XFL Debuts With Plans To Solidify Presence Despite Past Failure
It is "far too early to tell if the XFL can take a foothold where its previous incarnation," the Alliance of American Football or old XFL, failed, but execs are "willing to wait and see," according to Stephen Whyno of the AP. XFL President & COO Jeffrey Pollack said following the Seattle Dragons-DC Defenders game, "If the fans who attend and watch at home feel as though it was a good football game and they had a fun time either watching or being in this awesome venue with us, that's success. We're taking a long term view in this. Success ultimately will not be measured in the first game or the first weekend or the first season." Pollack added, "Our expectation for this first season is for football fans to simply give us a look, give us a chance, sample us. We understand that fandom is earned. It's not given" (AP, 2/9). In Richmond, Michael Phillips writes it is "easy to start with a splash," as the AAF debuted to "strong television ratings last year before folding midway through the season." But the XFL, which "flopped in its first incarnation" in '01, "believes it can sustain the moment." Pollack said, "We know we need to earn our stripes with our fans, and we're prepared to put in the time and do that." The test for the XFL will be "how the league fares in Weeks 2 and 3, when stadiums are half full instead of nearly sold out" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 2/9).
THE RIGHT ANGLE: XFL Commissioner & CEO Oliver Luck said, "There's going to be inevitable stumbles in year one ... and it's inevitable because it's a startup." Luck added Founder Vince McMahon "has made it very clear to all of us at the league, that he's in this for the long haul and he's shared that same spirit with our broadcast partners and other commercial partners." YAHOO FINANCE's Zack Guzman wrote that "assuredness is necessary" for its media partners in Fox and Disney's ABC and ESPN and its fans, given that the XFL itself "only lasted one season in its last attempt and that this year's attempt comes less than one year removed" from the folding of the AAF just eight games into a 10-game season (FINANCE.YAHOO.com, 2/8). In Tampa, John Romano writes by "sheer audacity," the XFL debut "already seemed a few steps ahead" of the AAF. The XFL had some "interesting innovations," and it had a few "exciting moments and a handful of talented players." Romano: "No matter how much their predecessors have planned, tweaked or spent, they've always finished with tombstones rather than statues." If the XFL is to survive, it "has to understand its role." It needs to "sell stories of perseverance and personalities, tragedies and triumphs, innovation and oddities." It "cannot be about talent," because the NFL has cornered that market. Romano: "This is about offseason entertainment, no more no less" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/10).
HERE TO STAY? Houston Roughnecks coach & GM June Jones said that he "figured the league would stick." In Austin, Suzanne Halliburton noted that is why Jones "moved from Canada ... back to the Texas Gulf Coast for a sports start-up." After defeating the L.A. Wildcats on Saturday at TDECU Stadium, Jones said, "I think this is going to be here for good. I was convinced that this league was going to make it and I think after this season, it's just going to get better and better" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 2/10).
TWITTER REAX: Minneapolis-based KSTP-ABC's Darren Wolfson tweeted, "The top rated (TV) sports programming in the Twin Cities over the weekend wasn't the NBA or college hoops or the NHL or soccer or the PGA. It was the XFL. This market has a solid thirst for football." The Action Network's Darren Rovell: "Only mistake XFL made in Week 1 was putting New York team in MetLife Stadium instead of Red Bull Arena in Harrison. Crowd filled 22 percent of seats in MetLife. Would have been 72 percent at Red Bull." CNN Business' Paul La Monica: "Something I never expected to type. NFL should study XFL this season. If XFL players suffer fewer injuries (& score more TDs) after kickoffs, NFL may want to adopt some XFL rules." CBS Sports' Barrett Sallee: "I don't understand the people who are rooting for the XFL to fail. We all know the history of other leagues. Why can't you be excited about Week 1 and hopeful about the future?"