10 ways the XFL can stick its (second) landing
UPDATE: This article was originally published on December 18th, 2017. Since then, Vince McMahon has confirmed the return of the XFL in 2020.
On Friday evening, rumors began to swirl. Overnight they were fanned and fed and by Saturday the most baffling sports headline of the year for anyone not intimately familiar with Vince McMahon’s legacy of pure, unabashed hubris was already raging out of control: The WWE don has not only been plotting a revival of the XFL, the greatest pre-Slamball disaster in American sports history, but is hoping to announce it as early as January. That’s next month, in case you just blacked out, hit your head on the toilet, and woke up thinking your name was Tanya.
Now, we all remember what happened the last time McMahon PROMISED TO CHANGE THE FACE OF FOOTBALL [action movie trailer voice as hot Korn track blasts in the background because 2001], so in order to avoid a repeat collapse, we—sports fans under the age of 51 with no Harley Davidson tattoos—came up with a few helpful tips for the Rockstar Energy-swilling brain trust up in Stamford. Put all these pieces together and perhaps the XFL will live to see the one thing no one ever thought it would: A second season.
Get a Trump-owned franchise
Herschel Walker, Donald Trump
FILE - In this March 8, 1984, file photo, Donald Trump shakes hands with Herschel Walker in New York after agreement on a 4-year contract with the New Jersey Generals USFL football team. The New Jersey Generals have been largely forgotten, but Trump’s ownership of the team was formative in his evolution as a public figure and peerless self-publicist. With money and swagger, he led a shaky and relatively low-budget spring football league, the USFL, into a showdown with the NFL. (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff, File)
Say what you want about this guy and his previously failed USFL franchise...and disastrous bid to buy the Buffalo Bills...and on-record endorsement of firing players for whatever whenever...but put him in charge of the Atlantic City Craps and watch the gold flakes fly.
Assemble a play-by-play team of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis
Let NantzMo take golf and have the real men call football...presumably in tank tops while questioning the “toughness” of concussion protocol on live TV. Jesse Ventura can stop by for old time's sake if he wants.
Hire Coach He Hate Me
Buckle up for them press conferences, whooeeee!
Introduce Power Ups
How do you make football more appealing for the droves of Millenials, Gen Zers, and yet-unclassified biped species currently flocking away from the NFL? You take inspiration from the only thing more popular than actual football: Madden.
This starts with “Power Ups.” At the start of every matchup, teams have the potential to unlock three Power Ups by completing achievements throughout the game. Power Up 1 is unlocked when your running back reaches 100 yards rushing. Power Up 2 is unlocked when your kicker makes a FG over 50 yards. Power Up 3 is unlocked when your team scores 30 or more points. Each Power Up can then be stored and redeemed on a play of the team’s choosing like a replay challenge. These wild cards could include a play where said team gets to put 12 men on the field, another that turns any incomplete pass into a fumble, and a jackpot boost that makes a touchdown count for 10 points.
Not only would these Power Ups dramatically alter the fabric of football in isolated moments, they would also have the potential to alter gameflow as a whole, with teams weighing the value of the Power Up against their broader play calling strategy. Maybe a team tries a FG from 60 when they would normally punt because they want to unlock the Fumble-Rooski Power Up but then the kicker comes up and short and the other team takes it back to the house. Perhaps a team down nine wins the game on a bomb when they cash-in the 10-point boost and go play action instead of dive on third and two from the 40.
Needless to say, somewhere Andy Reid just got the meat sweats.
Stick to the Script
Much to the surprise of the non-WWE indoctrinated masses of America shouting “THAT’S NOT REAL” at the PPV, the point of WWE is that it’s NOT real. Wrestling “entertainment” is less sport than theater, investing fans in character, story, and semi-fabricated league politics before any giant, oiled man even thinks about throwing himself to the mat in clearly pantomimed pain. Contrary to conventional logic (not our strength, it should be said), the XFL should tear a page out of this script.
The product on the field can remain more or less real, but stars should have their own personas, story arcs, and pre-arranged WAGs who probably also fight each other from time to time. Trades should be plot devices, not business transactions. Every now and then a ref should beef with a superstar on the field, which leads to a blown call and the league villains winning in shocking fashion and yep, I guess I just described Steelers vs. Patriots the other night but oh well, you get the point.
Speaking of WAGs...
Let them on the sideline, even if especially if it’s cold.
Let 18-year-old kids play...and pay them to
Give each XFL team their own recruiting department. Forge a partnership with the NFL that allows 20 “exceptional talent” prospects to declare for the the draft after a single season. Then watch as the raw teenage athleticism that makes programs like Ohio State and Clemson so much fun instead floods to a salaried feeder league where you have the NEXT Odell Beckham Jr. catching passes from whatever is left of the current Eli Manning.
Target football deserts
The smartest thing the original XFL ever did was put a team in Vegas. The dumbest was putting three more in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Sure, it was a TV play and an important piece of their broadcast deal with NBC, but this time around, the XFL needs to show a little geographic savvy. Put a team in Portland, where they STILL can’t bring themselves to root for the Seahawks, or Toronto where they sort of wanted the Bills. Put a team in Oakland, San Diego, St. Louis, or anywhere else the NFL has recently railroaded. Go to Nebraska and name it the Stupid Snowflake Crushers. IDK, we’re just riffing here.
Combine the Lingerie and Puppy Bowls at halftime of the XFL championship
Steal this idea and we will sue you back to the Stoneage, McMahon.
Sorry, it’s a football article. By law, his name has to be mentioned once.