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From the XFL to the NFL
February 2, 2014 6:42 AM   Subscribe

Paris Lenon, the last active player from the XFL, is playing today for the Broncos. The XFL disbanded in 2001 after one season. (The XFL didn't have a coin toss, it had a mad scramble for the ball. Watch Lenon's Memphis Maniax play the Orlando Rage.)
posted by PHINC (36 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd much rather read about players like Lenon who have persevered and seen their career come good, than the ones like Michael Vick. These guys should be the role models sport celebrates.
posted by arcticseal at 6:47 AM on February 2 [3 favorites]


The XFL was way, way ahead of its time. It was a reality TV show before those were "common," and it featured a flyover camera that everyone thought was weird (the "XFL Cam," but is now the standard in NFL broadcasts).

The scramble for the ball was a mistake. The "free contact rules" for defending against a forward pass was a HUGE mistake that they undid during the course of the season. (Defenders could block receivers not just within 5 yards from the line of scrimmage -- they could block them the entire time the ball was not in the air. Good luck with that timing route.)
posted by andreaazure at 7:16 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


I love the NFL, but I'd really like to see a competitor to emerge. USFL and XFL were just ahead of their time.
posted by learnsome at 7:20 AM on February 2


The scramble for the ball was a mistake.

By far the biggest mistake was probably organizing the XFL as an LLC instead of a tax-exempt non-profit like the NFL.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:34 AM on February 2 [4 favorites]


It's strange how familiar certain names can sound if you're a sports fan (I'm a Vikings fan, so we played against him frequently when he was with the Lions and Packers). I think one of the biggest misnomers people have about football players is that they just have to go out there any lay wood, when it takes quite a bit of mental aptitude just to figure out what the offense is doing and what your role is in responding to it (such as staying in position so a teammate can make a play, rather than losing discipline and trying to do it all yourself).

But it's a nice story - most people probably think of the XFL as a complete bust, but it gave guys like Lenon a chance to compete and gain valuable experience for a year, and that surely made an impact on his ability to latch on with an NFL team.
posted by antonymous at 7:51 AM on February 2


I had a friend say to me once that the failure of the XFL was the first time he ever respected the intelligence of the American public.
posted by jonp72 at 8:24 AM on February 2


Xfl was the superior format but lost out to the NFL marketshare.

Exactly like betamax.
posted by Colonel Panic at 8:30 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


I love the NFL, but I'd really like to see a competitor to emerge. USFL and XFL were just ahead of their time.

I'd argue that college football effectively is that competitor. True, its time limits effectively means it also functions as a development league for the NFL, but there are legions of fans of college teams, with fanaticism that equals that of the NFL, and not just students/alumni. The players are professionals in all but name, and the TV deals are in the billions of dollars annually.

It might not be a "true" competitor in the sense of being (or aspiring to be) direct competition with the NFL for talent and fandom, but then again the USFL and XFL were intentionally scheduled on the NFL off-season too. The fragmentation of the conferences and lack of a single championship are a major difference from the NFL, but as a business and as a draw for sports fandom, NCAA Division I Football is the truest competition the NFL has had and, in the foreseeable future, will ever have.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:34 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Paris Lenon, phooey -- the XFL has been gone only 13 years. Sean Landeta, of the USFL-champion Philadelphia (later Baltimore) Stars, was still punting for the Eagles in 2005, TWENTY YEARS after the USFL shut down.
posted by escabeche at 8:34 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


I love the NFL, but I'd really like to see a competitor to emerge. USFL and XFL were just ahead of their time.

I'd argue that college football effectively is that competitor. True, its time limits effectively means it also functions as a development league for the NFL, but there are legions of fans of college teams, with fanaticism that equals that of the NFL, and not just students/alumni. The players are professionals in all but name, and the TV deals are in the billions of dollars annually.


I'd like to see a player and community owned coop-like league where people actually pay the players as close to directly as possible and the team and players are solidly anchored in the community they represent.

