Ah, the XFL. If you mention it to a crowd, you’re bound to get a few chuckles, some eye rolls, and nostalgic sighs from hardcore football enthusiasts. The original XFL, brainchild of WWE’s Vince McMahon, aimed to deliver a no-holds-barred, more entertaining version of football. While its tenure was brief, its legacy is unforgettable. So, let’s journey back and uncover 10 things you probably didn’t know about this unique chapter in sports history.
It Wasn’t Just About Football
The original XFL was intended to be a mixture of football and entertainment, mirroring the energy of professional wrestling. This blending led to brash personalities, innovative camera angles, and a presentation that differed considerably from the NFL’s more vanilla product.
“He Hate Me” Mystery
Rod Smart’s jersey bore the phrase “He Hate Me,” which became one of the most iconic images of the league and was the source of endless speculation. Smart later revealed it signified the hatred he believed opponents felt for him.
A Race Instead of a Coin Toss
Instead of a traditional coin toss to determine possession, two players from opposing teams would race to recover a ball placed at midfield. It was dramatic, for sure, but also naturally led to some injuries.
The XFL introduced the “sky-cam,” which provided aerial views of the game, a pioneering move that’s now standard in NFL broadcasts.
The Broadcast Team Included Wrestling Commentators
Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler, both well-known WWE commentators, were part of the XFL’s broadcast team. The blending of wrestling and football personalities was a unique feature of the league, underscoring its purpose as entertainment and sport.
XFL’s Extreme Rules
The XFL introduced several rule changes that were designed to make the game more exciting. One of these was the allowance of bump-and-run coverage for the entire length of a pass route. This aggressive form of defense led to more physical games.
No Fair Catch Rule
Punt returners didn’t have the privilege of calling a fair catch. This rule made for more exciting plays but also placed returners in dangerous situations.
Mic’d Up For Entertainment
The XFL brought fans closer to the game by miking up players, giving an inside look (and listen) into the raw emotions and strategies on the field. This is yet another innovation that has become standard – and promoted – in the NFL.
Failure of the Inaugural Broadcast
The XFL’s first broadcast suffered a major power outage during the game between the New York/New Jersey Hitmen and the Las Vegas Outlaws. The technical difficulties lasted for about a minute but set a tone for a league that seemed to stumble from one mishap to another.
A Generous Salary Structure
Players earned a basic salary, but there was a catch: winners got more. For every game won, players received a bonus, and this increased for playoff victories. The championship team members pocketed a cool $1 million to split amongst themselves.
While the original XFL might be a footnote in the annals of sports history, its audacity, innovations, and sheer spectacle make it a phenomenon worth remembering. Whether you were a fan or a critic, one thing’s for sure: the XFL left its mark on the world of professional sports.