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My Beautiful XFL Has Finally Returned

10 Feb 2001: WWF's "The Rock" walks out to greet the fans before the game between the Los Angeles Xtreme and the Chicago Enforcers at the L.A. Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The Xtreme defeated the Enforcers 39-32.
Photo: Stephen Dunn/Allsport via Getty Images

After a couple of tumultuous start and stops, the XFL will make its triumphant return this Saturday and I, one of the league's biggest fans, believe that the third time will be the charm. The first sign of progress is its new leadership; the arrogant tyranny of Vince McMahon is out and the agreeable charm of our future president Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is in.

As reported in The Athletic, The Rock, along with his ex-wife Dany Garcia and the sports fund RedBird Capital Partners, bought the intellectual property rights to the XFL in bankruptcy court and have spent the last two and a half years since its second demise in 2020 finely tuning the sport America will soon fall in love with all over again. After all, The Rock would never slap his name on an inferior product.

Along with the return of the XFL comes all of those memorable teams that have developed real and meaningful roots in the communities they are based. The Houston Roughnecks, the Seattle Sea Dragons, the St. Louis Battlehawks, and so many more teams that people can easily name and remember. The Vipers are back as well, though they've moved to Las Vegas, devastating what I have to assume are a reasonable number of football-starved fans back in Tampa. We also have the return of a lot of "dudes" that you may or may not remember, like Josh Gordon, A.J. McCarron, Brett Hundley, Charleston Rambo, and Paxton Lynch. Wade Phillips is a coach! So is Bob Stoops! So is ... Hines Ward! These are all names that are technically related to the sport of American football, so how can anyone not be excited?

But maybe you're not interested in remembering some guys. Maybe you're more interested in seeing how the XFL's rules differ from the NFL, or you want to see the new features installed like getting to listen in on player-to-coach communications or the thrilling internal discussions of replay challenges, the kind of process-related workplace conversations I am sure someone has been clamoring for. Perhaps though, you are interested in the way ESPN plans to lean more into sports gambling with the league in a way they can't with the NFL.

“We’re going to grow sports betting with the XFL,” Bryan Jaroch, ESPN’s coordinating producer for football, told The Athletic. “So we will have [the line and over/under] displayed on the clock and score the entire game, and we will be very aggressive with talking about sports betting during the game.”

Frankly, this is refreshing and bold on the part of ESPN. If there's anything that nearly every televised sport has been missing over the last couple years as sports gambling has become legalized, it's having commentators talk about it constantly as odds and point spreads seize more real estate on the television screen.

It's hard not to get excited for XFL football. The NFL is the establishment, the league for nerds who care about "analytics" and "quality play." It's time for the people to take football back to being pedestrian with the kind of sloppy veneer of extremeness normally found on some Flamin' Hot Cheetos wings at the local Applebee's. And while the XFL no longer sees itself as a competitor with the NFL, but in some ways a potential farm system or G-league to help players prove their worth to a team, I'm sure The Rock will keep its gritty reputation intact. Why else would the XFL president describe the arrangement between leagues as a "petri dish" for the NFL. Besides, all competition is good competition. I mean, if the USFL gets a second season, then why not my beloved XFL? Thanks to ESPN, springtime is now the season of football and for developing a crippling gambling addiction.

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