As we all know, the original XFL lasted only one season, in 2001. The league was promoted as having fewer rules and rougher play than the other leagues. But nearly twenty years on, when we look back at some of those rules and other elements of the games, they seem downright bizarre. Here are six of the strangest things that happened in the 2001 XFL season.
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1. Coin Tosses Were Out
Instead of using the traditional coin toss at the beginning of a game, in the 2001 XFL season, two players would sprint towards the ball to determine possession. The ball would sit on the halfway line, and the two players would scramble and dive on top of it to win possession of the ball. No more was winning the ball left in the hands of luck.
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2. Players’ Jerseys Could Display Any Name They Wanted
In recent years, MLB and NBA players have had special theme nights where they can put whatever name they want on the back of their jerseys. Well, XFL was doing that way back in 2001, but not at special nickname-themed nights. In the 2001 XFL season, players could have whatever name they wanted on the back of their jerseys whenever they wanted. Looking back, it seems somewhat gimmicky now.
3. The Ball Was Extremely Slippery
One of the iconic symbols of the XFL was its super-smart-looking red and black football. However, there was one pretty major problem with the ball. Although its makers had used water-repelling technology in its design, the black dye they used made the ball slippery when it got wet. Um, you can see how that could be problematic in a game of football! However, the solution to the problem was even more strange than the problem itself. To stop the ball being slippery, commissioner Basil DeVito took the ball to his home’s basement and rubbed it down with sandpaper!
4. Football Stunts Became More Outrageous
Pre-game or halftime stunts are not uncommon in football. But one memorable stunt from the 2001 XFL league took things to another level. A cameraman was sent into the cheerleaders’ locker room to spy on what they were doing during halftime. The result was an embarrassing skit that is best forgotten.
5. The Cameramen Looked Like They Were in a Warzone
XFL was supposed to be rougher and tougher than other leagues. So, to convey that to the audience, broadcasters wanted their cameramen to get as close to the action as possible. They did this by placing a camera operator on the field dressed in a full set of protective hockey gear; helmets, pads, and all. It was an ambitious idea that led to lots of spectacular collisions. We just hope the cameramen had insurance.
6. The Rules Were Different
There were various differences in the rules and play of XFL compared to other leagues. For instance, there was no kneeling in the end zone for touchbacks, and defensive backs were allowed to bump receivers downfield. However, the latter rule was dropped after it resulted in too many games with low scores. There was also no fair catch rule and no extra-point kicks. Instead of the latter, teams had to run or pass from the two-yard line to score one point.
The season had strange overtime rules too. No game was able to end in a tie because of the league’s Can You Top This rule in which both teams must possess the ball at least once. Each team got four downs to score from the opposition’s 20-yard line, but if one side scored a touchdown in under four downs, the other team only got that many downs to respond.