I'd like to see trading outlawed (seriously human trafficking in 2014 is obnoxious even if they are getting millions and putatively consenting to trades being allowed).

I'd also like to see the Chicago Bears play a whole game rather than just part of one.
posted by srboisvert at 8:46 AM on February 2 [3 favorites]


The reason neither the XFL, USFL, NFL Europe nor college football have ever been compelling alternatives to the NFL for me is because the skill level and thus level of play was never uniformly high enough.
posted by slkinsey at 8:56 AM on February 2


I'd like to see trading outlawed (seriously human trafficking in 2014 is obnoxious even if they are getting millions and putatively consenting to trades being allowed).

That's an incredibly gross comparison.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:02 AM on February 2 [8 favorites]


I've written about this on here once before, but I was actually an XFL season ticket holder (which has got to put me in a pretty rarefied group). A couple buddies and I, all big WWF fans at the time, thought it would be fun to go to the first game of our local Los Angeles Xtreme, and when buying tickets realized it wasn't all that much more expensive to buy a whole seasons worth (I don't recall the exact price, but am pretty positive it was only around $100 for the whole season, individual tickets were $15).

It's funny, the first game was actually pretty well attended, with much hype and media fanfare, celebrities on the sidelines, etc., but each subsequent game was more sparsely attended than the one before, to the point that if I were wanted by the FBI, an XFL game would seem like a decent place to hang out. One game in particular, which took place during a rare Southern California downpour, I would guess has less than 500 or so fans in attendance. It was a very odd feeling sitting in a virtually empty LA Coliseum (capacity of nearly 100K), knowing we could have moved the game to the local Pop Warner field and probably had room to spare. My friends and I lost interest to the point that we didn't even bother to pick up playoff or championship tickets (The Xtreme won the only XFL Championship).

The one grudge I will always hold against the XFL is that they obviously sold their season ticket holders list to the Arena Football League. For years afterwards I would get bombarded with calls from the (ironically, now defunct as well) LA Avengers franchise trying to push season ticket plans on me, I guess having been pegged as a fan of low-rent football.
posted by The Gooch at 9:18 AM on February 2 [8 favorites]


I'd like to see trading outlawed.

As opposed to what? Players never being allowed to play for another team? You get one chance and that's it? As soon as someone comes along who might be better, your career is over?
posted by Etrigan at 9:19 AM on February 2


"there are legions of fans of college teams, with fanaticism that equals that of the NFL"

In my experience, fans of college football tend to be more fanatical than those of the pros.
posted by oddman at 9:32 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


there are legions of fans of college teams, with fanaticism that equals that of the NFL

In my experience, fans of college football tend to be more fanatical than those of the pros.


Yep. Notice how towards the end of the season will schedule games on Saturday, which they won't ever do while college football is in season? The NFL wouldn't be able to compete for ratings.
posted by LionIndex at 10:16 AM on February 2


The NFL isn't allowed to televise games on Fridays when high schools are still playing football or on Saturdays when colleges are still playing football. It's part of their antitrust exemption.

NFL Thursday night games routinely top cable ratings, far outpacing any given college Thursday night game. That doesn't mean they'd beat Saturday college games, which are more entrenched, but the NFL isn't afraid of the NCAA.
posted by Etrigan at 10:22 AM on February 2 [3 favorites]


They're not scheduled on Saturday during the college football season because the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 requires that Friday games during high school football season and Saturday games during college football season would be blacked out no matter the attendance.
posted by ckape at 10:25 AM on February 2


As opposed to what? Players never being allowed to play for another team? You get one chance and that's it? As soon as someone comes along who might be better, your career is over?

How about getting "fired" when the team no longer has a use for a player? At that point the player would be a free agent to go wherever he could find the best fit.

