long way off. As of now, this league has no coaches and no players. It has nothing both the Rock’s backing. While I’m never one to doubt the Rock, I just don’t know if the third time will be the charm for this league. It has had too much bad luck to this point.
If I had to put odds as to whether we’ll see another XFL game at some point, I would put it at 15 percent. Those are not good odds. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about that, but after the heartbreak of last year, I just can’t bring myself to get excited.
Maybe something will change. I really hope it does. I had fun watching those XFL games. They felt like real football with real players who were following their dream. The XFL felt like the best possible chance for spring football to succeed, more so than the upcoming reboot of the USFL. I want it to get that chance. However, the odds of that chance becoming something more aren’t great at the moment.
Earlier this year, I was very excited about the inaugural season of the second iteration of the XFL. Being a lifelong football fan, as well as a proponent of anything that could shake up the NFL/NCAA duopoly, I was genuinely hopeful for the future of this league.
That’s not an exaggeration. I know the COVID-19 pandemic has ruined a lot of things this year, but it utterly destroyed the XFL. This was a brand new league trying to forge a new identity. It had a plan, but that plan did not account for the impact of the worst global pandemic in a century. How could it?
Sadly, the league declared bankruptcy in April. I was deeply saddened. I didn’t post anything about it. The thought of trying to put my disappointment into words was just too much. I was content to just swallow my anguish and find another way to endure the ongoing horror that is 2020.
As part of the bankruptcy procedures, the XFL went up for sale. There aren’t many people who could’ve bought its assets and inspired any hope that it would live again. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is definitely one of them. He’s one of the most successful and beloved entertainers of the past 20 years. Say what you will about his movies, but the man is just one of the most likable guys you’ll find in entertainment these days.
He’s also former football player, himself. He loves sports. He has a genuine love for the game. Both he and his business partner/ex-wife, Dany Carcia, plan to play games again. How they’ll go about it and how they’ll make it work remains to be seen. We still have to survive 2020 in one piece.
However, this news gives me a genuine, yet fragile hope for the XFL. It’s fragile because after the events of this past year, everything feels more fragile. The XFL did everything right the second time and still got screwed over by forces beyond anyone’s control. Naturally, I’m very reluctant to put my hopes on something that just seems to attract bad luck and bad circumstances at every turn.
Make no mistake. I want the XFL to come back. I want it to succeed. I think it was on the right path to do so before the pandemic hit. Now, with the leadership and brand appeal of The Rock, I think it’s in a good position to emerge from this dystopian stretch with a viable future.
However, I don’t think it can succeed if it just tries to go back to the way things were. It’s way too late for that. Right now, the XFL has a bad reputation of either being trashy, unlucky, or prone to bankruptcy. That’s not a good brand identity, to say the least.
At the same time, the XFL has an opportunity to re-align the entire football world in a good way. The XFL wasn’t the only sports entity to get screwed over by the pandemic. The NCAA is in a state of enormous upheaval right now. It lost nearly a billion dollars when it had to cancel the big basketball tournament this past spring. It’ll lose even more if it has to cancel fall sports, which is already happening.
Now, say what you will about the brand of the XFL. It’s still more admirable than the NCAA. The current system the NCAA uses to exploit college athletes while enriching itself just cannot be justified. The fact they’re fighting so hard get college sports going shows how little they care for the student part in “student athlete.”
That system is utterly untenable. The pandemic is just exposing how flawed and fragile that system always was. This is where the XFL can step in. If the Rock and his business partners are a smart as I hope, they’ll jump at the opportunity to recruit displaced college athletes. If only a handful of big time college schools can still operate, then that means hundreds of skilled players will be left out.
The XFL can help them and help itself. It can offer these aspiring athletes actual money to play a sport they love. That shouldn’t be such a radical concept, but the NCAA has kept it radical for far too long. At some point, it can’t keep justifying the practice of not paying athletes who make millions for their league and their school. If they keep trying, then the XFL is in position to step in.
At some point, this pandemic will end. Sports will return and people will flood football stadiums as they once did. The NFL will always reign supreme in the world of football, but the XFL will greatly improve the sport by supplanting the NCAA. Other sports leagues have developmental leagues for young, aspiring athletes beyond college. The XFL can be that league.
To get to that point, it’ll take hard work and someone with the vision and grit to see it through. There aren’t a lot of people who are up to that challenge. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is definitely one of them.
I hope he succeeds.
I hope the XFL prospers.
The football world needs it.
The XFL already has two strikes against it. This time, hitting a home run won’t be enough. It needs to hit a grand slam. I’m still very hesitant, but I’m also hopeful.
Two years ago, I expressed intrigue and excitement about the prospect of the XFL returning almost 20 years after its initial failure. Part of that is because I’m a lifelong football fan. My annual excitementover the Super Bowl is proof of that. Another part of that is because the months between February and April, when baseball season starts, is a sports desert.
The NBA and NHL regular season is winding down.
The NCAA basketball tournament hasn’t started yet.
There’s a real void to be filled. Many have tried to fill it with spring football, including the first version of the XFL. To date, all have failed. It has led some to believe that spring football just isn’t possible. I respectfully disagree with that sentiment.
