PAUL MUTH

Can the XFL thrive in Houston's crowded sports landscape?

Tommy Maddox won the XFL's first and only title. Now the league is planning a reboot with a team in Houston. Scott Halleran/Allsport

It began nearly a year ago with WWE founder and chairman Vince McMahon announcing the return of a gimmick-free XFL. It continued when rumors swirled as XFL executives toured Houston’s BBVA Compass stadium and TDECU Stadium back in September. It was then all but confirmed past weekend when news leaked that Houston will, in fact, be among one of the eight founding members of the revived league. A press conference from the XFL scheduled for Wednesday seems to be a formality as most expect that the time will be used to confirm what everyone already knows:

Houston is getting some (more) football.

So let’s do a quick tally. Houston already boasts franchises in MLB, NBA, NFL, MLS, and Minor League Baseball. On top of all of that, the Bayou City’s Sabercats finished their inaugural season of Major League Rugby just this past year. Collegiately, Houston is home to the Cougars, the Owls, and the TSU Tigers. And if you want to take a deep dive, Houston is the home of the Outlaws, one of the original Overwatch League teams. The bottom line is, Houston is already well represented in the sports world.

Can Houston support yet another sport, when options already swaddle sports fans year round? It’s possible, but not guaranteed.

Before we jump in, let’s backtrack just a step or two and add context. The XFL itself is a reboot of a failed attempt at a second football league that debuted back in 2001. The cheerleaders were flashy, the players could use nicknames on their jerseys, and - like the WWE from whence its founder made his fortune - it was all style and very little substance.

The new XFL returns with the promise of legitimacy. The league’s first move in that direction was the hiring of former Houston Oilers quarterback Oliver Luck as the league’s commissioner. This time around McMahon will not only be be financing the entire league out of his own pocket, he will also uniquely be in charge of every team in the league.

Early concepts of the XFL have suggested that pace of play will be increased, resulting in a faster game with a target duration of roughly 2 hours. And one of the smartest early moves has been the two year launch window they’ve set themselves, as they hope to be ready to play in the spring of 2020. This allows the league to vet cities properly, establish their business and execute with a strong foundation versus the one year roll out they attempted the first time.

All of this looks great from a business perspective, but in order for it to succeed, Houstonians are going to need to buy in. I believe that, as long as the price is right, and the schedule doesn’t conflict with any previously established seasons, that won’t be a problem at all.

With the news that XFL execs were scoping out venues like TDECU and BBVA, it’s not too far of a reach to assume that the new football league won’t be commanding a premium to come watch their product. For perspective, the cheapest seat available to watch the Texans stomp the Cleveland Browns this past weekend was $81, and that’s before parking. Both of the prospective XFL home stadiums are centrally located and accessible by Metrorail. If the price point matches that of a Dynamo game or a midweek Rockets contest, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that parents would be more willing to take the family to an XFL game at a cheaper price and in a more intimate setting over the investment that an NFL Sunday has become.

Another reason that the XFL should work in Houston is that it’s simply more football, and Houston LOVES football. As long as it’s marketed appropriately and remains self-aware that the Texans rule the roost, there’s no reason why a franchise can’t succeed here. Football fans typically begin complaining about the length of the offseason about 5 minutes after the Super Bowl concludes, and the XFL seems like a perfect remedy to the problem. Instead of competing head to head against the NFL, the XFL plans to play its 10-game season in the spring, affording fans the allure of almost year-round football. That’s a prospect that should at least bring viewers to the table.

Ultimately I believe that the XFL made a sound business decision in awarding Houston one of its inaugural franchises. The Dynamo and Sabercats have proven that Houston will root for you if the conditions are right. This is a football town, and as long at the XFL takes itself seriously this time, I expect an entertaining and successful relationship with Houston fans.

 

Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Houston Texans are now 9-4. They're also still in control of their own destiny as far as the AFC South is concerned. Yet, people are acting like things have gone down the shitter. There are three games left in the season! They still have a shot at the number two seed in the AFC! WHY THE HELL ARE FANS PANICKING?!?

I get it. Fans aren't happy with the 24-21 loss to hated division rival Colts. They aren't happy the nine game win streak is over. And they have every right to be pissed the team blew a chance at the number two seed in the AFC given that the Patriots wet the bed against the Dolphins.

But what are fans going to do about it? Cry? Sulk? Raise holy hell on Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? Snap Crap (John Granato voice)? No dammit! Pull yourselves up by your boot straps! Wipe the sissy tears from your eyes and remember that you've been through worse!

This is the same/similar fan base that has gone through the six years of purgatory without a team to call their own due to Bud Adams' greed. Remember, you had to sit back and watch as that team left town, relocated in Nashville, kept your team history, records, colors, eventually changed names, and watched that crotchety old man make a mockery of the whole situation, especially when they made it to Super Bowl.

You're better than this Houston! Remember when Tracy Mc Grady scored 13 points in 33 seconds against the hated Spurs? Remember when Hakeem Olajuwon led the Rockets to back to back title runs when Michael Jordan was retired? (Yeah Houston. I went there and said it like that. Sue me!) Remember when the Astros lost 100 plus games every season and missing the playoffs? Remember when the Rockets couldn't make the playoffs and were mired in mediocrity? Remember when the Dynamo were a flash in the pan and went back to relative anonymity?

This Texans team may have its flaws, but it's not without its lovable spots. Sure, Bill O'Brien may be an A hole of a coach and Deshaun Watson may be a brain fart away from losing a close game for this team, but there's more to be happy about.

When things looked bleak at 0-3, the Texans went on a nine game win streak that put them firmly in control of the division and a playoff berth. They take one loss and now some of you so-called "fans" are in full-blown panic mode! CALM DOWN! Remember what you've been through and the resiliency you've built up over the years!

You've endured the Bills debacle, no team for six years, David Carr, and Matt Schaub! This is like telling people without kids to become parent of the year nominees. You are totally forgetting who you are, what you have been through, and how tough it can be being a Texan fan. I find it funny that the same fans that say this is their team are the same ones that go into full-blown panic mode at the first hint of trouble. Relax guys. After all, you could be a Browns fan.

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