Officially, XFL 2.0 gets an I not an F, because the pandemic killed the resurrected league long before normal market forces had a chance to do the job. So with another spring league gone, the question becomes will any spring league ever make it?
Spring football always will have a hard time because people don’t care as much about football when it’s not football season. The spread of legalized sports betting may change that, a bit. But the betting industry will need to be rebuilt post-pandemic, and more states will need to come online with legal sports wagering to create the most robust nationwide appetite possible. (Actually, the financial damage created by the pandemic may accelerate the process of legalizing sports wagering, and it may persuade states that otherwise wouldn’t have adopted it to do so in order to better balance state budgets.)
An alternative professional football league that plays during football season — with nationally-televised games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights — makes a ton of sense, providing football viewing and football betting opportunities every day of the week.
Then there’s the lingering appetite for football the way it used to be played, with the kind of brutality that the NFL has legislated out of the game over the course of the past decade. It’s surprising that no one has launched a football league embracing old-school football. Yes, many would object. Many would complain. Many would protest.
And many would watch, reasoning that the players are fully aware of the risks and that they are willing to assume them, no different than other sports that entail much greater risk of short-term and long-term brain trauma, like MMA and boxing.
Regardless of whether new-school or old-school football would work in the spring, it likely will take some time for someone to give it another try. First, the world will need to get back to something approaching normal. Second, more legalized gambling will be needed. Third, fans will have to truly want it. The longer sports are gone, the greater the chance that habits and taste will change, permanently.
Just as no one knows when games will start, no one knows whether fans will return to the games, especially if the games are new and different from the pre-pandemic sporting events.