XFL explores dropping the facemask

The XFL is toying with the idea that taking away the facemask will force a safer, if perhaps bloodier, style of play. Would it work? And would fans watch?

The XFL’s parent company, Alpha Entertainment, recently sent out a market research survey to evaluate potential ideas for the league. Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer provided a summary of the contents in the May 13 edition of his subscription-only Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which in turn was synthesized by Deadspin’s David Bixenspan as part of a broader XFL update. Underlines are mine:

As promised, there are various ideas to speed up the game, which include no kickoffs, no timeouts, a 20-second play clock, the game clock only stopping for a change of possession, and fewer flags. One potential tagline for the league listed in the survey was “warp-speed football reinvented,” … No more facemasks on helmets, an innovation that the league’s brass believes will make tackles safer. … New, allegedly safer helmets … no extra point kicks, only plays similar to the two-point conversion … Cash prizes for fans who most accurately call the same plays as the players in an XFL app during games … Team fan clubs that get a special section at the home stadium, can vote on jersey designs and team awards, and have access to pre/post-game meet and greet events. … More official team/league sponsored events and vendor booths/trucks during tailgate parties.

It is hard for those of us who grew up playing and watching football with facemasks to imagine the game without it, but the NFL was in business for over three decades before use of the facemask became widespread in the mid-1950s. Football traces its history back to 1869, meaning that it has still spent more of its history without the facemask than with it. Continue reading “XFL explores dropping the facemask”