Sad news for football players and fans alike, as the XFL made the announcement no one wanted to hear on Friday. Pointing to the virus pandemic, the league suspended all operations and laid off virtually all of its employees.
While that doesn’t officially mean the XFL is over for good, the league’s future is uncertain at best.
This possible deathblow comes one month after the cancellation of the 2020 regular season, also due to the Chinese coronavirus. League sources tell Breitbart Sports that the XFL will pay employees through Sunday.
Friday’s announcement is particularly shocking because the league’s official statement after this season was shelved included the line that the XFL was “committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years”. WWE head honcho Vince McMahon relaunched the XFL on the field this year after a two-year build-up. By all indications, the money was there for at least two seasons and probably three. Enter corona.
New York Guardians nose tackle Joey Mbu found out about the XFL’s latest decision through an online article. “I then went to check email and found out it was true,” Mbu told Breitbart Sports. “I haven’t heard anything about next year.”
So there is a lot of unknown. According to Mbu though, one thing is certain. “Without question, the league would’ve lasted had this virus not hit,” he said.
Mbu has seen this played out before. The University of Houston product had a cup of coffee in the NFL before joining the AAF. As a member of the San Antonio Commanders, Mbu witnessed first hand the crashing end of that league. The AAF closed up shop after eight weeks of their ten-week inaugural season, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April of 2019.
After his AAF stint, Mbu signed with the Miami Dolphins, before making his mark in the XFL. Mbu was a key component of a New York defense that hit hard and played well as a unit. Despite Friday’s grim news, Mbu has a positive attitude. “It was another opportunity to play quality football with quality fans and get paid for it,” Mbu said.
XFL fans are just as disappointed as the players. Guardians season ticket holder John Corrigan, who made the trek from Philadelphia to New York each week, feels the league was a victim of circumstance. “Coronavirus gets all the blame for the league shutting down,” Corrigan said. “This season wasn’t panned like the first one, plus the legalization of sports betting added appeal to the most casual viewers. If the XFL held a second season, I’d most certainly get season tickets again.”
Like the man who founded the XFL, Corrigan has a wrestling background. He is the editor-in-chief of The Wrestling Estate, an impressive web site dedicated to pro wrestling. Corrigan feels the 2020 edition of the XFL captured that wrestling-type excitement. “I’m disappointed that the XFL has folded again, especially after such a promising start and having learned from its initial mistakes,” said Corrigan. “The gameplay was stronger than before, but secondary to the experience. I’ve never had more fun at a sporting event. The fans were rowdy and passionate, banding together to root for this unlikely experiment. The environment was pro wrestling meets a high school football pep rally. Although I’m a wrestling fan, I was more interested in just having extra football to watch.”
Like many XFL fans, Corrigan’s reasoning for purchasing season tickets had a special meaning. “I got my younger brother season tickets for Christmas because he’s somehow a New York Giants fan and had never attended a game at MetLife Stadium,” Corrigan said. “I’ll miss sitting at the end of the third row, cheering and laughing with him and our newfound friends.”
XFL players appreciate that type of passionate support. “I just want to say thank you to all the fans for the support,” Mbu said. “They made it even better and enjoyable to go through. It’s unfortunate, but the memories will live forever.”
The feeling is mutual. “My message to the players is thank you for the effort and my message to fellow XFL fans is thank you for the memories,” said Corrigan.
Mbu and Corrigan agree on one more thing. The New York Guardians were a special team. “I believe we would’ve competed for the championship,” Mbu said. “We were turning the table and we were finally putting full games together. Our defense without question was the most talented.”
“I’ll be optimistic and say they would have won it all, especially if it was at home,” Corrigan said.
We’ll never know.
Follow Kevin Scholla on Twitter @kevinscholla