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New XFL won’t have to face obstacle that led to original’s demise

Will the XFL succeed

I wish Vince McMahon well with his XFL relaunch. Whenever I hear of a new project of any kind, in sports or elsewhere, I always think of jobs.

New jobs. More jobs.

That’s good.

More jobs not only for football players, but football broadcasters, football reporters, football trainers, football coaches. More jobs for vendors and jersey manufacturers and everyone associated with the games on the periphery from front office staff and scouts to media relations people. More secretaries, more marketing people, more jobs for accounts payable and receivable, more lawyers – well maybe that’s not a great thing.

All kidding aside, one obstacle McMahon will not face this time around, 20 years later, which he faced in the XFL’s first go-round – the obstacle which I think caused the league’s ultimate failure more than anything else – is a determined, unified effort from the mainstream sports media to see him fail. To see his league fail.

When the XFL’s first incarnation hit the field in 2001, an all-out, undisguised attack from the most powerful sports media voices at the time rose up as one – almost as though they all got together for a meeting, were handed talking points, and agreed to collaborate to work towards the XFL’s demise. The loudest and largest voices in the press clearly wanted to see McMahon fail and it was obviously personal; what wasn’t obvious – then or now – was their motivation.

Did they hate – I use the word “hate” because that’s the only term which can accurately describe the degree and nature of criticism the league received – the XFL because McMahon was a wrestling guy? Was it because of his arrogance? Because he was a blowhard? Because he was an outsider?

To this day, the efforts Bob Costas, who was most out-front leading the charge of the established, traditional, media on McMahon and the XFL is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in almost 30 years in the sports media.

It was the first time I recall TV ratings for sporting events regularly discussed in the mainstream media. As the XFL’s ratings dropped, critics gloried in the results. I picture Bob Costas printing out the national Neilsen ratings showing the XFL’s plummeting numbers, laying them on the floor, and rolling around in them like a dog in you-know-what.

The media were openly rooting for him to fail. They were doing whatever they could through whatever channels available to them to make sure he failed. They weren’t practicing journalism or reporting, it was advocacy. Advocacy on their behalf to see the XFL tank, to ridicule the league, its owner, its players, its style of play and its fans. Advocacy in discouraging fans from watching the games.

McMahon won’t face that this time around.

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