When you think of the XFL, you probably think of how the failed professional football league quickly became a laughing stock for the way it bombed out after one low-rated, poorly-played season. That the brainchild of pro wrestling promoter Vince McMahon meant to compete with the NFL was more like a bug on their windshield.
Like so many things in the world of sports, especially when it involves television networks and lots of money, there’s plenty more to the story. That’s what’s at the heart of ESPN’s newest 30 for 30 documentary: This Was The XFL. The trailer for the upcoming doc dropped Friday night.
— ESPN Films 30 for 30 (@30for30) December 11, 2016
Most of the iconic moments that have lasted far longer than the league itself include “He Hate Me” and the ill-fated locker room shenanigans involving scantily-clad cheerleaders and WWE-style skits. But it might surprise you to know the XFL actually had a rather lasting effect on the world of professional football and the way TV covers it.
Cable cams and skycams were developed elsewhere but the XFL was the first football league to incorporate them into the broadcasts. Couple that with the way cameramen would literally walk into the huddles in-between plays and you get an early sense of what would become the NFL’s ever-encroaching in-game access as well.
You might watch NFL games now and be unimpressed by the sight of each player introducing themselves directly to the camera but that was something started by the XFL as well in an attempt to let audiences know who the guys under the helmets were. The NFL basically started copying it a few years later.
And while the NFL hasn’t quite adopted the game-opening Scramble just yet, the current push to minimize the effect of kicking in pro football was tested here first.
There’s so much more to the story, including Vince McMahon’s ego, NBC’s investments, the hype, the quick ratings descent, and the eventual demise of the league so soon after it began. We’re looking forward to seeing the whole story unfold this February on ESPN.