The XFL is right here, and whereas I mentally ready final week to put in writing some witty teardown of the most recent skilled soccer league making an attempt to take a chunk out of the NFL’s apple, I’ve to confess that after one weekend, I’m hooked.
It’s not a lot I wished the XFL to fail, as a lot because it was the belief we’ve heard this music earlier than. A brand new league launches, everybody is happy for every week, viewership declines, the league ultimately folds, and we return to this exact same level in 10 years to see who would be the subsequent silly investor to do that experiment. This iteration of the XFL feels completely different, although. It’s recent, and enjoyable, and simply bizarre sufficient that it’d stick round.
Any author who tried to persuade you of their pleasure for the XFL every week in the past was possible being disingenuous. Let me be blunt: Soccer writers actually love the weekend after the Tremendous Bowl. It’s a collective exhale after months of gruelingly over-analyzing the league. These few fleeting weeks in February are a much-deserved respite from enthusiastic about soccer till the NFL Draft Mix begins and the whole lot swings into full gear once more. It takes one thing particular to make writers get pleasure from soccer instantly following the Tremendous Bowl, and the XFL did simply that.
It’s not simply the presentation, or the revolutionary rule modifications that made Week 1 compelling. It’s the charming “who the hell considered this” facet to the league. It could have been contrived in a boardroom by males in $5,000 fits, however it appears like one thing dreamed up in an open storage on a lazy Sunday afternoon after too many beers. It’s the whole lot we need the Professional Bowl to be with its fan-focused angle, however with video games that aren’t a mockery to the game itself.
Most significantly: The XFL is enjoyable.
There are nonetheless some mountains to climb. Stadiums really feel too empty. A scarcity of ambient crowd sounds make the video games really feel just like the Professional Bowl, and that’s not a praise. It’s early within the new league’s tenure, so that may be forgiven — however it stays to be seen if the XFL can transition from being a bizarre secondary soccer oddity to creating actual die-hard followers whose pleasure will translate by means of tv units and inform individuals at residence “that is must-watch leisure.” The extent of play was principally good. At occasions it felt just like the fourth sport of NFL preseason, however in an analogous approach, that’s what made it enjoyable, too. All of us have gamers from school we want would get pictures within the NFL, however don’t as a consequence of a wide range of components.
Take Jordan Ta’amu, an thrilling quarterback whose poor touchdown-interception ratio made him undrafted out of Ole Miss. Ta’amu languished on the Texans bench earlier than being lower, and previous to the XFL we would solely hear about him in a random CFL spotlight bundle stuffed into the late-night version of SportsCenter. As a substitute, we obtained to see him on full show in Week 1, main the St. Louis BATTLEHAWKS (which should all the time be capped) to a 15-9 win over Dallas on the power of his 209 yards passing and 77 yards speeding. It’s early, however Ta’amu appears to be like just like the can’t-miss participant of the season early on — and we by no means would have seen him within the NFL.
There’s room to have a real feeder league for the NFL and vice versa. The defunct AAF had a dream of brokering a take care of the NFL to permit for observe squad gamers to compete in its league, which was met with resistance. Nonetheless, if the XFL can proceed to show that it may provide a superb soccer product, deal with its gamers, and supply alternatives to gamers the NFL couldn’t then, nicely, with a brand new collective bargaining settlement on the desk, who is aware of what alternatives a league just like the XFL might present to the hundred of gamers who barely miss out on NFL rosters yearly?
I’m not going to make some bizarre declarative assertion in regards to the XFL’s longterm future, however dammit, I’m going to get pleasure from this bizarre experience whereas it lasts. The XFL made me care about watching extra soccer in February — and that’s the largest praise a league can obtain.