I arrived in Japan over three months ago, and it has been a slow process of settling in to a place where is both home and on the other hand completely foreign. However, the one constant since I have arrived has been the ability to still feel as if I have never left America via the magic of the internet and all the devices and means by which we now are able to instantly communicate here in the third decade of the 21st Century, without which you would not be able to read these words. Suffice it to say, gridiron wise, my life has not changed much since I left America; however, for America, things are changing; but for now let's focus on the one place we can all unite, the virtual stadium we sit in during every sporting event.
And so it was this week, the third version of the XFL took flight, with, as I watched, has been an unasked gift that has been presented to us for each of the three decades this Century by the world of professional wrestling. Needless to say, this version, despite all its denials, has deep professional wrestling roots, and as a result it has echos of that first version of the league whom failed so spectacularly in front of our eyes in those innocent days before 9/11, Twitter, smart phones and streaming. Yes, this is not your father's XFL, or even the one you fell in love with during those pre-pandemic weeks before the world felt another seismic change.
As I write this here in my home office, which is less than ten miles from the Seto Inland Sea, I am living in the future I dreamed about listening to a podcast, and hammering out these words on a military grade Panasonic Toughbook, less than an hour after watching St. Louis beat Seattle in the first game of week two. Hopefully America at home is hungry for some more Thursday Night Football (TNF); however, if the measly 10,386 paid attendees is any sign, clearly they are not, at least not on this night (or rather day as I am a day ahead here in Japan). As much as I want to believe, to paraphrase Fox Mulder, at least during this first full week the signs, even ratings wise, do not appear to be good, at least in the five day short term.
Did I and others my age who did not pledge allegiance to The Rock see this happening? You betcha! Why? Well, we have all been here since 1974 when the WFL took flight and burned a fiery death, and have seen so many leagues rise and fall that we often have to use our toes to count the death toll. The only thing any of these failed leagues have learned is that it is suicide to try to start a professional league in America in autumn, and come up with some great new innovations that have subsequently been adopted by the National Football League. So in a way these failed league have all been a successful failure, which us fans watching the game on television have benefited from. However, despite all the watch-ability of this current league, one can't help but wonder, where are the fans?
By fans I don't mean Twitter followers either. Likes and subscribers don't matter. Television/streaming ratings and attendance most definitely do! And from the what we know, the opening weekend was an underwhelming “work in progress.” I would definitely not call week one a failure by any means, as all rival leagues struggle at the gate their first year. As to the ratings, well, that also can be seen as a work in progress, for it did attract eyeballs. However, it is not how you start, but rather how you finish, which is why I call my podcast “XFL Infowars” for the information spin on this week has been, entertaining to say the least.
Many XFL fans who have not read the history books truly want to believe the reality they see in front of their eyes does not match what they know (meaning believe) to be true. There seems to always be a reason for low and declining numbers for these fans on social media, including the weather. Many CFL fans reason them away also, but that is a whole other article that I intend to write about later when the inevitable merger speculation begins and die hard CFL fans over a certain age rant about tradition and cultural identity as fan site speculation of the teams in Toronto and Montreal begin in likely May. The reality is this, this league can succeed, but it needs a lot of time and a marketing campaign that dwarfs what is happening now. Just because you want it to happen and believe it can, does not mean it will, all because of the power of the former Black Adam.
Ever since the league crashed in 2020 (3.0 is a continuation of 2.0 and for this article I will look at them as one and not separate leagues) and it was purchased out of bankruptcy there has been a steady drumbeat of what I deem propaganda from the “right wing” XFL media sites who have never looked critically at the cause of spring football, dismissed the Canadian game, and talked about The Rock with religious fervor on par with those who wear red MAGA hats and believe the election was stolen in 2020. None of them have (and there are many) who have taken what actual reporters have put forth as speculation and rumor, and then spun that into a conspiracy theory. If you don't believe me, go back and type in “Argos to the XFL” and see what I mean. What you get are amateurs spewing out rumor as soon to be fact.
Now, to be fair, I am an amateur, but I am neither a journalist or someone who has some special insight. What I am is a retired federal probation officer and retired navy information warfare officer (I was blessed to have two simultaneous 30 plus careers in the criminal investigative and military intelligence fields) who can see and cut through the BS and spin. I am also a student of professional football history and a dues paying member of the Professional Football Researchers Association, and prior to the move to Japan had well over 400 books on the history of the game (fortunately most of them are available free to read on archive.org and accessible to you and me electronically).
The truly crazy spring football believers and XFL cultists show themselves most clearly in Facebook groups where they spew opinion as fact and cry like Mike Lindell when confronted with facts and countering data driven research. One guy in particular deserves mention for all his zealous beliefs in the XFL. His online name is “Los Mysterio” and god bless him, he loves his football, especially his XFL. So much so that in all the XFL groups he has either been admin of or created he has banned all XFL criticism and dissent (naturally I am banned, but then again I troll for entertainment purposes). He is the poster child of what I deem the XFL right wing cult that consumes Zoa and believes everything written in those XFL rumor mills that are the sports equivalent of Q Anon blogs.
Thus, after reading one of Los Mysterio's rambling diatribes I decided that perhaps simply do a podcast that would be a carbon copy of the countless other ones now available online, I would do something different and create a show that, unlike the nut job Infowars show, I would pull a George Costanza and do the opposite and create a show where I, and whomever decides to join me, look at the data and then compare it to the hyperbole, spin and outright football misinformation being put forth by the league, the news hubs, the loud voices on social media, the “insiders” and others. What you are gonna get, is basically me being the anti Alex Jones of the XFL world, with zero mention of any gay frogs.