If you just heard the sound of the internet quip machine rumbling to life and were wondering about the source, look no further: Vince McMahon just announced the return of the XFL. Yes, the infamous “Extra Fun League” created and then immediately run into the ground by the WWE chairman after just a single season in 2001 is coming back for a second helping of punishment. Despite the fact that the original league lost more than $100 million for both the WWE and NBC, it would seem that McMahon thinks he sees a potential place to profit due to the current political climate and right-wing dissatisfaction with the NFL.
ESPN first broke the news of McMahon’s new football venture this morning, noting that McMahon filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month to fund a company called Alpha Entertainment, which would be making investments, “including professional football.” Alpha also filed trademarks for the XFL name. However, according to the league’s newly created hashtag, we won’t be seeing any XFL games until early 2020, starting with eight teams in eight yet-to-be-announced cities.
The original XFL was ridiculed almost universally for its attempt to bring pro wrestling-style drama and presentation to the game of professional football, which included such stunts as a “scramble” on kickoff, where two players would try to chase down a ball in order to determine possession. On the first scramble in the first televised game in XFL history, said gimmick immediately resulted in one player suffering a separated shoulder. Ultimately, the combination of sophomoric humor, titillation and poorly played football proved uninteresting to BOTH wrestling and football fans, and viewers fled the league almost immediately after the premiere of its first game, despite the presence of such potential stars as Rod “He Hate Me” Smart. The retrospective below offers a more detailed (and hilarious) recap of the initial XFL run.
So, why would Vince McMahon possibly want to get back into the professional football business today? Well, it’s impossible to overlook McMahon’s well-publicized friendship with President Donald Trump in these circumstances. Over the last season, Trump has continuously blasted both the NFL and specific players such as Colin Kaepernick for their on-field shows of solidarity, which typically take the form of taking a knee during the national anthem. Choosing to utterly ignore the players’ stated reason for the protests (originally in protest of police profiling and brutality toward minorities), Trump has used the protests as an excuse to push a “they won’t support our troops” message and capitalize on the nation’s resurgent voter base of white nationalists. It’s easy to extrapolate from here and see how a deluded McMahon could view the divided NFL fanbase as one now ready to jump ship to a new football league, while currying favor with the president at the same time. And you can bet your ass that Trump will be a HUGE fan of a league that McMahon once called “not for pantywaists and sissies” in the initial 2000 press conference announcing the creation of the XFL.
Indeed, McMahon addressed questions of this nature in the press conference announcing the return of the league, saying that the national anthem was a “time-honored tradition,” despite the fact that the Star Spangled Banner is rarely performed at WWE events. This will be a completely “non-political” league, and apparently one unable to recognize irony as well, considering that it will presumably make a strong political statement by punishing any player who doesn’t conform to its politics-based rulebook.
Among McMahon’s bizarre proclamations today: The players of this league will have “no criminality” among them, because character is as important as talent, and the league will somehow both reduce penalties and play clock stoppage while INCREASING player safety. Do those two seem incongruous? Not at all, if you’re Vince McMahon. There’s no word yet as to where those players will come from, but we’re thinking you won’t be seeing many jump ship from the NFL for the chance to be paid a pittance of their former salary and become the next “He Hate Me.”
He went on to repeatedly emphasize that the new XFL will be “what the fans want,” while dodging questions from reporters asking exactly how he was determining what the fans would want.
But hey, at least Homer Simpson will be happy, right?