I’m old enough to remember the first XFL season. Vague ads ran during WWF Raw promising a Vince McMahon version of American Football appropriately called the “XFL”.
What exactly did the “X” stand for? As a college senior, my idiot roommates and I were convinced it represented an “extreme” version of our favorite sport. McMahon, we surmised was a pretty extreme character so it seemed like a viable conclusion.
According to a public statement in 2000 by the man himself, McMahon said,
“If the National Football League stands for the No Fun League, the XFL will be the extra fun league!”
It seemed like such a let down at the time.
Journalist and author Brett Forrest further clarified the origins of the name in his 2002 postseason book, Long Bomb: How the XFL became TV’s Biggest Fiasco, which is a 270-page hate-fest of McMahon and the league. Forrest explains in the early planning stages, Vince and company wanted to name the league “Xtreme Football League”, however, a now-defunct arena football league had rights to that name. Thus, for legal reasons McMahon was forced to admit the “X” stands for nothing.
For me and twenty-something WWF fans (yes, it was still called World Wrestling Federation) we were ultimately disappointed at the final XFL product. It had none of the raw, medieval, adolescent violence we were promised.
I’m not exactly sure what my roommates and I expected, maybe Mick Foley suplex-ing a wide receiver or something (random Mick Foley reference) but whatever it was it wasn’t delivered. Even though it bears the same name, the 2020 XFL feels different. Vince and his Stamford executives have focused less on the hype and more on the game.
Extreme? maybe…Football? Yes!
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