I saw an XFL game in 2001 and rolled my eyes more than a few times at the gimmicks. The spectacle of a cameraman chasing a ball carrier into the end zone was more than this football purist could take.
Vince McMahon’s first attempt tipped the balance of entertainment and football in the wrong direction, it seemed, but hey. To each his own.
After reading McMahon’s pitch for a reboot, 17 years later, I miss days when he was all about gimmicks. Rasslin’s Barnum has shifted his focus, and his latest attempt at pro football comes off as a clear and cynical attempt to capitalize on racial divides.
It’s no longer about the gimmicks, McMahon says, and he’s clear about two points of emphasis:
• Any player with a criminal record is precluded from playing.
• Players won't receive forum to take personal stance on social issues on the playing field.
Soooo, former XFL curiosity Rod Smart wouldn’t be welcome with “He Hate Me” on his jersey name patch? Would that be seen as too protest-like now?
It seems McMahon saw a presidential election. He also sees opportunity in backlash against mostly black NFL players, kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of what they see as police brutality and racial inequality.
That was the reason for the protest, by the way. It wasn’t about flags or troops. Just a friendly reminder, in case anyone has swallowed too much Kool-aid from their preferred partisan cable news network.
Plenty of people don’t see it that way, and McMahon seems to see opportunity in that.
So, count me as missing the old XFL’s benign gimmicks. The league’s latest incarnation seems founded on something far more malignant.