Fake News? More like the XFL… If That Makes Sense


“Where’s my football?” – Vince McMahon

First off, politics and football will never mesh well together. It will never be cool.

Secondly, in case you didn’t know, Donald Trump is currently the President of the United States. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year and decided to read this all of a sudden, you’re welcome for enlightening you on the subject. There’s also plenty of controversy in the country surrounding the National Anthem and whether or not players should be allowed to sit or kneel during the playing of it. Of course, this all started with 2017 Muhammed Ali Legacy Award winner, Colin Kaepernick, kneeling during the Anthem as he was trying to protest police brutality. People took offense to it, claiming that it was insulting to those who’ve served this country, even though that wasn’t Colin’s intent at all.

The meaning of the whole thing got misconstrued over time and still is to this day. It also didn’t help that President Trump resented the whole thing, leading to some pretty powerful tweets on the subject. (Insert tweets)

Some people saw this turmoil and went so far as to boycott the NFL altogether. Whether you agree or disagree with what Colin Kaepernick and plenty of other NFL players did, I think we can all conclude that politics don’t have a place in our pigskin throwing on Sundays.

This whole thing is a pretty tough issue that most of us wish never happened in the first place. However, I think it’s safe to say that this wasn’t the first time politics and football came together. Insert: the XFL.

WWE chairman and CEO, Vincent Kennedy McMahon announced that he would be starting a professional football league in February 2000. Vince McMahon wanted to buy the CFL, but couldn’t. (I guess if you want something done, you might as well do it yourself.) Many were very critical of the formation of the XFL (which didn’t stand for anything as it was just letters) and were quick to say that it would be a failure. Well, it was a failure as it only lasted one season and folded in May 2001 after losing $50 million in that first season.

The league had teams that were placed all throughout the country. Some of the markets the teams got put in hadn’t ever had a football team, so there was some excitement there. The teams were the Birmingham Thunderbolts, Chicago Enforcers, Las Vegas Outlaws, Los Angeles Xtreme, Memphis Maniax, New York/New Jersey Hitmen, Orlando Rage, and the San Francisco Demons. These teams took players that were NFL busts and players that hadn’t played professionally altogether. And get this, the players only had four and a half weeks to practice after they were drafted. That isn’t anywhere close to enough time to form chemistry with your team. It indeed posed a problem.

McMahon created the league to compete with the NFL, saying that it had gone “soft” and it “had lost touch with what its fans really wanted.” McMahon held a press conference to explain his creation even though he didn’t have anything else other than a name to his football league. Luckily for him, Dick Ebersol, who was the co-creator of Saturday Night Live and eventually the president of NBC Sports, saw the press conference and partnered with McMahon for a new TV deal and a 50/50 joint partnership so neither of them could have the upper hand on the other. One year later, the XFL had its first game between the New York/New Jersey Hitmen and the Las Vegas Outlaws.

A lot of the promotion surrounding the league was about the attitude of it all.

“Vince was in a blood war with Ted Turner and WCW. So he created the Attitude Era. It was guys grabbing their crotches and girls getting spanked and all this crazy stuff on camera. The XFL was a reflection of it. The promotion was always tongue-in-cheek. I joked at the time that people believed we were going to give the linebackers chairs so they could chase the quarterbacks.” – Dick Ebersol

The XFL had everything going for it heading in. World Wrestling Entertainment was at its peak in popularity after the fall of WCW, NBC was one of the top networks on television, and people wanted football more than ever after the 2000-01 season. The XFL had such innovative ideas like the scramble that will take place instead of the coin toss to decide who would get the first possession in the game. The XFL also gave us the first opportunity to hear what the players and coaches were saying as there were plenty of live mics all around the sidelines. XFL games relied heavily on the sky cam which is a big part of football games now, along with mics on the sidelines. Finally, the XFL brought us bonus coverage, which is (again) something we see on a regular basis in today’s NFL.

The XFL lost 80% of its viewers in the first four weeks. Whether it was the promotion blimp that crashed into a restaurant, power outages during games, the lack of “quality” football, or the butting of heads between Vince and Dick for TV time, the XFL’s writing was on the wall. One of the other things that could’ve played a possible roll in the loss of viewers was the non-stop use of professional wrestling in the games. If people wanted to watch WWE Superstars on their screens, they could’ve tuned into RAW or SmackDown. People watched the XFL so they’d have an edgy alternative to the NFL, not so they could watch wrestling.

Vince also pissed off the wrong people, so most media outlets wouldn’t even touch the XFL. The non-stop bashing of the NFL hurt his credibility when the players on the field couldn’t back up what he was saying. One person that McMahon pissed off was Bob Costas, and his interview with Costas on HBO will go down as one of the more infamous and confrontational televised meetings of all time.

McMahon’s creation was such a puzzling story, that ESPN did a 30 For 30 documentary on it this past February, which is titled, This Was the XFL. Of course, it was a knock on Vince for his infamous opening speech in that very first game where he was just being Vince. That’s the simple way of putting it. The director of the film was Charlie Ebersol, Dick’s son.

