SNIDER: The XFL deserved better

Rick Snider
April 13, 2020 - 4:18 pm

R.I.P. DC Defenders – you were the best part of the winter.

The XFL closed, a victim of the coronavirus pandemic. Not only did it lose its final three games and postseason to the pandemic shutdown, but its funding when owner Vince McMahon also took heavy losses with his WWE. Combined, McMahon's estimated $1.7 billion worth was slipping and well, he couldn't have that.

So goes another spring or summer football league. The NFL owns American sports, but unlike other major pro leagues can't support a minor-league system. And that's what the XFL was, semipro ball with a few players who might make the NFL this fall.

Still, it was a lot of fun to watch and showed Washington certainly wanted an alternative to the Redskins whose only goal anymore is to suck off every dollar from the dwindling fan base.

I attended the Defenders-New York Guardians game on perhaps the coldest day of winter. It was a reasonable crowd of 15,000 or so, mostly millennials looking for something to do on a Saturday for a reasonable price and by the metro. People wore gear from dozens of other college and pro teams, including Redskins, Giants and Eagles supporters. Who would have ever guessed they'd root for a Washington team, but this new league was instantly likable for being fan friendly and innovative while playing at Audi Field where many fans hadn't visited before.

Beer snake was an instant success. The red beer cups went more than 10 rows high and was carried from the stadium in victory. It was funny and suddenly a local tradition.

The Defenders were 3-0 at home, one more victory than the Redskins managed in eight home games last fall. They were also reasonably priced with $25 nose blood seats, about one-third of an upper deck seat at FedEx Field that were usually resold for $6 on StubHub. Still, parking and four tickets cost less than $150 at the Defenders. Lunch at FedEx can run that.

The level of play was pretty uneven. There aren't enough good offensive linemen in the NFL so the XFL really didn't block well. That means no running game and quarterbacks on their heels. The defense had the advantage – the complete opposite of the NFL.

There was at least one innovation the NFL should consider, where kickoffs have teams five yards apart. Most returns reached the 25 and nobody was hurt as the NFL fears on special teams. The one, two or three-point plays after touchdowns was a little gimmicky, though.

 It's too bad the XFL doesn't get a second season to smooth out things that were created on the run. Surely, someone else will try in a few years. For now, Washingtonians will have to remember the great days of an undefeated home team and beer snake.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks

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