Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Korked Bats

That Funny Sports Blog

I Like The XFL And You Should Too

The XFL started this weekend and everyone had the same take about it going in, “Well, I guess I’ll watch.” Shortly into the weekend, that “I guess I’ll watch” turned into “This ain’t half bad” which ultimately turned into “I’M PAINTING MY FACE AND PURCHASING SEASON TICKETS TO THE NEAREST GEOGRAPHICAL TEAM! LET’S GOOOOOOO!”

The XFL was good you guys. Now look, I’ll be the first to admit that the F in the XFL still needs some work, but a brand new league with no pre-season, I’m willing to give them a few weeks before they catch their stride. With that said, the X and L were very impressive, which I will get to a little later.

This XFL reboot features eight teams mostly from cities that already have NFL franchises. Bold strategy, I guess? Those teams are:

Dallas Renegades — Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like there’s already an MLS team with this same name. I think they play in Columbus… the Columbus Dallas Renegades.

Houston Roughnecks — I’m sure in about 20 years this team name will be deemed racist somehow, and we’ll have another Washington Redskins situation on our hands

Los Angeles Wildcats — That’s a really creative name… I wonder how they came up with that? Not cats… but WILDcats? Interesting.

New York Guardians — They can help sign any consent forms for XFL teams who are under the age of 18.

Tampa Bay Vipers — Oliver Stone think this one up? This legitimately sounds like a team name from Any Given Sunday.

Seattle Dragons — This team literally just shares a logo with UAB.

D.C. Defenders — Somebody watched a little too much Olympus Has Fallen before coming up with this team name.

St. Louis Battlehawks — Who’s one of the most hated teams in St. Louis? The Chicago Blackhawks? Ok. Let’s name it that, but slightly different… How about Battlehawks? Sure!

While I am excited about this new XFL, we must first remember where the XFL originally came from.

Do you guys remember the original XFL? It was essentially what you got if you put mediocre amateur football into a blender with anabolic steroids, a heaping scoop of creatine, and a pinch of cocaine.

The O.G. XFL was He Hate Me, the Orlando Rage, no fair catches, Tommy Maddox, the Memphis Maniax, new camera angles, the black and red football, no extra points, the Las Vegas Outlaws, and oh yeah, Jeff freaking Brohm.

You might remember the XFL as a joke of a league that lasted all of one season. I remember the XFL as an innovative titan that took the NFL years to catch up with. And while I usually write with a lot of sarcasm on this website, there is none intended in that previous sentence. I’m 100% serious.

The XFL was the first to ever bring us:

  • the first ever skycam
  • cameramen walking on the field for the first time
  • in-game interviews
  • football in both Los Angeles and Vegas

The NFL adopted many of these innovative things the XFL pulled off, and I think we will see the same thing this time around as well. More on that in a bit.

I like to consider myself a little bit of an XFL expert, or rather an XFL Xpert. Why? Because in the one year of the original XFL’s existence (sorry, Xistence), I played XFL Fantasy Football. You’re probably thinking, they had XFL fantasy back then? And the answer is yes. And I know it’s not cool to talk about your fantasy team, but Tommy Maddox was my quarterback. Did I win my league? No, my buddy Frank did. But it was probably the most extreme fantasy I’ve ever played.

If you don’t remember the first go-around with the XFL, allow me to refresh your memory. This was a football league where Vince McMahon was the Roger Goodell. Last names on jerseys were replaced with whatever you wanted – most of which sounded like b-list rappers: X-Rated, Hit Squad, E-Rupt, Big Daddy. Oh, and the coin toss traded in currency for concunssions. It was a melee that dislocated one guy’s shoulder in the first week of the season. Allow Jesse “The Body” Ventura to explain.

If that didn’t instantly grow hair on your chest, then check your pulse, because you’ve probably flatlined. Black coffee, self oil changes, and the rarest steak you can find think the first XFL was manly.

However, as we saw with the #MeToo movement, too much manly is not a good thing. Thus making it not the greatest business model. And after one season the XFL folded. Maybe it was too extreme? Maybe it was because the end of some games got cut off because they had to get to their regularly scheduled episode of Saturday Night Live. Or maybe it’s just because it wasn’t planned out very well.

But that’s the thing about this reboot. Normally, the reboot is never as good as the original. Trust me, I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. But this reboot is incredible.

