The return of the XFL is a chance to put some fun back in football

Author’s note: After self-publishing a few books and doing nothing with them, I’ve decided to redouble my efforts to sell these dumb things. That means expanding my web and social media presences, talking to reviewers, investigating advertising opportunities, and maybe even—god help me—networking with other self-published authors. For now, I’m going to start by blogging on the site I built to promote my books, like I should have a long time ago. Blogging gets me sales. I figured I’d start my own resurrection story by writing about another—you know, because fans of fantasy fiction love football leagues run by wrestling promoters.

Ladies and gentleman, hell has frozen the fuck over. Vince McMahon, principal owner and chairman of my beloved World Wrestling Entertainment, is officially bringing back the XFL. The second coming of McMahon’s upstart football league will reportedly eschew the scandalous presentation of its predecessor and attempt to capitalize on new broadcast opportunities the NFL has been slow to embrace. XFL v2 is scheduled to begin play in 2020.

At first glance, this seems kind of dumb. McMahon’s first attempt at running a football league didn’t exactly light the world on fire. Its influence is mostly limited to the advent of that overhead camera angle that’s only useful close to the goal line and ill-conceived references to He Hate Me that most of your friends either don’t get or severely judge you for making in the first place. McMahon’s decision to sell $100 million worth of his WWE stock to fund the new venture’s parent company feels a bit foolish. Yes, there’s more than $100 million worth of WWE stock in the world, you uncultured lout.

But when you really think about it, launching an alternative football league isn’t the worst idea. The NFL’s season is super short. We’re without professional football for almost half the year. People are frustrated with the NFL for a million different reasons, from player safety to the shitty TV-only presentation to the overabundance of total fucking scumbags to the league’s general war on fun to the decline in quality of play. I was a dedicated fan my entire life until I gave it up in the middle of last season because of all of the aforementioned reasons. I don’t miss the NFL, but I sort of miss the game. A better version of it could easily get my attention.

I already like some of what I’ve read. Streaming games that last two hours or less? Sign me up. But Vince, my friend, you can do more. You need to do what the NFL refuses to do: make the game fun. I’ve got some ideas for you. Consider them a thank you for all the years of entertainment your wrestling shows have given me.

  • Encourage player individuality. Vince has already said players won’t be given opportunities to make personal statements on the field. That’s absolutely the wrong move. One of the best things the NBA has going for it is how recognizable the personalities of its players are—and not just on social media or in the zeitgeist, but in the games themselves. Let players customize their name plates and wear funky shoes. Encourage super ridiculous celebrations and in-game social media use. Make these guys something other than dull-as-dirt football robots.
  • Ditch the commercials. This probably won’t be a problem if the XFL sticks to the streaming idea, but it’s worth mentioning. The worst part of watching an NFL game is having to see the same god damn commercial eighteen thousand god damn times. If I see Flo more often than I see the nose tackle’s face you’re fucking doing it wrong. Put advertisements on the field or the uniforms if you have to.
  • Load all the kickers and punters into a rocket ship and launch their useless asses to the moon. Field goals blow. Punts are the coward’s way out. Put the god damn ball in the god damn end zone. And if you can’t get ten yards in four tries, you deserve to turn the ball over because you suck.
  • Get more women involved. WWE’s vastly improved its presentation of its female superstars in the last couple of years. That should carry over to the XFL. Let’s get women involved in every part of the league. The NFL’s failing miserably here, so this one’s an easy win—but more importantly, it’s the right thing to do.
  • Hire smart coaches and empower them to take risks. Outside of New England and New Orleans, the supposed brains behind the NFL’s style of play are one of the league’s biggest weaknesses. They’re a spineless, brainless bunch who can’t read digital clocks to save their lives. It’s long been accepted that all the real innovation happens at the college level and the NFL just copies it. There’s no way the XFL will be able to pry big name coaches away from lucrative programs, but giving a new crop of candidates a chance to cut their teeth in the pros could go a long way toward making the on-field product compelling.
  • Watch it with the penalties. Referees have too much influence over NFL games. Pass interference as a spot foul is fucking ludicrous. And I’m all for player safety, but fifteen yards and a first down for breathing heavily on the quarterback is bullshit. In game yardage penalties for unnecessary roughness should be minimal, but the perpetrators should be hit hard in the wallet and suspended.
  • Introduce a new version of player movement. Hot stove season is big in every major sport. Fans love reading rumors about where their favorite players are going and for how much. In the XFL’s initial season, every team will be owned by the league itself. This would seem to open the door for some novel sort of player movement the other leagues couldn’t or wouldn’t replicate. Admittedly, I’m not super sure what that is. Maybe there’s a redistribution draft every year during which teams are only allowed to protect half their roster and everyone else is up for grabs. Maybe the non-playoff teams get broken up and their players get redistributed. Maybe free agents are signed in a fantasy-style round robin auction. The possibilities are endless—especially for a league that doesn’t have a strong union it needs to keep happy.

There you go, Vince. There’s your recipe for a successful new football league. You’re welcome.