If the XFL is hoping to set itself up as a competitor to the NFL, then it’s not doing a very good job of intimidating the only fish in the big pond right now. With the upstart league set to kick off its inaugural season today, many are recalling last year’s debacle with the Alliance of American Football, despite the many differences between the two leagues.
The most crucial difference is the fact that the XFL has stable funding. The AAF’s funding came from outside investors who were highly flaky and had ulterior motives, some of whom backed out. Their biggest initial investor ended up being charged with embezzling money or something.
Meanwhile, the XFL is the brainchild of a sports entertainment billionaire hellbent on making this thing work after having already failed two decades ago, overestimating how much it would take. Vince McMhaon, the WWE mogul, has already withdrawn millions upon millions of his own personal fortune with the aim being to fund the league through at least three seasons to see it through its incubation period in the hopes of it reaching sustainability.
The AAF wanted to have a relationship with the NFL. In fact, the reason the later primary investor pulled the plug on the league is because he could not secure a deal with the NFL to be able to use their practice squad players quickly enough for his liking. Both the NFL and NFLPA were open to talking about that possibility. He yanked the cord with two games left to play in their inaugural season.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked last week during the Super bowl media frenzy to comment on the XFL. “I personally look at it as a positive because people are investing in football, and they’re investing a significant amount of capital to create new football leagues”, he said.
“That just shows you the popularity of our game”, he added. “In fact, what I usually hear starting next week is, ‘I’m going to miss football for the next six months. What am I going to do?’ They’re going to have an opportunity to see the XFL starting next week. People are investing in football. I think that only creates greater opportunities and, frankly, more fans”.
Fans will be able to check out the XFL this weekend. At 2PM today, the Seattle Dragons and the D.C. Defenders will face off on ABC, while the Los Angeles Wildcats will face the Houston Roughnecks on FOX at 5PM. FOX will also host the Tampa Bay Vipers vs the New York Guardians on Sunday at 2PM, and the Dallas Renegades will play the St. Louis BattleHawks on ESPN at 5PM.
See this article for a list of former Pittsburgh Steelers players who are currently on XFL rosters if you’re looking for a Steelers-related reason to root for a team. The Defenders have Eli Rogers and Shamarko Thomas, while Landry Jones is on the Renegades, for example. Sammie Coates is on the Roughnecks, while the BattleHawks have seven players who were with Pittsburgh at some point.