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XFL History

The Legacy The XFL Left Behind

When the XFL was formed in 2001, Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol had big hopes that the league would last for at least several years. After its inaugural season, the league folded due to a number of reasons, but one of the most important reasons would be that the ratings were really bad and it was really suffering, which made the league lose its sponsors and media partners. Despite the XFL’s demise, NBC still continued airing professional football league shows starting with the Arena Football League television coverage from 2003 to 2006. In 2006, NBC returned to cover the NFL games with NBC Sunday Night Football, eventually adding Thursday Night Football to its coverage in 2016. McMahon and Ebersol later took credit for the more intimate approach to televising football, with innovations such as the Skycam, miked-up players, and sideline interviews that were later used in NFL broadcasts.

XFL team names and logos would sometimes even appear in movies and television where professional football needs to be dramatized, as licensing for NFL logos may be cost prohibitive (such as in the Arnold Schwarzenegger starring sci-fi film The 6th Day).

The United Football League later placed all four of its inaugural franchises in former XFL markets and stadiums. However, the UFL drew far fewer fans than the XFL average: For example, the XFL’s San Francisco Demons drew an average of 35,000 fans, while the UFL’s California Redwoods drew an average of 6,000 fans, despite both playing in the same ballpark. Three of the four charter teams, including the Redwoods, moved to other markets by the time of the UFL’s third season.

ESPN even produced a documentary surrounding the league called This Was the XFL as part of its anthology series 30 for 30. The film discusses the longtime friendship between McMahon and Ebersol, as seen through the eyes of Dick’s son, Charlie Ebersol, who directs the film. Vince McMahon, Dick Ebersol, Dick Schanzer, Rusty Tillman, Al Luginbill, Rod Smart, Tommy Maddox, Paris Lenon, league President Basil DeVito, costume designer Jay Howarth, Jesse Ventura, Matt Vasgersian, Jonathan Coachman, Bob Costas and Jerry Jones all provided interviews for the film. The film debuted at Doc NYC (Doc NYC is an annual documentary film festival in New York City) on November 11, 2016 and it premiered on ESPN on February 2, 2017. Despite the XFL only having a single season so far, it was able to leave such a legacy behind. If the first XFL was able to do such a thing, we could only imagine what the upcoming XFL would do.

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