SNIDER: XFL has a niche, but it's small ball

Rick Snider
February 18, 2020 - 6:39 pm
XFL has a niche, but it's small ball

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The XFL is minor-league football. It has no offensive linemen so no running game. Bad passes would be interceptions in the NFL. It's so early that teams lack cohesiveness.
Yet, it's fun and quickly gaining a niche local following. Attending the DC Defenders game on Saturday, I was surrounded by twentysomethings that found something cheap to do just off the metro, that everyone could root for the same team. No matter the crowd was wearing more Eagles, Giants and Cowboys gear than Redskins. They even wore Hartford Whalers gear, or whatever college many attended. A few didn't even wear shirts in the freezing weather.
The Defenders will succeed because they're not the Redskins, where FedEx Field is expensive and fans are divided. It seems strange supporters wearing gear of NFC East rivals would root for a Washington team in any form, but they're football fans looking for something to connect them with fellow Washingtonians, the way the Redskins did before the Civil War of Dan Snyder versus fans.
The "cup line" of plastic beer cups stretching nine rows deep was carried out of the stadium. When was the last time you saw something like that locally? The game's price and location accessibility has tapped into the city's younger crowd much like a college game in a small town.
It's all good. Something to do in February before the Nationals return and the Capitals begin the playoffs. The calendar leads to some potential frosty conditions, but so does the end of the NFL season.
Audi Field is the opposite of FedEx Field. It's nice and new and a whole lot easier to visit. The only downside is the end zones are so high a beer vendor had to go down 15 rows to get a WiFi signal for credit card sales. (That guy must have the thighs of John Riggins.) Watching planes approach Reagan National Airport from a distance that appear lower than our seats was a bit surprising, but you can really see the city's sights from up there.
By XFL standards, the Defenders are a good team. Why, they may even provide another championship parade come spring. Think of how long the "cup line" could extend down Pennsylvania Ave. But on their best day, the Defenders couldn't beat the Redskins. It's Xs and Os comparing the XFL to the NFL. A nice diversion on a cool winter's day.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks