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The XFL failed, but the 30 for 30 was a hit

By Matthew Coller

If you were old enough to remember it, then you absolutely remember it.

Opening night of the XFL was the most spectacularly bizarre sporting event ever televised and the league’s fall was more savagely demolished by the mainstream sports media than anything before or after.

And yet it turned out to be sweet irony that ESPN’s 30 for 30 on the XFL was one of the series’ absolute best and is sure to be lauded by the same people who blasted the debunked league.

Created by the son of Dick Ebersol, the NBC executive behind the revolutionary, yet tragically awful football league, This was the XFL goes in-depth with Ebersol and WWE mastermind Vince McMahon to tell the story of the wild build up and incredible fall of the XFL.

If you were one of the 54 million who watched that fateful debut back in 2001, that was probably the only time you ever watched the XFL. The name “He Hate Me” might have stuck with you because the league allowed nicknames on the backs of players’ jerseys, but everything else about the XFL, to most people, doesn’t exist outside of reading columnists’ jokes about it.

The details don’t make you wish you watched Tommy Maddox win league MVP, but they do tell an incredible tale of McMahon’s passion for the idea and the many innovations that came from the XFL.

This was the XFL takes its viewers on a fast-paced journey through the league’s attempt at using sex appeal and absurd violence to grab a football (and possibly blood)-thirsty audience. While you know the result, for a moment you put aside the grossness of putting cheerleaders in stripper garb and Vince’s constant push for more brain injuries to cheer for Ebersol and McMahon’s dream.

Not because the league was a good idea, but because they make many salient points about the NFL along the way. Of course, I’m not referring to the strippers in a hot tub, but the NFL’s tendency to strip players of their personality and humanity. It reminds us that not much has changed in the NFL, who still fines players for wearing the wrong socks, in the last 15 years.

It also introduces us to many elements of the NFL’s current broadcasts that were taken from the XFL, like cameras on the field, overhead cams, microphones on players and so on. Heck, even pro sports in Las Vegas. Yep, they were the first.

Something you might not have expected was an extensional look inside the mind of football players. For Maddox and He Hate Me, the league offered them a second chance in the NFL, but for most others, it gave them one last shot at playing professional football. One day, a player was working in a mail room, the next millions of people were watching him live his pro football dream.

Talk about the unexpected: You wouldn’t have thought a movie about the XFL would be touching, but players’ reactions to the announcement that the league was closing provided a legitimately emotional moment.

There were also enough laughs to pass for SNL, from the time an XFL blimp crashed into a seafood restaurant to the league’s insane attempt to create storylines using Rodney Dangerfield, there were many more gaffes than any rational sports fan would recall.

And an unlikely villain even emerged in Bob Costas, who cackled and cracked about the XFL’s failure for two straight hours, nearly injuring himself stroking his own ego and back-patting his own integrity.

At its core, This Was the XFL is a story about the friendship between Ebersol and McMahon, whose grand idea failed, but they remained close and still hold onto the idea that it should have…could have…maybe some day…could work. Even though we’ve seen leagues come and go, you can’t help, rationally or not, leave the film believing along with them.

The post The XFL failed, but the 30 for 30 was a hit appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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