It’s an interesting time to be a football fan.
Tomorrow, after a pretty exciting end to the 2019 NFL season, the XFL kicks off its first weekend of play since 2001. I expect ratings to be pretty good this weekend, and attendance, as well (I was told they’re expecting about 20,000 in Houston as the Roughnecks host the Los Angeles Saturday).
Fans are essential, of course, but readers of this post aren’t fans, by and large. Like me, most are asking themselves this question: will the XFL really have legs? Is this league any different from all the other attempts at a new league?
To me, here are the reasons to believe and the reasons to have doubts. First, the pros of the XFL.
- Money: The XFL seems to be far more responsible about its spending. I spoke to one friend in an XFL team’s front office yesterday and he said the big difference he’s seen from his AAF experience is that his team is willing to spend for the big things, but is much tighter on frivolous purchases. That’s good news.
- Experience: We’ve never seen a new league start up while the wreckage of a previous, viable new league was still smoldering. Many of those who served in the AAF are back with the XFL. We’ve also never seen a league owner come back for a second bite of the apple. No one can say Vince McMahon doesn’t know what he’s getting into.
- Contracts: There was a lot of hullabaloo when player salaries were announced last. year. Some players even elected not to play, but to me, the league has to be wise about its expenditures. The facts are, this is what the market dictates players be paid. It might even be a little on the high side.
Now for the cons.
- History: There’s a reason these leagues don’t survive. From football fatigue to competition for the entertainment dollar to a lack of talent across the board, we’ve seen dozens of leagues give start-up football a go without success.
- Team sites: One area where the AAF really excelled was in giving the game to cities that have always sought an NFL franchise. The XFL, however, went in the opposite direction, even seeking out NFL-sized venues. That’s a real dice roll.
- NFL labor peace: When the league was in its early stages, it looked like the NFL may be in for a work stoppage. That’s looking less likely now. That means it will be business as usual across the board for the NFL news cycle, i.e., free agency, the draft, etc.
Make sure you weigh in on the chances for the XFL’s long-term success in our Twitter poll. We’ll also have thoughts from people around the game in today’s Friday Wrap. You can register for the Wrap here, and if you aren’t already receiving it, I hope you do. It arrives in inboxes at 6:30 p.m. CT.