When a new year dawns, it can become common practice to look behind and ponder “what could have been done differently?” (one of the main reasons why I started this blog was as a response to that question.) This is doubly so with a new century. That is what W.W.E. C.E.O Vince McMahon did to the N.F.L. and the landscape of professional football when he unleashed his new dog in the ring, The X.F.L.
McMahon came from impressive circumstances, managing to defeat his TV rivals W.C.W. in the dawn of the millennium. He did so by embracing aggression, anti-heroes, and the allure X.F.L. is his attempt at applying these principles to professional league football.
While not a complete renovation, the X.F.L. adapts from professional Gridiron football in several ways. Professional skills determine the starting possession of the ball as opposed to the luck of a coin toss, with both teams trying to catch and possess a football on the field, just to determine ownership. While touchdown scoring remains the same, kicks for points after touchdown are also revamped. Even the games themselves were sped up with removals of valuable seconds off the game clock. These changes combined were a valiant attempt at injecting some much-needed action into each match. That ultimately led to more scrimmages and collisions, but really liven up the night.
The changes go beyond just the rules, as McMahon added an extra dose of his patented attitude to the proceedings. Players could have emblazoned nicknames on their jerseys. Sky cameras, capturing the details from up high, with various off-camera segments with the cheerleaders and the players themselves, really help sell the “attitude” personality that Vince McMahon tried to impart into Professional Wrestling. Even the team’s names screamed defiance with teams like The Las Vegas Outlaws, The San Francisco Demons, and The Orlando Rage. In short, this isn’t your every Monday-night N.F.L., but something that’s fresh and ready to embrace the heady future of Y2K. There’s no change without controversy, however, and these renovations amounted to metric tonnes of negative press, with concerns about the sleaze associated with Professional Wrestling potentially infecting the sport. Yet there are others who felt that the excitement is just what is needed.
The X.F.L. is a prime illustration of how even tried and tested institutions could benefit from a revitalisation. It charges full steam ahead of the opposition in terms of ambition. Making it a shame it got cut down before establishing its roots. The franchise only lasted a season, with the Los Angeles Xtreme taking “The Million Dollar Game”, yet there appears to be serious talk about bringing the league back in the very near future to try to take on the N.F.L. again. Maybe this time the audience will be ready, maybe newer changes have been conceived, Maybe the country will be ready for a football league that is a little more xtreme.
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