“At a fundamental level, the XFL was a much closer representation of what the American public is actually looking for [than the NFL]. 54 million viewers on opening night, based soley on the promise of aggressive, smash-mouth, blood and sex and T&A. That’s all they were selling. I think that’s been the unfortunate lesson of the last two years with Trump: the critics kept saying it wasn’t possible, but if you say that kind of stuff and then deliver it, America regularly tells us they’ll respond.” – Charlie Ebersol

There it is. We’ve officially tied Donald Trump back into it.

And Charlie didn’t stop there. Before continuing on Trump in an Esquire article, Charlie talked about how the XFL was just unlucky. The first game was the worst of the season which caused people to abandon the league even though the other game on opening night had a final score of 37-34. The first scramble saw a guy separate his shoulder, costing him his season before the game even started. “You want your blood and guts? There it is right there.” Charlie talked about how the XFL was too much for America to handle, leading to another quote about Trump.

“The idea of manifest destiny, carpe diem, the reason that everyone went west, the reason that Vince in 1979, 1980 buys his dad’s company and starts rampaging his way across the country; it’s the idea of aggression. Donald Trump is the president of the United States largely because of the image he projects as this robber-baron billionaire.” – Charlie Ebersol

Robber-baron billionaire? That’s the same robber-baron billionaire who destroyed the United States Football League that ceased in 1986.

Trump bought a USFL team, the New Jersey Generals with the goals of competing with the NFL and making as much money as possible while doing it. He did this by signing a bunch of quality talent from the NFL and college and providing them with things they could only dream of getting in the NFL. Some big names included Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie, and Lawrence Taylor.

“He would ask players, ‘Are we doing this like the NFL?’ Things like meals and travel. He was very aware of making it top-shelf. Other owners couldn’t afford it or didn’t care about it. It was part of his M.O. If you were a player, you liked playing for Donald Trump.” – Dave Lapham (offensive lineman for the Generals)

The USFL was designed to take place in the spring after the NFL season had wrapped up, kind of like what the XFL tried to do. Trump didn’t like this approach at all as he tried to move games to the fall by talking with the NFL in a very public manner. One distinct line he said was, “If God wanted football in the spring, he wouldn’t have created baseball.” Trump was now seen as a bully as he was always in a battle with other USFL owners as they debated what time of year the season should be played.

Throughout this time, the USFL had lost a collective $200 million. The owners voted to end the league or possibly merge with the NFL that included all of their TV contracts to receive a big payday. There was a considerable trial that was seemingly led by Trump that addressed the issue. In the trial, he was described as “vicious, greedy, Machiavellian billionaire, and intent only on serving his selfish ends at everyone else’s expense.” It was all just one colossal mess, and Trump was what kept it together and was the downfall of it at the same time.

“I think Trump kept the league together. I know that’s not a popular belief, but I think he kept the league going a couple more years that it would have. I know it’s popular to say Donald was the villain, that the poor players didn’t get to pursue their dream. Hey, the league was out of money!” – Jim McVay (Tampa Bay Outlaws)

The whole thing brings me back to what Charlie Ebersol has been saying about Trump and the XFL. His run at the Oval Office was like McMahon and the XFL in a way. Was there a real plan in place? Is there any real strategy involved? Like McMahon, Trump had an enemy that he tried to get us to focus on in everything he said. It was us against them, and it was all for show. At times, it was a good one because the media ate it up (or didn’t eat it up in Vince’s case).

Are you not entertained?

Trump has even worked with McMahon before and has been a feature on WWE television on a couple of occasions. It is uncanny how similar they really are. They are thirsty for money and attention, and we are right there to take it all in, ready to see it possibly fail.

But for the love of all that is holy in this world, can we please stop having Donald Trump bash the NFL? Many of us have already seen that happen to a particular billionaire and it didn’t go so well for him and his little “project.”

 

What are your thoughts on Donald Trump and the XFL? Is there any comparison at all? Be sure to tell us about it in the comment section below. Also, be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter: @PowerRank_More, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and follow us on our Instagram page for all of the latest information from Power Rankings and More.

Published on 12/10/17 at 11:40 PM EST. Photo credit: Variety.
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Matthew "Joneszee" Jones http://www.powerrankingsandmore.com

I am the owner of Power Rankings and More and a sports broadcaster at Ball State. Sports are my passion. My writing style is laid back, so relax and enjoy!

What others say about : Fake News? More like the XFL… If That Makes Sense..


Ken Conklin

This is a well-written and thoughtful article, Matthew. Can’t disagree with your assessments of Trump and McMahon. Both of them have big egos and big bucks and zero empathy for anyone but themselves. Well, it would only be fitting (in my humble opinion) if we could put them in a cage-fighting cage and see whose ego would bully the other into submission. I’d put my money on a draw, because I think they would eat each other up with the only thing left being some orange hair and piece of a WWF belt.

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