XFL 2.0 launched over the weekend. There are some positives and some negatives attached to that statement, and I want to go over some of them. Of the 4 games on the air, I watched about 9 quarters of the 16 available; here are some observations:
- Plus: Attendance looked reasonable for two of the games. The DC/Seattle game played in a stadium that seats 20,000 looked virtually full. [Announced attendance was 17,125.] The NY/Tampa game played in the Meadowlands had a similar announced attendance, but the crowd looked bigger than that on TV.
- Minus: The TV commentators need to focus on the games in front of them and maybe an interesting storyline or two. The constant references to “novelty” and “revolutionary” got very old.
- Plus: The games demonstrated competence for players and coaches. This was not helter-skelter sandlot football. At the same time, this is definitely minor-league pro football and not something that is a hair’s breadth away from the NFL product.
- Minus: There are FAR TOO MANY on-field interviews with players and coaches and just about anyone involved with the game on the sidelines. And with players mic-ed up, the folks manning the “dump button” need to be far more alert in the future.
- Plus: PJ Walker is the QB for the Houston Roughnecks. He was running around out there looking like DeShaun Watson of the Houston Texans. I suspect he will be a fan favorite there.
- Minus: A couple of the TV commentators got a bit loose with their language and required the use of the “dump button”. I am certainly no prude, but that is totally unnecessary.
- Plus: Some of the innovative rules for XFL 2.0 are good ones. I like the league’s PAT options; I really like the transparency of the booth reviews; the pace of the game is better than the NFL or college football.
If you are interested, here is a link to a report at CBSSports.com that will explain many of the rule differences between XFL 2.0 and the NFL – or college football.
To some degree, the long-term viability of XFL 2.0 will depend on its acceptance by bettors. Notwithstanding the impurity brought to the game by low-life gamblers, the fact is that a large measure of the NFL’s dominance of US sports is due to the widespread use of the games as a vehicle for wagering. I don’t know how bettors will view XFL 2.0, but if it turns out to be a big deal, then the league has an avenue toward “growth” over and above “survival”.
Dwight Perry acknowledged the importance of gambling to the new football league obliquely in the Seattle Times last weekend:
“Sure sign you might have a gambling problem: You missed Super Bowl LIV because you were at your XFL fantasy-league draft.”
Professor Perry is not all that far off. One of the banner ads on an Internet sports site over the weekend invited me to sign up for Daily Fantasy contests involving XFL 2.0. Seriously…
Allow me to interrupt this rant with an important notice:
- Memo to Iowa: The Chiefs beat the Niners in the Super Bowl by a score of 31-20. Thought you would like to know the final result …
Regarding the MLB sign-stealing scandal, Henry Aaron last week said that everyone involved in the cheating should be banned from baseball for life. That is a harsh position to take but it is not an outrageous one. The underlying principle of MLB’s ironclad rule about betting on games is the defense of “the integrity of the game”. Well, “integrity” also takes a significant blow when teams – or players or managers or whomever – find ways to cheat to affect the outcomes. The “integrity of the games” need not be tied solely to the winners or losers of wagers; the “integrity of the game” has a fundamental tie to the statistical outcomes of those games. I am not convinced that Henry Aaron’s call for a lifetime ban from baseball is appropriate here, but I am sure of two things:
- Even though the Commish promised immunity for players who provided information in MLB’s investigation, there is something fundamentally wrong with the idea that those players who actively participated in the cheating – and benefited from it – are immune from any and all punishment.
- The person making the call for a lifetime ban is Henry “Bleeping” Aaron. This man has been in and around baseball for about 70 years; he is an ambassador for the game; his opinion(s) command attention simply because they are his opinion(s).
In terms of stature regarding baseball, I was trying to think of the half-dozen or so people who might be on the same level of “authority” as Henry Aaron. Here is my list; if these folks also believe that a lifetime ban is appropriate, then I would have to reassess my position.
- Bob Gibson
- Derek Jeter
- Sandy Koufax
- Willie Mays
- Cal Ripken
- Mariano Rivera
- Nolan Ryan
- Carl Yastrzemski
Finally, as I mentioned last week, people will use the storyline related to where Tom Brady will play football next year as filler until such time as he signs a contract for next year. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel expressed his opinion for the line of thinking that has Brady playing for the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2020:
“Not to be mean, but putting Tom Brady on the Bucs would be like putting the Mona Lisa in Room 217 of the Red Roof Inn.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………