The return of the XFL

The changes made to differ the XFL from the already established NFL

My fellow Captains, if I may ask, what exactly were you doing in February of 2001? Were you celebrating, or conversely lambasting, our newly inaugurated President, George W. Bush? Were you booking your flight for the 51st annual Berlin International Film Festival? Perhaps you were treating your ears to the dulcet tones of André 3000 in OutKast’s newest song, “Ms. Jackson.” If you were like me, you were two years old, so who knows what primitive activities you were engaging in. I’d imagine all of your actions revolved around sleeping or eating. 

While we were sucking our thumbs and trying to figure out who those behemoths staring at us were, the XFL was running a counterculture to the norms developed by the National Football League (NFL). Now, there’s no time to go into the XFL’s history, but all you need to know is that it failed. The league folded after one season, so we all returned to our regularly scheduled NFL programming. 

What was once a promising venture spearheaded by World Wrestling Entertainment’s Vince McMahon and the National Broadcasting Company quickly fizzled into an obscure and decidedly niche piece of useless trivia. 

However, on Jan. 25, 2018, McMahon returned with a pep in his step and announced the return of America’s favorite alternative football league. The XFL had risen from the ashes. The league’s renewal made major headlines, and it was swiftly the talk of the sporting world. Of course, people had questions. Besides the obligatory “what’s an XFL?,” people were clambering to know what changes would be made to the league. What new additions would make its product not only different from the 2001 version, but also different from today’s NFL? 

Everyone’s (or really just mine and a few other weirdos) questions were answered a few short weeks ago. The XFL released its official rules for the second inaugural season. While the article is generally easy to follow, it does go on about some stuff we don’t really care about. Since I know you so well, I figured I’d highlight the league’s biggest changes to quench your undying thirst for XFL knowledge. Here’s all you’ll need to know about what makes the XFL different from the NFL. 

As soon as its return was announced, the XFL made it clear it’s focusing on a more fast-paced, condensed version of the American football game. In contrast to the NFL’s 40 second play clock, the XFL stated it will be adopting a 25 second play clock. Obviously, this will lead to both a decrease in the interval between plays and an increase in the amount of plays actually ran during the game’s duration. Essentially, it’s more bang for your buck. Along with the introduction of a shorter play clock, the XFL will also integrate a running game clock. In the NFL, when a pass attempt falls incomplete or a player runs out of bounds, the game clock stops. In the XFL, the clock will continue to run without interruption until there are two minutes before halftime. Again, the XFL’s goal is to present its viewers with an accelerated and concise football experience. One final point on speeding up the game, each coach will be limited to two timeouts rather than the usual three. 

Personally, I’m a fan of these changes. Keeping the game moving at a brisk pace is something anyone can get behind. We’ve all got more constructive ways we could be utilizing our precious time. As a Washington Redskins fan, games ending faster is a blessing. My sorrow won’t have to be drawn out for three hours. Instead, my heart will be broken in a more timely fashion, so I can get back to that Sudoku puzzle I’ve been working on. Truthfully, I’m being optimistic. What’s the number one way to slow down a football game? The officials needing to go to the replay booth. The XFL did release its own updated list for when an official is allowed to enter the replay booth, but we all know it’ll end the same way. They’ll take forever to only get it wrong, especially when it hurts the team I’m rooting for. Funny how that always happens. In any event, the XFL has made some other changes that are a far cry from the makeup of the NFL’s game. 

For instance, the post-touchdown extra point kick attempt has been completely erased. Sorry Adam Vinateri, your services are no longer needed. This change is not only a hit to the already diminutive morale of the kicker, but it’s also a unique innovation to the typical football scoring system. 

As always, a touchdown will be worth six points, but now the scoring team has the option to either get one, two or three extra points. If teams adhere to societal pressures to conform, or be a “plain Jane,” they will attempt for one measly extra point by running a play at the opposing team’s two yard line. If the scoring team is up to the challenge and feeling like a “mild Margaret,” they can go for two extra points by attempting a play from the opposing team’s five yard line. Lastly, if that scoring team is as adventurous and untamed as a “clinically insane Catherine,” they can go for the almost unheard of three extra points from the opposing team’s ten yard line. Believe me, I got chills as I wrote that. 

All jokes aside, this change to the regular football scoring system is an interesting one. It makes the game more of a chess match between the coaches than ever before. If I had to guess, the implementation of the new extra point system is ultimately to reduce the amount of games that require an overtime period. Once again, the XFL is trying to get us home from Buffalo Wild Wings early. Still, it’s not completely eliminating the need for a kicker, as a team still has the option to attempt a field goal. Getting paid to do less than its NFL counterparts seems like a win in my book. 

As we come to a close in our little foray into the new and exciting world that is the XFL, I figured I’d share with you my favorite of the new rule changes. How many times has an incredible catch made by a wide receiver been accompanied by a painstaking and drawn-out replay review to see if his catch aligned with the NFL’s loose and almost mysterious definition of what is a catch? It’s almost a guaranteed occurrence at this point. 

Well, the XFL’s rules will hopefully put an end to the tired tradition. According to the XFL’s rulebook, a catch is defined as the player securing and maintaining the ball with one of their body parts touching the ground in the field of play. Simple as that. No more of the NFL’s “making a football move.” If the dude gets his hands on the football, tucks it in and gets at least one foot in bounds, we have a catch, ladies and gentlemen. This, of course, applies for an interception as well. In a way, needing one foot in bounds to qualify as a catch is a logical progression. Since college football only requires one foot in bounds, it makes sense for professional football to follow suit. Prospects looking to turn pro won’t have to alter their game as much. I’m not saying the XFL would make that ruling so college athletes would choose the more seamless transition to the XFL over the NFL, but it can’t hurt, right? Plus, can you imagine what guys like Calvin Johnson and Randy Moss would’ve been able to do in the XFL? Honestly, I think I just gave you an impossible task because I don’t think we can fathom the amount of one handed catches those guys would make with only their pinky toe in bounds. 

The XFL is a breath of fresh air for the seasoned professional football watcher. Will football fans ultimately choose sides like it’s “West Side Story?” No, but will there be an incessant amount of choreographed dance numbers? Also no. My point is, most football fans will give the XFL a try. If fans like it, they might keep watching as the season goes on. However, I don’t think anyone invested with an NFL franchise will suddenly kick it to the curb completely for the St. Louis Battlehawks. Hopefully, the changes to traditional American football will be enough for the XFL during its infant stages. Like any avenue of business, competition is a good thing. Both brands of football will influence the other. If all goes as planned, the XFL will push the NFL to put out a better product. If history repeats itself, we will all be looking forward to the rebranded third iteration of the XFL in early 2040.

~Matthew Morhiser, Staff Writer~

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