Spring league starts its third stint

Metlife Stadium

Wikimedia Commons

Metlife Stadium, where the Orlando Guardians play.

The XFL is back. 

The X Football League (the X doesn’t stand for anything) has returned in 2023 after the COVID pandemic cut the 2020 season short. Originally, the owners decided just to let the XFL die out again. They didn’t have the financial means to keep going after the pandemic; it looked like another failed campaign. This was until Dwayne Johnson decided to buy the league straight up for 15 million dollars from Vince McMahon. Dwayne Johnson said that he pounced on the deal and wanted to buy it as soon as he heard it was possible.

However, the COVID pandemic raged on, delaying the start of the season in 2021. In 2022, the XFL was trying to partner up with the Canadian Football League. They were in discussion regarding the partnership, but that crumbled. This meant that the 2022 season would also be canceled.

This meant that the 2022 season would also be canceled.

Luckily, in 2023, nothing was going to stop the XFL from having its first season in three years. It will also be their first full season since 2001. The XFL also had a one-year stint in 2001, but it fizzled out as they weren’t able to create a loyal fanbase. The original XFL was a venture between the WWE and NBC, having many properties of the WWE and praising extreme aggression and on-field violence. Similar to the new XFL, the viewership on the inaugural week was higher than projected, but the viewership of the games after that plummeted (SN). 

Things are looking somewhat hopeful for the league’s future. Many think that the league is “here to stay”… but will it have the numbers to keep it going? 

As of the publication of this piece, the XFL is in competition with baseball, basketball, and even soccer starting around the same time. Viewership of the opening games on Feb 18. was strong, but soon waned to as few as 1 million viewers per game. ESPN had to reschedule 2 of the games to be solely on ESPN because there just wasn’t a demand for the games on the bigger channel. 

The XFL has some potential, but the main problem is that it has to compete with three other sports. People have already got their football “fix” from the NFL, and honestly, the NFL is much better football than the XFL. The players are better athletes and are better at their skill positions. The XFL is full of wash-ups and people that didn’t do well in the NFL or other leagues like the CFL and the United States Football League (USFL). Every spring football league has paled in comparison to the NFL, and because the XFL season is taking place so soon after the NFL season, comparisons are being made; people want the real deal or nothing at all (for now).

 As we get farther away from the end of the last NFL season though, there may be a bigger demand for additional football viewing experiences.

On the other hand, the USFL has it figured out. The season starts just when people start longing for football again. They aren’t comparing it as much to the NFL, and the league is already established from last season. The players are just better at what they do. In fact, the USFL Most Valuable Player went on to sign with the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL and made it to the Pro Bowl. 

For now, things aren’t going too well for the XFL, but they can still turn it around. If they turned into a summer league, they could increase their viewership by quite a bit without having to compete with the public perception of what football should be.