20 April 2001 XFL: Excitement or Excuse Football is something as American as apple pie. It is thought of as gritty, physical, and all around fun just as most Americans like to be thought of. For decades the NFL has dominated the world of football. However, Vince McMahon, the founder of the WWF, has introduced a new and controversial professional football league called the XFL. Much of the controversy is about whether the XFL is a force to be reckoned with or just another of McMahon's clever marketing ploys. Although the XFL's survival has been questioned by many, it promises to be a league full of the smash-mouth, trash-talking, fan-oriented football every fan deserves.
First of all, the league will succeed because it has been geared towards the fans from the beginning. In contrast, the NFL only seems to care about its pre madonna, million dollar superstars. Chuck Miller, a columnist for Football Digest, points out the perfect timing for the league. It starts up right after the Super Bowl and ends right before the basketball and hockey postseasons (58). The XFL has implemented many new rules to increase the excitement of the game. No fair catches, no kicking for PATs, and no "safety" rules to protect the quarterback are just a few of the rules changed in hopes of creating a faster more competitive game.
Secondly, there are cameras and microphones everywhere, including on the benches, in the huddles, and all over the field. This will give the fans a new and different perspective than the average NFL game. The locker rooms at half time, a referee's huddle, and even a player's brutal taunts to the opposing team which are usually off limits to the average fan add to the thrill and emotion of an XFL game. Also, the price of an average XFL ticket is around a reasonable twenty-five dollars.
These cheap tickets to a new and certainly exciting professional football league have many people believing this is truly fan-based entertainment. Another reason the XFL will survive and prosper is its business savvy. Vice McMahon, who established himself as the owner and founder of the WWF, has proved to be a marketing genius. In a 50-50 partnership with NBC, who pumped in 50 million dollars and marketing muscle, Vince is targeting 13-24 year old males for his new football league. This target audience of 13-24 year old males just happens to be the same target audience of his WWF, which should make cross promotions a breeze (Efferon 31). With a combination of very visible cheerleaders, WWF superstar's promotions, and hard-nosed football Vince is sure to attract plenty of loyal fans.
Another added benefit is that the XFL does not have any owners or contract negotiations to bring the league down from the inside out. All players have a fixed salary with the winning team getting an added bonus after each win. However, one of the most important signs of acceptance is by the commercial economy. Las Vegas odds makers have officially put a point spread, or margin of victory, on each and every game. This is significant because it shows that gamblers and the rest of the world has done their homework on these games and has seen them as a way to make a profit. Major companies such as International Paper, Home Depot, and Nike are also putting their time and money into the league through commercial advertising (Efferon 32).
Even though opponents argue the XFL is nothing more than Vince McMahon's wrestlers trying to play football, the talent of the XFL is real. For example, many former NFL and college stars are out to prove they can play exciting, entertaining football at a professional level. Basil De Vito, the XFL's president says, "a key factor is giving the new players opportunity" (CNN SI. com). Also, with the salary cap of the NFL many good players have been squeezed out of a team's budget to allow for a superstar's high salary demands. Although these salary cap victims would gladly play for less, the NFL's player's union will not let them play for anything below the league minimum.
Critics also point out that the XFL will not attract enough fans or money. However, the fans will come because people can never get enough football, especially from such a new and public league. The new XFL will be turning a lot of heads. Some of those heads might turn away in disgust, but many will turn with eyebrows raised at this new perspective of football.
This sort of behind-the-scenes viewing and in-your-face action will most likely make other sports look at the way they present their entertainment to the viewers. Phil Mush nick, a long time McMahon critic states, "It's [the XFL's] job to sell sex and violence under the cloak of some kind of quasi sport or some sort of competition that really serves as just a prop" (Steptoe). However, the XFL does not present guns, knives, or killing. It is presenting a more exciting football experience to the people who truly deserve it-the fans.