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According to the commercials, the XFL is intending to replace the NFL, which it refers to as the "No Fun League". The intent of the XFL is to make football a more visceral experience. The first time I heard the commercial talking about the XFL, I thought, "What? They're bringing rugby to the U.S.?"

One of the major changes from the NFL are the removal of the fair catch rule. During the 2001 season, there will only be eight teams: the Birmingham Bolts, the Chicago Enforcers, the Las Vegas Outlaws, the Los Angeles Xtreme, the Memphis Maniax, the NY/NJ Hitmen, the Orlando Rage, and the San Francisco Demons.

Another interesting change is the pay scale. Players are paid to win. Base pay in the XFL is $45,000 per season, with less (35,000) for kicking specialists, and more (50,000) for quarterbacks. Each player on the active roster of a winning team will receive another 2,500 dollars in incentive money. The winning Championship team players receive a $25,000 bonus.

Cheerleaders in the XFL are about a step away from strippers, according to the commercials. Apparently the Cheerleading in the XFL will have a definite emphasis on T & A, apparently moreso than the NFL cheerleaders.

All of this comes together to create a league which should make football more macho, which is another thing they tout in their commercials. I'll wait and see.

The XFL is a heavily scrutinized and often misrepresented new football league, the brainchild of WWF entrepeneur Vince McMahon. Upset with the apparent sterility of the NFL, McMahon announced the new league in February of 2000, promising an all-access pass to football -- cameras in the huddle, cameras in the locker rooms, cameras in the helmets, and microphones on everyone... with a seven second delay to mute any possible f-bombs. Players and coaches are interviewed about their successes and screw-ups between plays, fans voice off about what's happening, and rather than spending halftime in the booth, the locker rooms are invaded.

Partnered with NBC, the XFL season consists of ten weeks of football, with games played on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, and Sunday night, with a championship game at the end, aptly entitled "The Big Game At The End". Players receive a base salary for each game, with a bonus for each player if they win, and $1,000,000 for the championship team to split amongst themselves. The 'X' in XFL doesn't stand for Xtreme, or Xceptional, or anything for that matter. "The letters XFL are not an abbreviation."

The XFL has strayed from standard NFL rules, incorporating some CFL and college rules in an effort to make the game more exciting. Although bump-and-run coverage exists, there IS pass interference, and the college one-foot-inbound rule for receivers exists to combat this defensive advantage. There are no fair catches, but the kicking team can't leave the line of scrimmage before the ball is kicked, and must give the receiver a five-yard halo to catch the ball. You're more likely to see a kick returner beheaded in the NFL. There's also no coin toss before the game - two players scrum for a loose ball to determine who gets the opening kickoff.

A lot of people don't think the XFL can succeed, given the track record of previous leagues, like the USFL and the World League. The XFL has several things going for it, though. First, the league is a single entity -- teams aren't controlled by individual owners -- so bidding wars for players won't happen (in fact, salaries are fixed). Second, the league doesn't compete with the NFL for players, like the USFL did, so they don't have to fight an established league. And third, the league has a television contract, and a good one at that. While it doesn't ensure success, it starts the XFL out on good footing.

Announcers for the league include Matt Vasgersian, Jerry "The King" Lawler", Good Ol' J.R., Brian Bosworth, and former wrestler and Minnesota governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

The XFL was not as big of a success as the networks had hoped; in many respects it was a dismal failure. There were many reasons why it did not fare as it probably should:

The XFL unfortunately got the lowest television ratings of any show since they started calculating ratings at one point. No one was watching it. The hardcore football fans had already put away their beer helmets, and the wrestling fans were not impressed enough by any of it to convert them over. It wasn't really great television to begin with, but the only reason why it got any nods was because it directed by Vince McMahon. Perhaps next time, he should stick to the script: Don't cue football after the season.

The XFL officially folded on May 10, 2001 for all the reasons described above, and then some. Horrible ratings doomed the league, and hardly anyone truly cares. While most people expected failure, it's a surprise (to me anyway) that the venture only lasted one season. The WWF and NBC have tons of money, but it became apparent that the XFL concept just wasn't going to work. As explained on the XFL's website: "The decision was made after determining that the additional investment required to further develop the XFL was not commensurate with the potential return and the risk inherent in pursuing the venture."

The football was mediocre at best. The innovations weren't noteworthy. The announcing was atrocious (Jesse Ventura can go back to being a governor I suppose).

For future reference, the Los Angeles Xtreme won the first (and last) XFL championship, defeating the San Francisco Demons 38-6 in the "Million Dollar Game". Los Angeles quarterback Tommy Maddox was named XFL Player of the Year and the Orlando Rage's coach Galen Hall was Coach of the Year.

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