Cruz: How the XFL is highlighting a different side of pro sports

Feb 11, 2020, 10:51 AM

XFL Seattle Dragons, Trey Williams...

The Seattle Dragons opened the XFL season with a 31-19 loss to the DC Defenders. (Getty)


I love professional sports. I love watching athletes perform at the peak of physical competition.

What the NFL can learn from the XFL’s style of football after Week 1

Every aspect of these enterprises is otherworldly – the elite athleticism of participants, the large paychecks they collect, the public notoriety that follows some like a stubborn shadow.

These are modern day superheroes in action. But not much about them is relatable.

Maybe they moonlighted as Clark Kent at some point in their career, but one day these athletes exited the phone booth with an ‘S’ permanently fixed to their chest.

They have no need to recede into the anonymity of their former alter ego and thus they end up wearing capes forever. They never transform back.

Enter the XFL, whose opening weekend resonated with fans for several reasons.

The football product was sound and compelling, but I found myself drawn to the players more than anything. There aren’t many traditional superheroes in the XFL in terms of ability or destiny. But I found that to be a beautiful thing.

Hailing from Krypton is rad and all, don’t get me wrong. You can fly. You can flambé things ocularly. You can take a Mack Truck to the chest. Seeing a bevy of superheroes align and declare war upon their enemies every Sunday throughout the fall is the best show in town. It’s like our own seasonal Justice League.

Watching the XFL this weekend was an opportunity to hear about heroism of a different breed. An infinitely more relatable kind.

Many XFL players went undrafted but still found their way on to NFL rosters or practice squads. Some bounced around in the CFL or tried their hand in the short-lived AAF. Many dealt with the prejudice of being an outlier – too small, too short, not enough (fill in the blank). Others were diverted by injuries. Sometimes multiple soul-crushing setbacks.

There are 416 players on active XFL rosters. Imagine how many times they’ve collectively been told “no.” And still, they persisted. Enter our newest band of heroes stage right.

Most of us can’t relate to Kal-El’s super senses or Russell Wilson’s absurd play-making ability, but we’re all too familiar with the sting of rejection. We know the courage it takes to stand up in the next moment.

There’s no replicating the otherworldly nature of the NFL or the clash of titans that takes place every fall Sunday. There is, however, enough room in most football fan hearts for a different kind of heroism this spring.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Lydia Cruz on Twitter.

Want to hear conversations like this? Subscribe to The Blitz with Lydia Cruz podcast by clicking any of the links below:

Apple Podcasts
• Download the 710 ESPN Seattle app: Apple | Android

Seattle Dragons

XFL, Seattle Dragons, B.J. Daniels...

Maura Dooley

XFL players leave mark as grateful, determined and defiantly resilient

Maura Dooley, who served as sideline reporter for Seattle Dragons of the XFL, writes about the strong impression the league's players left on those around them.

4 years ago

XFL Seattle Dragons Jim Zorn...

Brandon Gustafson

Jim Zorn recalls final days of the XFL, holds out hope for league’s return

The XFL suspended operations and laid off employees last week and filed for bankruptcy Monday. Jim Zorn was surprised but is hopeful the league returns.

4 years ago

Sounders, XFL COVID-19 cases...

Brent Stecker

Sounders staff member, Seattle Dragons XFL player have COVID-19

A staff member of the Seattle Sounders and player for the Seattle Dragons have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Both teams play home games at CenturyLink Field.

4 years ago

XFL Seattle Dragons...

Brandon Gustafson

XFL the latest league to suspend play due to coronavirus

The XFL is the latest league to suspend games due to the coronavirus, joining MLB, NHL, NBA and NCAA. The Seattle Dragons had a game scheduled for Sunday.

4 years ago


Brent Stecker

Seattle teams react to crowd ban: Sounders postpone, Dragons to play in empty stadium

Upcoming events for Seattle Sounders FC and the Seattle Dragons at CenturyLink Field have been impacted by Washington's crowd ban.

4 years ago

Seattle Dragons QB B.J. Daniels...

Brandon Gustafson

Seattle Dragons takeaways: 3 turnovers not enough as Houston pulls away late

The Seattle Dragons had a great chance to shock the XFL world by knocking off the Houston Roughnecks, the league’s lone remaining team, but the defense couldn’t stop Houston’s high-powered offense, led by the duo of P.J. Walker and Cam Phillips, in the second half, and they fell to 1-4 after losing 32-23. More Seattle […]

4 years ago

Cruz: How the XFL is highlighting a different side of pro sports