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What was the XFL? This was the XFL.

By Sierra Trujillo

A few years ago (actually it’s more like 16, but that makes me feel old), my dad and brother took a trip to San Francisco to watch a football game, that wasn’t a normal football game. There was a ball, players in pads and the general idea of football… it was just combined with the general idea of the WWF, World Wrestling Federation. You know, the one with folding chairs, body slams and Hulk Hogan.
They went to an XFL game, in the league’s first and only season. I hadn’t thought much of it since hearing stories upon their return, maybe making a joke throughout the last 16 years about that one game they went to that no one has ever heard of. (Did it even exist?)
Well, that was until I watched the ESPN 30 for 30: This Was the XFL. Other than the fact that I thought I was the only one who remembered the XFL, I was surprised that ESPN was putting the spotlight on a league that was so controversial in the 12 months that it existed.
The XFL was created as a 50-50 partnership between NBC and the WWF, which was owned by Vince McMahon. McMahon had been working towards becoming involved in professional football, originally planning on purchasing the Canadian Football League. Meanwhile, NBC had lost its NFL coverage in 1998 to CBS and was looking for a way to boost its ratings. Enter the XFL.
The XFL was formed to rival the NFL, which was starting to be mocked as the “No Fun League.” If the NFL was the No Fun League, McMahon said, the XFL was the “eXtra Fun League.” (Other than that, there was no mention as to what the “X” actually stood for.)
The XFL did rival the NFL to start. Despite the fact that it was hastily put together, the first game announced just a year in advance, with no players, coaches, teams or stadiums. Advertised as a smack-down version of the NFL, with no fair catches, a race to the football instead of a coin flip, and raunchy cheerleaders, the hype was almost more than the league could actually handle. But the opening game of the season came as planned, and what do you know, it ended with 54 million viewers, the largest at the time for a sporting event.
It wasn’t just challenging the NFL that made the XFL stand out; the XFL also was produced most of what we consider normal football coverage now. The XFL was one of the first to use a sky cam, which flew above the field and allowed TV viewers to see behind the offense. You know the view you see while playing Madden? That’s what inspired the sky cam.
As the XFL was probably considered more entertainment than sport, to add to the entertainment factor, the league introduced (according to McMahon) on-field interviews and miked-up players, which we see every game now in the NFL.
The XFL was very hastily put together, which showed after the first week. The second week, all power was lost and the back-up generators failed because someone forgot to fill them with gas. The game ended up going into double-overtime and cut into Saturday Night Live coverage. Injuries became abundant, and confusion of rules led to numerous penalties. Hype began to fade and after one season, the XFL called it quits. But the fact is that the creation of the XFL scared NFL executives, and proved that there could (and maybe should) be changes made to the No Fun League.

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