We're Getting Another Football Team: The XFL's LA Wildcats
Are you ready for some football? No, like, even more football after the Super Bowl.
Los Angeles is home to two NFL teams, but a different kind of football is coming to town (because we apparently aren't home to enough sports teams yet.). Enter: the L.A. Wildcats, part of the newly rebooted XFL, which is rising from the pop culture grave like another of Vince McMahon's creations, the Undertaker.
The L.A. Wildcats are not L.A.'s first XFL team. The original XFL, born from the mind of WWE's McMahon, ran for just one season in 2001.
That first time around, the Los Angeles Coliseum was home to the L.A. Xtreme (we were just out of the '90s, everything was Xtreme with an X), and they were the only game in town. We were in the middle of 21 long years without a professional football team.
The Xtreme had a significant legacy, winning the XFL's only championship in that single season, as well as being home to quarterback Tommy Maddox. Maddox went on to join the NFL and win a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005.
"Tommy Maddox was basically the guy before Ben Roethlisberger came," XFL News Hub's Mark Perry told us.
THE LA XTREME VS. SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
One of the many scandals in the old XFL was a game that caused major friction with one of the league's broadcast networks, NBC, which owned 50 percent of the league.
During the XFL season's second week, there was a power outage that delayed a game between the Xtreme and the Chicago Enforcers, delivering over a minute of dead air to NBC. On top of that, it went into double overtime, pushing that night's SNL start 45 minutes past midnight on the East Coast.
SNL was expecting big ratings with a show featuring Jennifer Lopez at the peak of her fame as both host and musical guest, but ended up with a ratings drop thanks to the late start time.
WHY THE OLD XFL FAILED
Making an enemy of Lorne Michaels was just one of many problems in the original XFL. There was also the issue of its extra sexist portrayal of its cheerleaders and that time the XFL's blimp crashed, to name a couple.
"The old [XFL] was kind of just thrown together at the last minute," Perry said.
The players felt that things were together on their side, according to Perry -- but the business side, not so much. He attributes the failure to a combination of that and an arrogance by McMahon that he could do it all himself.
THE NEW XFL: MORE PROFESSIONALISM, LESS VINCE MCMAHON
The new XFL wants to be an NFL chaser -- instead of trying to go head-to-head, the new XFL is even being promoted during NFL games. The XFL season will air on the same network as the Super Bowl, starting less than a week later.
Vince McMahon has lowered his profile both in the wrestling world and in the sports world. Instead of being out there promoting the league, he put up hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money while hiring respected sports executive Oliver Luck (also a former coach and player) to be the new league's CEO.
"Oliver Luck was like 'All right, give me the keys, and let me build this thing the way I think it should be,'" Perry said.
The new XFL has been quietly being built for the past two years from when it was announced, rather than the let's-do-this-right-now-come-on-let's-go quality of the original.
WELCOME THE LA WILDCATS
The Wildcats will be sharing a stadium with the Chargers, playing at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson in the XFL's 10-week season.
They open their season Saturday, Feb. 8 in Houston against the Roughnecks, before their home opener Sunday, Feb. 16 against the Dallas Renegades. They just played a scrimmage against the Roughnecks last week as they prepared for the actual season.
The team held a block party for fans this past weekend, building support with the local community ahead of their season opener just two weeks later. And the team's president has some L.A. pride -- she was previously with soccer team the Los Angeles Football Club, and she got her law degree from UCLA.
SAFER RULES THAN THE OLD LEAGUE
The original league also drew infamy for coming up with rules meant to make the game more exciting -- but which resulted in serious injuries.
The most notable of these was the opening scramble. Instead of a coin toss, players would sprint to grab the football from midfield -- and Orlando Rage safety Hassan Shamsid-Deen separated his shoulder doing it.
The new XFL is making its own tweaks to the rules, but doing so with the help of an expert panel including executives, former NFL coaches, and players. They've even been beta-testing the rules in the Spring League organization.
The XFL is also putting a premium on keeping the games fast, from a shorter play clock to an overtime with shootout-style rules.
One notable shift: there's no simple extra point. Instead, teams will be able to go for one, two, or three-point conversions.
THE XFL'S HOPES FOR SUCCESS
Another football league, the AAF (Alliance of American Football), tried following up the NFL last year. Just like the XFL, they had their first game six days after the Super Bowl -- and it filed for bankruptcy two months later.
But that league did demonstrate an interest in spring football, according to Perry.
"I think there's no doubt that this league will last two or three years," Perry said.
He also noted that they have a big advantage in Fox and ESPN being their broadcast partners.
"They have a vested interest in the league, so I don't see them allowing their talent to talk bad about the XFL," Perry said.
Once you get an XFL year two, Perry said, he believes fans will really embrace the team without feeling like it's going to get yanked out from under them.
The XFL is leaving the loudmouth pro wrestling roots of the original in the shadows, but you can see some of those connections in XFL News Hub's Perry's own background -- he used to run a wrestling news site before selling it and starting up a site about the XFL. But there won't be any accidental piledrivers to open games this time around.