“No chance! That’s what you’ve got!”
It’s the opening line of WWE CEO Vince McMahon’s entrance theme music when he struts to the ring during his occasional nostalgic drop-ins on Monday Night Raw and Smackdown Live.
But the line also can describe his recently-announced reboot of his failed professional football endeavor, the XFL.
The 2001 XFL was the Doink the Clown of organized football -- a gimmicky mess that featured an opening scramble for the football instead of a coin toss, a litany of odd rules centered around punting and many other ridiculous ideas meant to “improve” the game.
Though McMahon said in his press conference the new version would be gimmick-free, his visions for the 2020 iteration of the XFL come off as political grandstanding designed to “give football back to fans.”
One feature of the returning league is players with any criminal record won’t be allowed to participate. That means if Oklahoma draft prospect Baker Mayfield’s NFL career flops, he would not merit consideration. Nor would former Ole Miss signal caller Chad Kelly. If soon-to-be Hall of Famer Ray Lewis were playing football today, he wouldn’t be eligible for Vince’s exclusive club -- not THAT one.
How far down the rabbit hole does this whole “criminal record” stipulation go, and at what point does due process enter the equation? Better yet, what message does this send to high school or college players who got in trouble once, then turned things around for the positive? Shouldn’t the most talented players receive the opportunity to play?
By the XFL’s logic, the most talented players who aren’t employed by the NFL or CFL who have no criminal record should get to play, so that means a guy like free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick would receive a shot, right?
Not so fast.
It appears Mr. McMahon added yet another stipulation to dilute the potential pool of players he’ll have to start this league by dictating players won’t be able to use the “playing field” as a forum to take personal stances on social issues.
If memory serves, none of these protests have actually occurred on the playing field between the lines and hash marks, so who is Vinny Mac really trying to single out? Maybe it's a swipe at the players who participated in the “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative in an effort to rile fans who just want players to “stick to football.”
The league’s starting point in terms of talent will be scraping the bottom of the barrel. After all, only a fraction of XFL players were good enough to lace up cleats in the NFL after the first version folded.
As far as player compensation goes, no real details have surfaced regarding how much each of the 40 players per eight teams would make. In 2001, XFL quarterbacks made $5,000 per week, kickers made $3,500 per week and all other players made $4,500 per week, with each winning team receiving $2,500 per player and $7,500 per playoff win.
The only XFL Championship game, won by the Los Angeles Xtreme, was billed as the Million Dollar Game with the prize pool divided for the winning roster.
If the pay scale is anything similar to the previous, why would any player want to play in a league where they’re making considerably less money and subjecting themselves to life-changing injuries?
I’m curious how Vince handles the first concussion. Will the XFL handle concussions in an equal or better manner than the NFL, or will it be handled like the WWE handled Chris Benoit after all the chair shots to the head and flying headbutts he had to endure?
The questions I’ve posed only scratch the surface of this head-scratching decision to spend $100 million and field a grossly inferior product.
If he manages to pull this off and he builds a product as successful as Monday Night Raw and Smackdown Live have become, then I’ll be the one who might have to join his “other” exclusive club.
Until then, I believe this venture will be an epic failure. Or to use Vince’s words, the league has, “No Chance.”
Ba da da da da dum.
“No chance in Hell.”
Contact Shane Dunaway via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @DailyHome_Shane