The XFL: Xtreme Football or Xtreme Farce?
By Lakota Hokie, 2/6/01

On Saturday night, February 3, 2001, Vince McMahon kicked off the first season of his new creation, the XFL. With a rousing speech reminiscent of his tirades during a WWF match, the master of marketing began a league that most people have said has no chance of succeeding. Too many gimmicks, too much sex, and not enough real football was all the sports world heard from the XFL’s critics in the months leading up to last Saturday night.

Well, it turns out that both sides were right, as real football was played, along with a few new interesting rules and a little too much influence from the world of wrestling. The league debuted on NBC to a preliminary 10.3 overnight rating, with a follow-up rating of 4.2 for Sundays broadcast on UPN. Compare that to a 14 rating for Game 1 of the World Series last year (also aired on Saturday night, by FOX) and the founders/owners of the XFL must be thrilled beyond belief. Let’s take a closer look at the ups and downs of this new football creation and see just where Mr. McMahon is taking us.

Five Reasons to watch the XFL:

  1. After the marketing dust settled, real football, with real players, was contested this weekend and I would much rather watch football than pre-playoff basketball or hockey.
  2. Some interesting new rules are followed in the XFL (more details later) and learning a new game is always interesting for any sports nut.
  3. Table dances…sorry, I meant shots of the XFL cheerleaders hamming it up with the testosterone-heavy crowds. Anyone notice how Sunday’s broadcast featured much less t&a than Saturday nights’??
  4. Camera angles that really showed some excellent hits and allowed the viewer a closer look at the game.
  5. Players that are playing the game for much less than their NFL brethren, including a $2500 bonus for winning the match.

Five Reasons NOT to watch the XFL:

  1. Brian Bozworth!!!! I cannot believe the XFL couldn’t find someone better qualified for color analyst than a washed-up has-been that never really was.
  2. Not enough HOKIES (that may be a good thing…I’m not sure yet)!!! On Sunday’s broadcast, we did catch a glimpse of Ken Oxendine but Jim Druckenmiller is playing behind probably the best QB in the XFL, so we may not be seeing him very often.
  3. Too many camera angles. During the course of actual action, I’d like to see the league stick with the more traditional camera angles, using their innovative shots only for replays and isolation shots.
  4. Player introductions. I can definitely live without "meeting" all of the players at the beginning of each game. I’m hoping this was only planned for the opening weekend, but McMahon’s probably envisioning XFL action figures, etc…
  5. WWF influence. Please tell me I’m not going to have to endure cameo appearances by the Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin throughout the entire season. Also, get rid of the wrestling announcers—they’re almost as bad as the Boz.
  6. Not enough cheerleaders. What can I say?? They looked fine and I feel they deserve more play. After all, they work just as hard as the players and coaches, right??

10 Differences and/or New Rules with the XFL:

  1. Scrum for the kickoff: Instead of using the traditional coin-toss to determine which side receives the ball first, two players, one from each team, fight for a loose ball, possession determining the outcome. I don’t like this rule, as it can only lead to injuries (as proven Saturday night).
  2. No extra point kicks: Instead of kicking for the extra point, as is done in traditional football leagues, the XFL requires its teams to either run or pass the ball over the goal line to gain the extra point. I love this rule, even though it eliminates the two-point conversion. Kickers have enough influence on the game.
  3. No fair catches on punts: At first, I thought this rule would result in some excellent hits and important turnovers. However, the XFL completely ruined this rule’s potential by creating a five-yard halo that protects the return man. They need to eliminate the halo if they want some truly fantastic hits.
  4. Nicknames on uniforms: This is not a "rule" that will influence the outcome of any games, but it does create some interesting material for both the announcers and the fans. Kudos to Ken Oxendine for his incredibly original "OX".
  5. Movement towards the line of scrimmage: "Borrowed" from the CFL, this rule allows one offensive player to be moving toward the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. I’m not sure this will have much impact on the game, but it does create some confusion for the defenses and certainly looks different.
  6. Contact between DB and WR: The XFL allows the defensive backs to "jam" the receivers (any contact to slow forward progress) until the point when the ball is thrown. After that point, no contact is allowed. Also, contact is not allowed once the receiver has passed the defensive back (i.e. contact from the side or from behind). Pretty good rule, as WRs have way too much help in both the NFL and college game today. However, this rule does offset the previous one discussed, motion towards the line of scrimmage.
  7. On-field cameramen (or women): One of the more innovative additions to the game, the XFL has helmeted cameramen on the field of play during actual playing time. They position themselves behind the offenses/defenses, gaining some excellent shots before, during and after the plays. I’m waiting for the first incident of interference by these cameramen that influences the outcome of a game.
  8. A punt is a live ball after traveling 25 yards: This is the best new rule the XFL has incorporated. On Sunday, a quick kick almost resulted in a game-deciding turnover and I believe we’ll see this tactic used often throughout the season. The refs need to go easy on the man downfield part of the rule, however, or the excitement will once again be negated.
  9. No instant replays: Unless I missed this one, I did not see/hear where instant replay would be in use. Thank God!!! I have always felt that officiating, both good and bad, is part of the game and should be left alone. The game flows better without 5-minute interruptions.
  10. Halftime access/QB access: During the game, the plays being radioed into the QB are sometimes aired for the television audience, which allows the viewer to better understand how the offense is called, etc…Also, I like the halftime access to both locker rooms. Once again, the viewer may actually learn something about the game.

Overall, I found the games fairly exciting and well produced. If McMahon and NBC/UPN/TNN make the necessary adjustments and learn from viewer suggestions and critiques, the league has a chance to be both entertaining and legitimate. Incorporating the point-spread into the broadcast is another difference that will go over well with most fans. The NFL is kidding itself by preventing broadcasters from discussing the wagering side of the game. Finally, I personally think the league will succeed and I look forward to watching "xtreme" football for many years to come.


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