You know what they say – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The XFL seems to have gotten the message, as they try a second time to establish a spring football league. This isn’t the same XFL we saw in 2001 – for one, the opening scramble is gone, and players don their real names on their jerseys rather than the nicknames that helped make the XFL famous the first time around. But don’t be fooled: the XFL still promises an exciting, unique brand of football to help football fans survive the NFL offseason.
The XFL offers various unconventional rules in order to keep fans interested. A fan tuning in for the first time will instantly notice two changes: kickoffs and PATs. The NFL has had problems with kickoffs for ages, and unless you’re someone who loves watching touchbacks or player injuries, you probably don’t love them. Somehow, the XFL seems to have fixed kickoffs before the NFL: they’re much safer and returned over 90% of the time, as opposed to around 30% in the NFL. In the XFL, opposing players line up for kickoffs only 10 yards apart, eliminating the high speed collisions that traditionally make kickoffs so dangerous. In addition, touchbacks result in the ball being placed at the returning team’s 35 yard line, as opposed to the 20 yard line in the NFL. In rare instances where the ball doesn’t make it past the returning team’s 20 yard line, it’s automatically placed at their 45 yard line. These unique rules combine to produce a kickoff experience far superior than the one offered by the NFL, and it will be interesting to see how the NFL responds (or if they even do).
The other major change is for points after touchdowns. Most fans watching college or pro football have become accustomed to seeing the kicker jog out and poke a chip shot for 1 point following nearly every single touchdown (as well as the ensuing rage if the kick is missed). In the XFL, every PAT is like a two point conversion. Instead of kicking, teams can choose to place the ball at the 2, 5, or 10 yard line for 1, 2, or 3 points. The hope is that these new rules will help bring more excitement to the game by eliminating the monotony of extra point kicks.
Various other aspects of the XFL offer perks that help lure fans in despite the league’s relatively weak pool of talent. Overtime rules are revolutionary and exciting; the ball is placed at the five yard line and a hockey or soccer style “shootout” ensues, with each team getting five attempts each round until a victor emerges at the end of a round. Other minor rule changes have been made to the play clock and the punt, and double forward passes are even allowed as long as the first pass is caught behind the line of scrimmage. Live interviews during games can be fun to watch too, but not without their own problems. In the XFL’s very first week of play, Dillon Day of Seattle dropped an f bomb on live tv that slipped past the censors and was piped into homes across America.
While the first week of the XFL drew stellar ratings, it’s yet to see whether the XFL will be successful. Spring football has traditionally been a tough egg to crack, as just last year we watched the Alliance of American Football fail to even complete its inaugural season. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the second try of the XFL won’t meet a similar fate as its predecessors.