What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the XFL's Second Attempt at Victory
Vince McMahon's football league returns after failing nearly two decades ago. Can it mount the ultimate comeback?
This Saturday, Vince McMahon’s second incarnation of the XFL launches. The league, comprised of eight teams that will play 10 regular-season games, is the latest attempt at cracking the code an idea many believe can work, but nobody to date has pulled off: Spring Football.
At this point, many already know how the XFL faired nearly 20 years ago, folding after just one season.
But regardless of whether the XFL makes it or not, the mere spirit of giving it a shot is entrepreneurship at its core.
The land (or field) of opportunity
For players, the acronym the NFL is most known for is "Not For Long" or the "No Fun League." For the thousands of hopefuls who get cut during training camp, or don’t get drafted at all as a rookie, the XFL represents a second shot at stardom.
Players who thought their playing days were over are breathing new life. And being able to play on network giants like ABC/ESPN and FOX only helps.
America is a land of second chances. McMahon knows it, and so do the players and coaches.
Learning from past mistakes
Elon Musk recently said, ‘If things are not failing, you’re not innovating enough.” For the XFL, there are numerous failures to draw from.
McMahon’s first foray into pro football was heavily influenced by the WWE now-famous "Attitude Era," which produced the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin and D-Generation X. McMahon tried to make the football more like the squared circle of a wrestling ring. It was over-the-top and raunchy but lacked the most important ingredient of a successful startup: A good product.
The first time around, McMahon relished being in the spotlight of the league. But this time, he will wisely take a step back and let football people run the show (the CEO and Commissioner of the XFL is Oliver Luck, former New Orleans Saints quarterback, father of retired NFL quarterback Andrew Luck and former president of the now-defunct NFL Europe.)
Every founder stumbles along the way. Even the billionaires.
Faster, more exciting football (but still football)
One of McMahon’s goals is to produce two-hour games. The average NFL game, with commercial breaks, halftime, etc. is close to three-and-half hours. With shorter play clocks and few commercials breaks, hopefully, that goal will be achieved.
In previous interviews, McMahon mentions reimagining football, and not necessarily reinventing it (as he tried to do in the XFL’s first stint with ‘the scramble’ where, instead of a usual coin toss to decide who gets the ball first, two players sprinted for a loose ball at midfield to earn possession).
We all want things faster now (food, wi-fi, online shopping) so it makes sense to have a faster football product for 2020. A 5G version of football could be interesting to see.
McMahon, along with the coaches and players of the XFL, is ready to prove doubters wrong.
“Football feeds the egos of people. The hugeness of it, the power of it, being in charge of something that big and that American,” says Jeff Pearlman, author of Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Even Crazier Demise of the USFL.
“We can’t get enough of football. So, I think people with huge egos want a piece of something that is actually not attainable — an NFL franchise. So this is the next best thing.”
Will it work? Time will tell.
But I give them massive credit for making it to kickoff.
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