As another NFL season closes, we shift gears toward the forthcoming Alliance of American Football – the first of two new leagues attempting to again extend the pro game into viable Spring season play – where the USFL, World League of American Football and NFL Europe have famously tried before.
The other – both in 2001 and in a reincarnated form coming next year – was and is the XFL, which we finally sink our teeth into for the first time this week with Wall Street Journal national security reporter Brett Forrest (Long Bomb: How the XFL Became TV's Biggest Fiasco).
We drop this episode on the 18th anniversary of when the audacious joint venture between the Vince McMahon-helmed World Wresting Federation (now WWE) and the Dick Ebersol-captained NBC Sports opened play at a raucous Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas to see the hometown Outlaws battle the already-villainous New York/New Jersey Hitmen in front of a national primetime television audience.
Nearly two decades later, most who witnessed it (not to mention the tumultuous season that followed) still don’t know what to make of it.
Forrest digs into: the process of tackling his then-first-ever book assignment with Long Bomb (including the pre-season magazine article from which it came); some of the curious characters (the seemingly-legitimizing presence of Dick Butkus, the unwitting marketing genius of Rod “He Hate Me” Smart, the hungry group of eager players simply wanting one last shot at playing pro football) he encountered along the way; and the less-than-enthusiastic response of McMahon to the idea of a book about the league in the first place.
Be sure to check out the great XFL shirts and replica jerseys from our friends at 503 Sports!