Vince McMahon is good at promoting wrestling. He has built an empire while defeating and/or swallowing up his competitors. In a failed attempt to do the same, McMahon tried to take over football too in 2001. Now, in 2020, McMahon is trying a new system to expand the game, not take it over. But he has underlying issues that could get in the way of this attempt.
Spring football is a solid alternative for Americans to spend their sports dollars. One thing the XFL is doing is reducing the ticket prices. This is on purpose; to draw in crowds sick of the higher prices of the big four plus MLS. Still with all the planning, the execution has to be done in a prudent manner. We have seen it done poorly already.
The USFL was doing fantastic for 3 seasons before an overzealous and greedy team owner tried to take on the NFL and lost, big. There have been many leagues that are more semi than professional, some still on-going. Between its closing in 1986 and this year, only one other league beat the XFL into the spring market place big. The AAF had a uniform deal with Starter and a TV deal with CBS and NFL Network. Unfortunately the AAF fell victim to money troubles and another overzealous and greedy league owner in the form Thomas Dundon.
Still the XFL took a long time to work on their locations, teams, and strategy. Most of the teams are in NFL markets, smaller stadiums and one former NFL city in St. Louis. The XFL changed some rules in 2001 and are trying new things this time around as well. Last time the game started with a sprint for the ball, kind of like water polo. This time, kickoffs have a new line up with the kicking team only 5 yards from the receiving team. Both with the intent of decreasing injuries. A crucial aspect of the game since teams are decreased from the NFL’s 53 down to only 40, though some teams are bumping that up to 45. And into the halfway point, with injuries mounting, teams are adding a few more people as well.
Who those personnel are and what they represent makes a difference to McMahon as well. I would be remise not to mention, McMahon is the mastermind behind “heels”, aka bad guys, in the wrestling world like the Iron Sheik and Kamala ‘The Ugandan Giant’. Playing on American patriotism and resentment of foreigners (like most Americans are). Not to mention the rash of untimely deaths of superstars like Owen Hart in the ring or Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit out of the ring. All things that WWF&WWE acknowledges but doesn’t really assume any responsibility for. Plenty of people can question McMahon about his personnel (and sometimes personal) decisions running WWF&WWE. I will leave that analysis to others while acknowledging McMahon’s past.
With the restart of the XFL, McMahon made a few personnel choices clear. He would not stand for social and political protests. Considering the damage it did to the NFL and the already negative track record of the XFL, this seems like a very good idea. He also did not want players with a criminal record. But I guess that one was a little more flexible.
The “allergy” to criminal behavior amongst players is a valid concern. Sports are rife with athletes who are running afoul of the law. There are many examples of criminal behavior in the big four. But the bad behavior can happen to other athletes as well. Even with female athletes as shown in this article and this one as well. The problem is too prevalent throughout sports.
Back to the XFL, despite saying one thing, another is evident in the execution. One of the league’s premier teams is the Dallas Renegades. One reason is Bob Stoops is the coach. His college resume of wins and a National Championship gives him immediate credibility.
Another reason was that Landry Jones is the Renegades quarterback. Landry has the most NFL experience in the group of quarterbacks in the league. Five seasons with the Steelers, 5 five starts and 18 appearances. This league needs stars. With the access on the field in all aspects, Landry Jones was definitely going to be a player the mics & cameras would focus on.
But during training camp, Landry got hurt. So Stoops turned to his backup Philip Nelson. I had never heard of him so, I had to look him up. And curiouser and curiouser what I found at the bottom of this wiki.
Now this was not an unsolicited fight. Isaac Kolstad started the fight. You can see how it went down in this video. But still, Nelson went back and stomped on Kolstad. That is a pretty profound social statement in my book.
Nelson lost the Renegades first game. Making their march to a championship more difficult. Nelson was on the bench with Landry Jones healthy for weeks 2 & 3. But with an aggravated knee injury, Nelson closed out the 4th game (another loss though not Nelson’s fault) and played all of the 5th (their third loss). But if McMahon had the fortitude to stick by his original statement, Nelson would have never made the field at all.
The Renegades have not even benefited from Nelson’s play. Other teams have been more competitive with their 2nd or sometimes third string. Luis Perez, AAF veteran, took over in New York. Tyler Cornelius has been more productive than Aaron Murray. Same with Seattle’s B.J. Daniels, more productive if not more successful. But in D.C. Tyree Jackson’s tall frame got the Defenders over the hump. Might be time for the Renegades to go to third string or look at the “overflow” team of reserves.
I applaud the effort to clean up sports in this way. Athletes have to be held to account more. But if the policy is ignored when no one’s the wiser; what was the point of having a policy at all? I want to see this problem of abusive athletes dissipate. Any strides that can be made in a positive direction, need to be made.