The XFL, like hindsight, is 2020.
In Vince McMahon will be 74 when the league returns. He’s not going into retirement on this big a gamble. I’m quite sure he is selling WWE to New Fox before the year is over.
McMahon clearly sees an opportunity to pick away at the NFL by targeting consumers who, perhaps like himself, are upset about players protesting systemic injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem. He’s creating a league for die-hard football fans who have sworn-off the NFL. I’m not sure how many of those people exist, and I’m not sure Alpha Sports knows, either.
The biggest threat to professional football of any kind is what we now know to be true about CTE. I would perhaps watch the XFL if it could deliver on McMahon’s impossible premise of producing a safer form of the sport. CTE is real, and youth leagues across the country are rightly drying up as a result. Unless players are lighter and the rules (and culture) of the game are significantly different, there’s no way to make it safe. I’m not talking about broken arms or torn muscles; I’m talking about what it’s been shown to do to the brain, and what the NFL has been shown to ignore, deny, and cover up.
Because of its hubris and greed, the NFL has consistently, knowingly put players at risks no one used to know or think about. Then they lied about those risks, to the public and to the employees whose bodies make the whole thing work. I’m convinced that the NFL will pay for these decisions in the not-so distant future. XFL might hasten that process, but unless drastic changes are made, pro football, as a thing, is simply not sustainable.
It’s ironic, and fitting, that today’s Google doodle is in honor of one of the greatest neuroscientists to ever live.