The second version of the XFL is getting ready to launch, and while we know not only from the AAF, but from decades of alternatives to the NFL, that it’s doomed to failure, we still get the joy of laughter that any startup football league brings.
This week, the XFL announced the names of its eight teams and unveiled logos to go with those names. The reviews came in quickly, ranging from “weird” to “something worse than bad” to “trash-ass.” In skewering the looks, though, Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky wound up hitting the nail on the head. “They look like the teams in a direct-to-Netflix movie that opted not to pay up for real Arena Football rights.”
In a few years, right before the Super Bowl, you’re going to see commercials for sales on TVs at a regional electronics store (hopefully less Lego Movie-style dystopia nightmare-inducing than what Newmark & Lewis once proffered) that will want to show how good football looks on those big screens. They won’t want to show Arena Football League action because it doesn’t look enough like NFL football. Old clips of the CFL’s Baltimore Stallions used to do the trick, but it’s been too long now and, again, the now all-Canadian CFL just isn’t going to look quite right. It’s going to come down to readily available footage of the AAF or the XFL, playing football on the right-sized field with players who physically look right. Since the AAF wound up looking like a knockoff version of the Mountain West Conference, the bar is pretty low for the XFL to sear itself into your subconscious for years to come in the form of stock footage. They just need to look like pro football.
But which teams are we going to be seeing in the ad clips and football-related scenes of the future? That’s the way-less-than-million-dollar question, and we should be able to figure out the answer.
The Los Angeles Wildcats and D.C. Defenders each feature city initials in their logos, which you might think would be good because it identifies them as big-city teams, but when you’re working with stock footage, you want it to be unidentifiable. That’s also a strike against the Seattle Dragons, who have the best of the XFL’s logos, but look likely to be distracting as a background piece.
The Houston Roughnecks’ logo looks like someone tried to modernize the old Houston Oilers look, and while that’s a good concept, again, it catches the eye in a way where someone might say “is that some kind of Oilers tribute?” rather than “whoa, I gotta get over to P.C. Richard for a 53-inch TV, pronto.” The Tampa Bay Vulva – uh… Tampa Bay Vipers have a logo that looks way too much like, well, yeah.
One of the teams involved in the Fugazi Super Bowls of the future is sure to be the St. Louis BattleHawks with their winged sword logo that isn’t just generic-looking, it doesn’t make any sense. But you also don’t have to or want to think about it. It’s just kind of there, which is perfect. Facing them will be either the Dallas Renegades or the New York Guardians, two teams with face-based logos and red eyes, possibly due to the amount of cocaine involved in deciding that launching a startup football league is a good idea. Give a slight edge to the Renegades because it’s way more probable that you’d see Ersatz Cowboys in a big game than Quasi Lions.
So, when the BattleHawks square off against the Renegades next year, pay close attention. You might just see a completely ordinary third-and-7 that will live on in our culture for years to come, the true and lasting triumph of the second version of the XFL.