I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin' on the porch with my family, singin' and dancin' down in Mississippi where I learned the three rules of life: Lord loves a workin' man; don't trust whitey; see a doctor and get rid of it.
For years, we football fans have dreaded this time of year; the off-season. The Super Bowl is over and the draft is months away. Some of us take solace in baseball, some in basketball and there are even others who will kill time watching golf, but it was always a filler until football started back up. Many have attempted Spring/Summer leagues over the years, from the USFL to the AAF (which didn’t last a full season), but they were pale attempts at real football. The newest league, the XFL, kicked off its inaugural season this weekend, and after watching every game, I can honestly say that this league is pretty good and has a lot of promise. Disclaimer: I am a football fanatic. I watch the NFL, arena, college, and high school. Hell, if some neighborhood kids have a pick-up game going on at the field down the street from my house, I’ll probably watch. I really love the game, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but no matter how much my view may be tilted to the positive side, this league doesn’t suck.
This isn’t the NFL so we aren’t seeing the best of the best. We’ll talk about an NFL player sucking, but that’s relative to the league he’s in. The guy is still an incredible athlete. The men in the XFL are one small step down. Many of the players in the XFL were on NFL rosters/practice squads at one time and the ones who weren’t just missed the cut. This is talent between college and the NFL; not great, but very good.
I don’t expect this to be on the negative list for long. Many of the men on a team have never played together before and they didn’t have a real training camp to work the bugs out. This weekend was the first real contact for many of them since NFL training camps this past season or the end of college last year. They were rusty and weren’t fully in sync. With that said, the mental mistakes were not as bad as you may think. Certainly not enough to keep me from watching next weekend.
I mean, come on. You really shouldn’t need any more than this.
Because of how the play clock is done, the game is faster. The XFL uses a 25 second play clock that starts as soon as the ball is set, and they have a dedicated official who’s sole responsibility is to spot the ball. To make sure there aren’t 20 delay of game penalties per game, all offensive skill players have a radio in their helmet and the coach can talk to them up until the moment the ball is snapped. They don’t have to huddle.
No kicking of extra points at all in this league. Teams have the option of going for 1, 2 or 3 extra points after scoring a TD. These attempts are done by running a play from different distances out; 2 yard line for 1 point, 5 yard line for 2 points and the 10 yard line for 3 points.
Go For It
The way the punting rules are written, teams are more likely to go for it on fourth down if they’re not in the shadow of their own goalposts. There is no touch back for punts in this league. If the ball goes into the end zone, it comes out to the 35. Can’t angle the punt hoping it will go out of bounds, because if the ball does go out of bounds, it is brought out to the 35.
The ball is kicked from the 30, but only the kicker is back there. The kicking team lines up at the receiving team’s 35 and the returning team at the 30 (only the returner is back deep). The kicking team (save the kicker) can engage when the ball is touched by the returner or if it’s on the ground for 3 seconds. Teams are encouraged to not kick it into the end zone as that will result in a major touch back, bringing the ball out to the 35.
The last 2 minutes in each half is called the ‘comeback period’ and is designed to give teams the chance to, well, comeback. Once inside 2 minutes, the clock will stop on any play out of bounds or incomplete pass. However, if the play ends in the field of play, the clock will still stop, but will start again once the play clock reaches 20 (5 seconds after the ball is set. I saw a few teams this weekend running their 2-minute drill and would only lose 1 or 2 seconds off the clock between plays.
There is no replay challenge from the coaches (thank God) and each play is reviewed in the booth. If they want to look at something further, they will buzz down to the officials on the field. Makes for a faster game.
This league has a real shot. The good far outweighs the bad and some of these players may end up on your favorite NFL team. I haven’t picked a team to cheer for yet; it was going to be DC because they had the most LSU players, but their whole shield thing is lame. The New York Defenders are okay, but the fans wear Batman masks, so I’m not sure about them. Tampa Bay is Tampa Bay no matter what league they’re in, their QB (Aaron Murray out of UGA) still sucks. Give the league a shot. What else are you going to do on a weekend, spend time with your wife?