Football’s new off-season

Michael Caruso, Senior Writer

With the NFL season officially over after the exciting 2020 Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, football fans may be asking themselves, “Well, now what?” Football generates a large following throughout the NFL season, and I am sure fans are not eager to wait almost seven months before the next regular-season game begins. However, in the meantime, we may be seeing the start of a new football league that may take over NFL ratings during this off-season: the XFL.

The XFL’s main goals are to make the games more fast-paced and high-scoring while eliminating many more dead plays than the NFL. They are also looking to keep the games at an average length of 2 hours and 45 minutes (although the average game week one was 2 hours and 56 minutes). Further, the rules of the XFL contain some differences, such as their new kickoff rules that aim to encourage kickoff returns, but in a much safer manner by moving the kicker back to the 30-yard line and the coverage team and blockers downfield before kickoff. In fact, although it was only the first week, of the 35 kickoffs, 32 were returned (91 percent), whereas in 2019, 60.9 percent of NFL kickoffs were touchbacks and only 36 percent were returned.

In the first week, the XFL’s games were in big market locations, which may not come as a surprise. Houston had the largest attendance at 17,815 people; then came New York with 17,634, Dallas with 17,206 and Washington, D.C. with 17,163. The crowds all seemed engaged with the games, and if you tuned in to social media at all, SportsCenter, House of Highlights and Bleacher Report posted videos continuously throughout the weekend of celebrations, new and unfamiliar plays and even post-game celebrations. Professional football at lower prices, coupled with new rules and on-field interviews during the games, can prove to be an inclusive environment between the teams and the fans. Yet there is still some uncertainty going forward.

“The true measure reaction to the XFL’s debut will be television ratings and attendance figures in Week 2,” states ESPN Staff Writer Kevin Seifert. “Will the audience return, or even grow? Was it the benefit of the doubt justified? In 2001, ratings for the XFL’s first incarnation dropped 50 percent in the second week. So did the AAF’s in 2019. The new XFL eagerly awaits that judgment.”

Big names – such as former Ohio State quarterback and NCAA National Champion Cardale Jones, as well as former Oakland Raiders punter Marquette King – and colorful announcers, such as former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee, seemed to captivate fans the first week. However, going forward, sustaining ratings and attendance is going to be critical for the success of this league. It will be interesting to see how the XFL will continue to market themselves going forward.

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