I believe there is a market for more football and I believe this new version of the XFL is doing everything right in pursuing it. They took their time, using the past two years to make sure they had plenty of money in hand and refine the rules. After plenty of waiting and anticipation, week one kicked off this past weekend. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Given how the first XFL failed, it could’ve been a disaster.
I know a lot can change between the first week of the season in the last.
For now, that doesn’t matter. I’m in. The XFL 2.0 has sold me. It’s real football at a time when the sports world needs it. I was rooting for it before. Now, I’m rooting even harder. The world of football and the world of sports, in general, will benefit from the XFL succeeding.
We do it in our personal lives as well, giving second chances to those we love. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. However, the first step, and arguably the most important, is giving that chance to someone, even when you haven’t forgotten the extent of their mistake.
That brings me to the XFL. I’m sorry, but there’s just no way to effectively transition to this topic. I know the title alone sounded like a jumbled compilation of random thoughts from someone who talks about everything from sex robots to superhero movies. I promise I’m going somewhere with this. I also promise it’s both relevant and applicable.
The story of the first incarnation of the XFL is an amazing story. The fact that it also involves exceedingly sexy cheerleaders doesn’t hurt it’s appeal either. Just last year, ESPN did a documentary on that story called “30 For 30: This Was The XFL.” If you want a comprehensive take on what happened to this over-the-top league, this I highly recommend you check this out.
By the end, you’ll appreciate why giving McMahon and the XFL a second chance is such a big deal. It may even give you a better appreciation of why second chances are so hard to give at times. In a sense, this second incarnation of the XFL may end up being a case study on the underlying merit of second chances or the lack thereof.
Well, I can only speak for myself. I’m not a sports expert any more than I’m a brain surgeon. However, in the spirit of second chances and learning from past mistakes, there are a few I think are worth considering with both the XFL and life in general.
A Second Chance Can Prove You’ve Learned From Failure (And Are Able To Learn In General)
This is as valuable a skill in helping the new XFL succeed as it is for anyone who has ever screwed up in life, which covers pretty much everybody. This is probably the most important aspect of second chances. It gives an opportunity for someone to do more than just claim they’ve learned. Now, they can show it.
It’s hard to say for certain what McMahon will do differently at this point. However, if the content of his announcement is any indication, he’s very much aware of why the XFL failed the first time. He’s ready to take those hard, not to mention expensive, lessons and try again.
Given the breadth of McMahon’s success, he’s someone who can make more out of second chances than most. That’s why I’m going to give him this one, even if I find his persona annoying.
Second Chances Reveals Opportunities Otherwise Not Seen
It’s a common theme in business, romance, and everything in between. Both failure and success create opportunities. The failure of “Batman and Robin” paved the way for “Batman Begins.” The success of the iPhone paved the way for the booming smartphone business.
In that respect, the XFL’s timing couldn’t be better. It’s coming along at a time when fans are somewhat disillusioned with the NFL, but have little alternatives beyond the hopelessly corrupt NCAA. The XFL could finally give the NFL the kind of competition that is necessary for any product, service, or art to innovate.
Let’s face it. We humans are a competitive species. If someone is doing something better than us, be it football or underwater basket weaving, we want to match and exceed them. It drives us to be better. It helps make us better people.
Football needs that right now. The NFL needs that. The XFL has the perfect opportunity to achieve this. Combined with the lessons of their first failure, they have much more going for them now than they did in 2001.
This is probably the most important aspect of second chances for both the XFL and for life, in general. Everything that’s worth doing, whether it’s creating a new football league or finding the love of your life, requires a certain degree of risk. Some aren’t willing to risk that much, but those who are have a chance to achieve much more.
I say this as someone who avoided taking major risks until much later in life. Looking back on how I carried myself in my youth, I regret not taking more risks. Hindsight has revealed that I missed out on some pretty big rewards, both material and personal. Sometimes, you really have to do what your brain says is insanely risky to get those kinds of rewards.
At the moment, most people probably think he’s crazy and bound to fail. Those people aren’t willing to take the risk, but none of them have a shot at the big reward that McMahon is seeking. Even if the chances of the XFL succeeding are less than one percent, it’s still greater than zero and that’s all the chance you need with a second chance.
A Second Chance Can Also Help Fix Broken Or Flawed Systems
This is the part of the new XFL that has me the most intrigued, as a football fan. That’s because, as it stands, the system for developing players for the NFL is basically a cartel wrapped in a monopoly. The NCAA is the cartel. The NFL is the monopoly. If you want to make a living playing football, these are the sole gatekeepers.
It’s a system with many flaws, which have been documentedon more than one occasion. The problem is there’s no incentives to fix those flaws. Neither the NCAA nor the NFL have any pressure to do so. They wield total power over all things football and can be as unjust as they want.
The XFL can change that. They can shake up a system that does plenty to screw over college players and professionals if they fail to make it in the NFL. They can provide a new path, bring new ideas to the table, and take chances that a cartel and a monopoly don’t even think to take.
It wouldn’t be the first time a monopoly got broken up. In most peoples’ lives, they either avoid situations where someone has all the leverage or work to subvert it. We do that with the people we work with and the people we love. Again, it often requires that we take risks and chances. However, it only has to work once to affect change.
It’s still not clear just what the new XFL will bring to the table or if it will succeed. For now, it has many forces working against it. However, as both a football fan and someone who sees the merit of second chances, I’m willing to give it one.