Tonight at 8 pm, a new football league will debut with its first game. The Fall Experimental Football League, or FXFL for short, is the first football league designed with the sole intent of developing players, coaches, and even referees for a future in the NFL. Unlike other failed football leagues, the FXFL isn't trying to compete with the almighty shield; it's trying to help it get better.
With four teams in three cities, the FXFL is already avoiding the biggest problem most leagues encounter in their first season: being too big. Instead of trying to broker major TV deals or grabbing the biggest names, the FXFL is focused on local marketing, and teams operate on a deliberately limited budget. Each team has 40 players, with a base salary of $1000 per game. The league isn't filled with washouts and has-beens, either. They're recruiting players who left college or are still in college, but no longer eligible to play. The league envisions itself as a minor league, and like most minor leagues, its rules are a little quirkier, but for good reason.
For all the ideas the NFL and its fans have had on how to improve the game, very few major rule changes occur. In the FXFL, new ideas will be implemented with the goal of determining if they actually make for a better, more competitive game. "Experimental" ain't in the title of the league for nothin'. Here's a list of all the different rules they're trying out.
- Extra points will be attempted from the 17-yard line, as opposed to the 2- and 3-yard lines at other levels of the game. (The NFL experimented with a similar rule in its 2014 preseason with a 20-yard extra point.)
- Kickoffs will be administered from the kicking team's 25-yard line, as opposed to the 35-yard line used in college and the NFL.
- In addition, eight players on the receiving team must line up between the kicking team's 35-yard and 45-yard line. Once a kickoff passes the 45 yard line, fielding rules become similar to punts in that the kicking team will not be allowed to recover and regain possession.
- Field goals must be attempted from outside the hash marks.
- Games will be played on Wednesday nights to avoid competition with high school football (Friday), college football (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and the NFL (Thursday, Sunday and Monday).
Suffice it to say, the kickers this league develops might end up being the best in all of football.
I, for one, am always happy to watch more football, and I fully intend to watch tonight's game from start to finish. I also, however, have a harder time watching boring football, and boring football is usually played by not-so-good players. I'm coming in with open expectations, though, and lord help me, I love the underdog story. The FXFL is a humble league, filled with players just looking for a chance to make it in the big league, and I can't say no to supporting that mission.
Godspeed, FXFL. I'll be watching you.
Tonight's game between the Boston Brawlers and the Omaha Mammoths can be seen at 8 pm ET on ESPN3, NESN, NESN National, SNY, Cox Sports, Cox San Diego, Altitude, Tuff TV, Soul of the South, Untamed TV and YooToo