Football fans like the idea of more football. But do they really want more football? The next experiment begins in only two days.
The XFL is back, after a 19-year absence. Fueled by the reality that people who will be placing legal sports wagers will need more sports on which to wager plus an investment of many, many monies from Vince McMahon, the thinking is that, this time around, the XFL will last more than one season. But will it last more than two?
It already has more promise than the AAF, which debuted with strong ratings on CBS last year but fizzled as games were televised by lesser platforms (and imploded because there never was enough cash). XFL games will be televised by ESPN/ABC and FOX, networks that seem poised to push the veal aggressively to a built-in audience that could reconfirm the Dalrymple-to-Costanza “‘Why am I watching it? . . . ‘Because it’s on TV‘” truism.
Frankly, some consumers may see through the effort to force feed more football to an audience that has no problem with a pivot to hockey or hoops or trash-can-banging hardball, and that will resist watching the XFL. Others may react the way I did in 1983, when the USFL launched and I was excited for it until I actually tried to watch a game in March and conceded, “I’m not interested in football in March.”
It makes much more sense for more football to be dropped into football season, ideally on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. But McMahon, ESPN/ABC, and FOX will be doing what they can to get us to watch, to care, to gamble, and to ultimately help the league generate enough revenue to justify an existence that extends beyond 2021.
I’m not skeptical. I’m pragmatic. Spring football hasn’t worked. There’s no reason to think it suddenly will, especially without star players like Johnny Manziel or Colin Kaepernick or college players like Trevor Lawrence who can’t enter the draft until 2021.
We’ll write stories and record videos about XFL games and developments. And we’ll see in teal time whether you consume the content that we bring to the table. If you do, you’ll get more of it. If you don’t, it will tell us everything we need to know regarding whether the XFL will turn a profit or become a gigantic tax write-off for a billionaire who had a bright idea 20 years ago and now wants to give it another try.