It’s more viable, it’s more polished, and most importantly, it’s more self-aware. The XFL isn’t selling itself as a more extreme NFL, but rather an alternative to NFL when you can’t watch the NFL.

To me, the XFL is a self-aware lab rat willing to test things out that we will eventually see in the NFL. Take for example the kickoffs…

It’s ridiculous. It’s weird. It’s confusing. And it just might work. I firmly believe you will see the NFL alter their kickoffs to at least be a modified version of this. Why? It’s safer. And the only thing the NFL loves more than money and “randomly” drug testing athletes with records is that word “safer.”

I also enjoyed some of the new rules the XFL implemented. For example, the double forward pass as long as the first pass is caught behind the line of scrimmage. I watched a lot of XFL this weekend and didn’t see this happen, but just the idea that the rule is there makes me feel glad. Although, we did see some pretty cool plays.

That’s former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones. He didn’t go to Ohio State to play school, and he didn’t come to the XFL to play bad.

I also thoroughly enjoy the 10-minute halftimes.

Why spend time waiting for football when you could be watching football? I’m pretty sure Confucius originally asked that. I also oddly like the scoring system. Because a 17-point game with less than two minutes is suddenly still a game, since a team can opt to go for 1, 2, or 3 points after a touchdown. Two 9-point touchdowns and you’re back in it.

The XFL also showed us a number of other things this weekend that I think you will more than likely see in the NFL very soon. The biggest of all: access.

We had cameras and mic’s in referee huddles, in replay review rooms, in locker rooms during halftime, and on sidelines. In fact, at times, it was too much access.

The hardest hit of the weekend didn’t come on the field, but rather in the control room on that dump button.

The stars of this weekend weren’t the washed up head coaches or the no-name players from Southern Louisiana Tech A&M. The stars of this weekend were the sideline reporters. Whenever a play was made or a screw-up happened, these sideline reporters had their mics in the faces of players.

“You just threw a costly interception that lost your team the game, walk us through that.”

“Your fumble ended your team’s chance to win and cost your team the $100,000 bonus. What will you say to your teammates?”

“Your wife was seen smooching the beer man in the stands. Will you file for divorce?”

Despite this league carrying the weight of the NFL shield, it still was cool to get a peek behind the curtain of a professional football team. Hearing what went on in the headsets, listening in to halftime conversations, and getting to see teams shotgun Bud Light Seltzer after wins.

Wouldn’t have expected anything other than the team from St. Louis to slam Anheuser-Busch products after their win.

Another other thing the XFL did that I think will be hitting the NFL very soon: the spread and over/under included on the ESPN telecast. unfortunately, FOX didn’t have this… yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if they added it to their graphics package before the end of the season. I should note that I’m not a big gambler. And by saying, “I’m not a big gambler” is my trying-to-stay-cool way of saying, “I’ve never gambled on sports in my life.” However, I’m very intrigued in the industry, and I loved knowing the spread and over/under of the game I was watching to let me know how gamblers felt while watching the game.

SIDE NOTE: In the inaugural game between the D.C. Defenders and the Seattle Dragons, the spread was D.C. -9.5 and the over/under was 51.5. D.C. won by 11 and the point total was 50. HOW THE HELL DID VEGAS NAIL BOTH OF THOSE NUMBERS WITHOUT HAVING EITHER OF THESE TEAMS FULL OF MOSTLY NO-NAME PLAYERS PLAYING A SINGLE GAME IN THE HISTORY OF ANYTHING?!?!

All in all, the XFL impressed me. I was worried this was just going to be another AAF situation, but one weekend in, it just feels bigger. It has the support of the major networks, the stadiums are fuller, and all the players are friends, apparently.

The XFL makes me happy, because like many of you, I was bummed the Monday after the Super Bowl knowing we wouldn’t have football until August. But after one weekend of this extreme football league, I expect to tune back in again next week. And the week after that. And the week after that. And every week after that until this ten-week season and two-week playoff is complete. And I’m sure mine and all wives are thrilled.

If you haven’t given the XFL a chance, I strongly urge you to do so. Because after a long six-day hiatus following the Super Bowl, I can gladly say that FOOTBALL IS BACK!


Austin hosts a country music morning radio show in Chicago after nearly a decade in sports talk radio (The Jim Rome Show, Steve Gorman SPORTS!) Colin Cowherd and Smash Mouth follow him on Twitter and he wears pants every day.


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