I remember sitting down to watch NBC on February 3, 2001, to watch this new thing called the XFL, Vince McMahon, who I had known for being the voice of WWF (later the WWE) wrestling, had some ideas on how to make professional football greater, teaming up with TV guru Dick Ebersol.
A little over eighteen years later, it’s another Saturday night of wonder and mysteries abound. This time, another new thing called the AAF is getting started – with seemingly boundless comparisons between this league and the 2001 XFL venture. By the way, a new XFL gets started next year – so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that two spring pro football leagues could wind up going head to head if the AAF survives the first year of its existence. Charlie Ebersol, Dick’s son, runs the league – and the NFL and CFL provide the players that need development.
Much like the 2001 XFL, there are innovative rules. Kicking will only be done via punts and field goals – extra points can only be two-point conversions, and there will be no kickoffs. In lieu of an onside kick, the kicking team scrimmages from their own 28-yard line and has one play to achieve 12 yards, a de facto 4th and 12 situation.
Overtime will be limited to one possession for each team in the original “Kansas tiebreaker” format some state high school governing bodies have, such as Florida. Each team gets the ball from ten yards out – and if the game remains tied, the game goes into the books as a tie game, though I imagine they’d play recurring overtimes in a playoff game where a winner was needed.
Eight teams play in the league in two four-team divisions over ten games, with four teams proceeding to the playoffs – exactly the format the 2001 XFL had.
I hope the league does well, though I wonder once baseball starts up again in late March if it will hold my interest. There’s a market for spring football – but I can’t envision both the AAF and the 2020 XFL going one simultaneously.