Ready or not, here comes more football.
The XFL—it is unclear whether the 'X' stands for 'extreme' or 'extra fun' or 'nothing at all'—is coming back in February 2020. Seattle is one of the eight lucky cities to snare a team. Today, things got official and the team's head coach and general manager was announced: Jim Zorn, the first ever Seahawks quarterback.
Put a pin in that. Let's backtrack for a second. If you haven't heard of the XFL I'll spell it out for you real short and real quick, kinda like the XFL's ideal form of football. More on that in a second. The league was a short-lived fever dream cooked up by none other than Vince McMahon, from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). McMahon created a new, salacious kind of football that mixed faster, more dangerous gameplay, with amateur players, WWE-like antics, and a "sex sells" mentality.
It started in 2001. It died in 2001. For some reason, we're bringing it back from the dead.
All we know about this new iteration of the XFL is that it's happening.
"A year ago Vince McMahon, our owner, one of America’s great sports and American entrepreneurs, hired me and asked me to reimagine the great game of football that we all know and love," Oliver Luck, the XFL's commissioner, and dad-of-Andrew-Luck said during Seattle's head coach announcement today. He then vomited a bunch of buzzwords: "Fast-paced, up-tempo, innovative, exciting, high-scoring, more rhythm, more flow, faster and fewer breaks—we’re as committed as ever to realizing that vision that Vince has."
XFL management seems excited to capitalize on Seattle and our sports-hungry city.
"When the XFL kicks off its season in 2020, Seattle and the region will support this team," Luck said assuredly. Seattle, however, is becoming increasingly sports-dense, especially with the announcement of the new NHL team that's supposed to start playing here in 2021. Most recently, the Seattle Reign, our professional women's soccer team, dropped the Seattle from their name and moved to Tacoma because Seattle couldn't make space for them after their current stadium was deemed defunct. Coincidentally, the only field the Reign could've played in Seattle was CenturyLink. The deal didn't work out for them, but it did for the new XFL team whose home field will be CenturyLink.
OFFICIAL: @JimZorn10 has been named the head coach and general manager of @XFLSeattle!
Watch his introductory press conference live from @CenturyLink_Fld, right here on Twitter or on https://t.co/hAlDLJuvRV , at 1 pm local (4 pm ET). #XFL2020 pic.twitter.com/ayc1qp33k5
— XFL (@xfl2020) February 25, 2019
Luck announced Jim Zorn, the former head coach of the Washington Redskins, as the head coach. Zorn seemed happy enough to have the role foisted upon his shoulders. But, he seems to realize the work that's cut out for him.
"We’ve already got eight season ticket holders," Zorn said dryly. "We’re going to have eight people that I know of in the stands!"
Zorn has almost exactly a year before gameplay starts. He doesn't have a staff and he's far away from having a team; there haven't been any tryouts yet.
"We have a lot of work to do, we really do," Zorn said. "We don’t get to hire many but the ones we hire I hope can put together a franchise very quickly that can be competitive very quickly. We have until February to start this thing but there’s a lot of work to be done."
I watched this extremely newsworthy announcement via a livestream because the XFL didn't respond to my request to go to the press conference. It's fine I'm not mad. One of the viewers, mmccarty83, posed this sage question: “Do you think this league will survive?”
No, no I don't, mmccarty83.
The odds for the XFL being "good football" seem stacked against Zorn and this still-mostly-hypothetical Seattle team. This past month, another NFL spinoff started up. The Alliance of American Football (AAF) has amateur players on eight teams throughout the country and modifies football a little bit (the XFL seems to be trying to tweak the game more). But, it's run into some issues.
From Fan Duel:
After just three weeks of play, the league has experienced payroll issues and ended up selling off a portion of the league to Carolina Hurricanes owner, Tom Dundon. Additionally, the league has even been accused of lying about in-game attendance numbers and their ratings went down dramatically from Week 1 to Week 2.
Here's the CBS team, the network that hosts AAF coverage, badmouthing the league accidentally on-air:
Then, the biggest highlight of the three weeks of play was this moment a dog caught an 83-yard frisbee throw:
This dog caught an 83-yard frisbee toss during halftime of the Orlando Apollos football game Saturday night. The PA announcer claims it’s an all-time record. Pretty impressive. pic.twitter.com/bLwCbFEzbG
— J.C. Carnahan (@JCCarnz) February 24, 2019
The writer of the article I read about the dog catching the frisbee wrote this joke about the AAF that I don't really understand: "I personally have tapped out of the league because the QB play seems like a bunch of guys proving why they couldn't even play for the New York Jets."
The AAF was inspired by the XFL and the idea that there should be an alternative to the NFL with different, faster-paced football. It was announced in 2018 and had a similar timeline to get things rolling as the XFL has now. It doesn't seem like that was enough time.
Even if there was all the time and money in the world, maybe—just maybe—America doesn't want another football league. Or, two other football leagues. We certainly don't need one, but I might lose my citizenship for saying that.