Calling an Audible: The XFL Experience


Photo Courtesy of Flickr

The third infantry kicked off the XFL season in DC during the presentation of the National Anthem.

For the third time, the sports world was introduced to football’s drunk cousin, the XFL. The XFL’s history has been turbulent, with the league being introduced to the world in 2001. Advertised as the WWE’s alternative to football, the XFL was promised to be full of big hits, huge tackles, and intense all around. The problem was it tried competing with the NFL and collapsed after one season after abysmal ratings. It wouldn’t return until 19 years later in 2020 when the league tried a new approach as a place where failed NFL stars or JUCO (junior college) athletes could get noticed by NFL scouts while still competing for their respective teams. It was going well, picking up decent TV ratings and racking in sustainable profits, but the league was forced to fold for a second time due to Covid-19. The XFL returned last week for a third time. Now backed by more investors including former University of Miami defensive tackle and WWE superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the XFL is poised to succeed in a market that has been dominated by the NFL for almost 70 years. But what draws fans to the games?

I went to my first XFL game this Sunday, and it was worth the price of admission. First off, Audi Field is a great venue to host this up-and-coming team. Located right near Nationals Park, the venue is metro accessible and is easy to walk to from the Navy Yard Metro station. From my house to Audi Field, it was about an hour’s commute. It’s a small but large enough venue to host a competitive football event. There are no bad seats at Audi field. My friends and I bought tickets for under 036;30 each and could see the field clearly.

Every stadium needs good concessions, and Audi Field does not disappoint. The stadium has a selection of food including burgers, fries, chicken tenders and pizza. But, what I ended up getting was something called funnel cake fries. My sweet tooth was in heaven, it also wasn’t expensive at all.

But was the quality of play comparable to the NFL level? Yes and no. The quality of play was fine. The starting quarterback for the Defenders was Jordan Ta’amu, former Ole Miss quarterback in 2017 and former Washington Commanders backup quarterback. I can’t lie, there is a reason he is in the XFL. He didn’t play that great. But, the play calling was excellent and the defense played otherworldly. The crowd freaked out when Defenders DB Michael Joseph returned an interception for six. The crowd pelted peeled lemons onto the field shortly after causing a delay. During a timeout, the crowd did the wave for about five minutes. The atmosphere was electric. While everyone in the crowd knew the quality of play would lessen a little, the XFL has a charm that the NFL has been trying to capture desperately for years. The game ended when the Seattle Dragons running back fumbled on the 2-yard line, forcing a turnover in the final seconds allowing the Defenders to hang on to win 22-18. The crowd went ballistic.

“No fans compare to the absolutely barbaric energy XFL fans bring,” senior Justin Manning said, “Sure, there might be some moments where you notice the skill gap between NFL and XFL players, but the love for the game is all there. No matter what the players put on a show.”