ESPN did a recent documentary on the most recent major spring football league that had a network TV deal: the X Football League of 2001.
When I first heard about the league in 2000 and heard that WWF honcho Vince McMahon was going to run it, I quite honestly didn’t know what to think. He was (and is) a marketing genius when it came to wrestling, turning the WWF from an East Coast circuit to a worldwide circuit with no borders.
I also knew he had a bodybuilding circuit that was a bit disastrous, lasting less than a year. And with all due respect, what did a wrestling guy know about football?
I remember thinking that the league could last a few seasons. They didn’t get into a bidding war with top NFL players, opting to hire players mostly fresh out of college ball. They did have an interesting rule that a punt would be a live ball once it went 25 yards, in other words, each team was free to attempt to claim it.
It’s biggest problem, or so I thought, was that it looked too much like pro wrestling on a football field, and a bit less of a football game. Because fans, for the most part, knew by that time that wrestling was choreographed, they had to wonder about the XFL being the same, right?
Sixteen years later, no one has dared to try the concept again, though one of these days it’ll happen. It’s just a matter of when.