By Henry Frieman
COVID-19 doesn’t care about the love of football, apparently.
The XFL said Friday that it would suspend operations indefinitely. All employees were laid off, according to multiple sources. It is unknown whether the league will return, but many view a comeback unlikely.
The league, which was a revival of Vince McMahon’s ‘Xtreme Football League,’ was founded in 2018. There were 8 teams: the New York Guardians, the Seattle Dragons, the Dallas Renegades, the Houston Roughnecks, the St. Louis Battlehawks, the Los Angeles Wildcats, the (Washington) D.C. Defenders, and the Tampa Bay Vipers.
The league kicked off with the slogan “For the Love of Football.” New rules were installed to streamline gameplay, including changes to kickoffs and extra points. Contrary to NFL and NCAA kickoffs, members of the kicking team (excluding the kicker) lined up at the receiving team’s 35-yard line and blockers on the receiving team lined up at the 30-yard line. They could not move until the ball was caught or spent three seconds on the ground.
The conventional extra point kick was replaced by one-point, two-point, and three-point plays. Point value depended on the distance the team chose to snap the ball from the goal line; a two-yard attempt scored a single point, a five-yard attempt two points, and a ten-yard attempt three points.
The XFL rocketed in popularity, due in part to its unorthodox gameplay, of course, but because of the social media team headed by Bailey Carlin. The XFL Twitter account, known for making memes about the league, amassed about 400 thousand followers, and the Instagram account has 613 thousand followers at the time of writing.
The XFL was known as unprofessional and blatantly absurd at times when Vince McMahon ran the league in 2001, and several elements carried over to the 2020 attempt.
During the first game of regulation play, Seattle Dragons OL Dillon Day released an expletive during a sideline interview on live television.
The DC Defenders crowd created an enormous ‘beer snake,’ drinking approximately 1,237 cups of beer (19,792 ounces of beer consumed!) and connecting the cups from the bottom of the stands to the top. Even XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck contributed a cup. The NFL would have looked at the beer snake with distaste, and yet Carlin chose to create not one, but four posts on the XFL Instagram page about it.
The league was in week 6 of its inaugural season on March 11 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the US, causing indefinite suspensions of several major sports leagues, including the XFL.
The premature end to a promising young league comes as another casualty of the COVID-19 crisis. Farewell, XFL. While there’s still a chance for the league to return, it is unlikely. Thank you for providing the football fans with a new alternative for the spring. Please come back. Please.