WASHINGTON (AP) — The new XFL got under way Saturday in the latest attempt to bring more professional football to the U.S.
Billionaire Vince McMahon's latest venture kicked off with a game between the D.C. Defenders and Seattle Dragons in front of almost 20,000 fans at Audi Field. The crowd was into as early as warmups when it booed Seattle players and roared during the game when D.C. drove down the field.
National championship-winning former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, one of the biggest names in the XFL and the most well-known player on the Defenders, took the mic to tell fans: “This is for the love of football. Enjoy.”
Former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds took the opening kickoff with new rules implemented for safety.
The XFL is hoping to capture the attention of hardcore football fans in the aftermath of the Super Bowl and the end of the NFL season.
Games don't feature a coin toss and are full of changes like one-, two- and three-point conversions replacing extra point kicks and the chance for two forward passes on the same play. In the aftermath of the Alliance of American Football failing in the midst of its first season, XFL executives have said they'll be patient and have the resources to build an audience.
“Our expectation for this first season is for football fans to simply give us a look, give us a chance, sample us,” XFL chief operating officer Jeffrey Pollack said. "We understand that fandom is earned. It's not given. ... We think that if you love football, you're going to love the XFL.
There was a buzz around the stadium in the hours before the XFL's debut, with cars lining up to enter parking lots and fans checking out a league-sponsored tailgate. The location of the first game made sense in the neighborhood of the NFL's Washington Redskins, who haven't won the Super Bowl since 1992 and have just one playoff victory in the past 20 seasons.