Sports leagues treat a trade like an inter-office transfer. One of the benefits of being a single entity when it's helpful or 30-some businesses if that works better. That said, I think salaries would plummet if teams couldn't trade players. Teams would not be able to book on a player's value to other franchises.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:33 AM on February 2


How about getting "fired" when the team no longer has a use for a player? At that point the player would be a free agent to go wherever he could find the best fit.

srboisvert also stipulated "players are solidly anchored in the community they represent." If a player can't be traded and has to be solidly anchored somewhere, that also essentially disallows free agency. Hell, it makes the system practically feudal.
posted by Etrigan at 10:41 AM on February 2


Wasn't that awesome overhead camera the NFL uses invented for the XFL? Like a lot of people, I tuned in the first week to see what all the fuss was about and quickly realized it was lousy football that they tried to enliven with a bunch of gimmicks.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:46 AM on February 2


I'm a little embarrassed to admit that when the XFL was forming, I was duped by a satirical article (The Onion, maybe?) detailing several fictitious features of the league. The main thing I remember was that they were going to use metal footballs, which at the time struck me as insane and amazing. I recall being pretty disappointed when I saw they were using regular balls.
posted by ORthey at 10:51 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


[We're not going to compare football to slavery at length, sorry. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 12:39 PM on February 2 [5 favorites]


I always felt that the failure of the XFL wasn't due to them going too far, but not going far enough. I mean, it's a football league started by the guys that run pro wrestling. There's no way they're going to be taken as seriously as the NFL. So don't try. Be crazy, in the same way wrestling is. Don't try to imitate the big kids.
posted by unreason at 1:24 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


HE HATE ME
posted by euphorb at 6:21 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


srboisvert: "I'd like to see a player and community owned coop-like league where people actually pay the players as close to directly as possible and the team and players are solidly anchored in the community they represent."

The NBA had something a bit along the community lines, with their old territorial pick.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:35 PM on February 2


I always felt that the failure of the XFL wasn't due to them going too far, but not going far enough. I mean, it's a football league started by the guys that run pro wrestling. There's no way they're going to be taken as seriously as the NFL. So don't try. Be crazy, in the same way wrestling is. Don't try to imitate the big kids.

Yeah, it should've looked like a cross between American Gladiators and Slamball. Give the tackles and guards boxing gloves and let them punch each other in the face. Safetys get those quarterstaves with the padded ends. Receivers get giant baseball mitts. The whole 50-yard-line is a massive trampoline.

Once per game the kicker gets to shoot the ball out of a t-shirt cannon.
posted by rifflesby at 8:19 PM on February 2


Super violent versions of football have popped up in SF stories a number of times; a good example is Norman Spinrad's "The National Pastime."
posted by Chrysostom at 8:24 PM on February 2


Ah-hem!

There are several ex-XFL players still playing for the oldest pro-football trophy in the world.
posted by Cosine at 10:03 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


I remember a comic in Boy's Life featuring time traveling Cub Scouts who came upon a football game of the future played by mecha with heavy weapons and explosives. I have always wanted this to happen.
posted by mkb at 5:01 AM on February 3


Fret not! There's still taserball!
posted by Evilspork at 5:06 AM on February 3


There are several ex-XFL players still playing for the oldest pro-football trophy in the world.

Well, two, and both kickers.
posted by Etrigan at 6:43 AM on February 3


I think about HE HATE ME at least once a month..
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 9:20 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Kickers are still football players dammit!

Sorta.
posted by Cosine at 2:16 PM on February 3


I was on the television crew of XFL. One of the best working experiences I've ever had- the paycheck was about 15% higher than the standard rate, nobody took themselves too seriously, the players were not dicks. Our particular show had an 80,000 watt PA system that travelled with us; my job was to manage the 40-odd wireless microphones worn by the players, and an effects mix from those mics was piped through the big PA (in addition to going to broadcast). It was a LOT of fun, and yes, He Hate Me was a really sweet dude. Miss it.
posted by ergomatic at 3:49 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it should've looked like a cross between American Gladiators and Slamball.

We need a National Moopsball League.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:13 PM on February 3


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