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The new XFL can be great if….

By Matthew Coller

The XFL has a weird place in the sports memories of anyone born before 1990.

Everyone had the exact same experience when it debuted in 2001. You tuned in because the lead up was so wild and bizarre, you couldn’t wait to see what Vince McMahon had concocted and then it was bad and boring. And you never watched again.

But an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the XFL released around this time last year stirred some sentimentality. The movie followed the crazy rise and fall and took us inside McMahon’s passion for his abominable project. By the end of the doc, you were convinced McMahon is going to give the XFL another run.

So it didn’t come as a huge surprise on Thursday when McMahon stood at a podium – as he had 18 years before – bellowing about “re-imagining” football.

There were plenty of eyeroll-worthy moments. No players with arrest record, McMahon said (sorry, Johnny Manziel!). Players will stand for the anthem, he said. There won’t be any halftime or cheerleaders. People will care about the character of the players on the field. OK.

You could pick apart each one of those things, but you’d have to believe them first.

McMahon announced that the league won’t be starting until 2020. By then, the “problems” with the NFL that he’s addressing might not be all that relevant. He has to have something else up his sleeve, right? Because if that is McMahon’s actual plan – “The NFL, only without politics!” – then this thing is dead in the water unless they sign Tom Brady and Odell Beckham.

Think about it this way: For people in their 30s especially, interest in an XFL comeback is like complimenting someone on a Vancouver Grizzlies hat. Yes, the Grizzlies were disastrous in Vancouver, but somehow the years separating us from the atrocious basketball have caused us to remember Greg Anthony and The Big Country Bryant Reeves fondly. But we wouldn’t wear the hat because the Vancouver Grizzles were ugly and terrible and so was the XFL and if the new version is some bizarre step brother of the original product it’s going to die just as fast.

Nobody is going to watch mediocre football in March because the league has nice boys and shorter breaks.

There’s only one way the XFL can succeed this time around: Borrow from reality TV.

Think about the show The Contender. It followed a group of boxers looking to make it big. The XFL will have a group of football players, whether it’s CFL’ers or ex-college stars, who are looking to show the NFL they can play.

Imagine if McMahon took his TV savvy and built a two-hour weekly show where you follow the players through practice, you travel to their home towns, learn about their journey and then see the results.

Instead of making us watch two hours of meh football, how about a carefully edited version that splices in game action with background. Show us what it’s like inside the meeting rooms. Let us listen in on the sideline chatter. Let us hear what players are saying to each other on the field. Edit the best together to create a weekly drama.

Here’s another example: Project Runway. The highly successful reality series shows the build up to a fashion show. It cuts out the contestants using a sewing machine for an hour.

We don’t need to see Tim Tebow fail to convert a second-and-10 throw to the flat. We would want to know if the receiver we followed all week came through late in the game. We’d want to know if the team’s strategy to pick apart the defense actually worked. We’d want to know why the team succeeded or failed.

It would become a fascinating look inside the life of a football team. And for the insane football nuts who wanted to watch every game, we have this crazy thing called the internet where they could see every play.

It’s funny, McMahon is trying to reach the people who are frustrated by the NFL, but he doesn’t seem to realize that people’s biggest issues with the league aren’t kneeling or arrest records, it’s that everything is sterile. Coach speak, player cliches, team secrets being treated like FBI files. Even shows like NFL Films will wash out anything negative. There’s an opportunity to tell a football story that’s completely unfiltered.

That’s exciting. The version that McMahon laid out on Thursday is not.

The post The new XFL can be great if…. appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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