Good morning. At approximately 1:00 Eastern Standard Time, Vince McMahon — noted chain enthusiast — debuted the XFL’s eight teams. The XFL is a football league and former national laughing stock; now, it is content.
Is that cruel to say? I don’t think so. Ours is an era of content, where art is occasionally indistinguishable from wonderfully crafted clickbait and everything craves your attention. And we want to give ours up. The world is a dumpster fire; distractions are duly necessary. What little we can gather around collectively — whether it’s the MCU or a cat on TikTok — offers sweet relief. Enter the XFL, free of the other football league’s baggage and housed in cities with large populations. It has means; it has an audience. And it wants our eyes and hearts. The XFL is content.
So, naturally, it’s most explosive announcement to date has yielded tons of stuff to sift through. Josh Hansen has already offered our thoughts on the team names, but I’ll be expanding on that by grading the first batch of logos and the announcement videos which preceded them; there will be links to both below. Because, you too, crave content. And maybe this is the content you need.
There’s only one way to find out.
Have a pleasant day.
These are the logos of the eight XFL teams, but I’m not going to write about them just yet. Instead, I’m telling this story:
Two months ago, I was having a rough day. I’d been dropped from the cast of a play and my calendar was mostly empty. The depression which has been gnawing at the edges of my person b-lined straight for my insides and sunk its teeth in, let reality tag along too. I felt lost. I felt alone. And after a beer or four, I somehow — inexplicably — found my way to this tweet:
In case it wasn’t clear, the Wisconsin Under Tuggers are not a real team. They are — were — a one night only rebranding of the Wisconsin Rattlers, who play minor league baseball. The details are hardly the point because, holy mother of God, look at that angry cow the glorious stenciling of “Under Tuggers.”
I ordered a shirt immediately; ecstasy bloomed within. Not just because I now get to dress like this for most of my natural life…
…But because, in a moment of pain and loss, the logo on this shit gave me an uncluttered path to belonging.
It’s easy to take sports for granted, but the simple truth is this: teams offer tribes. Not with people you might choose through careful evaluation, but humans you find through the broad stroke of sometimes inexplicable passion. They live in your city. Maybe they like a game folks play. And so they, like you, buy a shirt or hat bearing an image. You find them in a bar. They spot you on a train. You collectively share a moment in which you are far less alone than you were only ten seconds ago.
So yeah: team logos matter. From the Packers to the Udder Tuggers to the XFL’s eight offerings. Whether the latter is good or not is a totally different question.
Let’s get into it:
We stan an introduction video which looks more like an ad for Myans F.C. than actual ads for Myans F.C. If Renegades games don’t air on FX, we riot.
Real talk, I love this promo’s neon hues; I also like its writing. And I’ve fallen for Dallas’ logo, which is as cool and garish as anything XFL ought to be. An excessive image for an opulent city — you love to see it.
Promo: 3 of 8 Logo: 1 of 8
This promo makes DC look like a militaristic police state — maybe that’s coming! How soon is 2020? Anyone else’s arms just numb?
The issue with this vid (and the logo which ends it) is one of diminishing returns. Nothing the Defenders offer up is objectively bad, but it follows examples set by the United and Nationals and Capitals: safe patriotic iconography. It’s boring — and “boring” isn’t the XFL’s bedfellow. I pass on the vid and logo.
Promo: 8 of 8 Logo: 5 of 8
“Resolute. Rippling with heat. Railing against fatigue, they labor deep in the trenches. Mercenaries in the muck. Brawlers in blackened dirt.”
Congrats to the Roughnecks on having the first sports promo to ever evoke “erotic John Steinbeck.” This is what I’m talking about; I’m in.
(Also the logo evokes the Houston Oilers so I’m in hella all in on that.)
Promo: 5 of 8 Logo: 2 of 8
Hang on, I’m a load something up:
…Same vibes. Where is the lie?
Video: 7 of 8 Logo: 7 of 8
New York Guardians
I really like this promo. I enjoy that I don’t have to correct the Guardians on calling themselves “the gargoyles,” which they couldn’t have been since a creature needs to have water emitting from its mouth (in the architectural sense) to be a “gargoyle” (otherwise it’s a grotesque). More than that, I like the grey color palate.
Yes, it’s close to the Nets black and white — but Manhattan’s the concrete jungle, a mass whose notable structures impose and whose general vibe is asphyxiating. It never sleeps. There’s always someone within it watching something — someone — somewhere. New York is hella frightening and I love it to death; the Guardians intro vid plugs into that dichotomy.
And that logo’s gonna yield some sleek workout tees. (Which is also so Manhattan)
Promo: 4 of 8 Logo: 3 of 8
St Louis BattleHawks
The BattleHawks promo leans into the explicit contrast between a BattleHawk fighter jet and a hawk that’s ready for battle by cutting between an actually roaring jet and a very angry hawk.
This promo is perfect. The logo is solid. Go Battlehawks.
Promo: 1 of 8 Logo: 4 of 8
Here’s some elevated content: forty seconds of footage that separates itself from the pack it came attached to (female narrator! mythic beasts!) and could legitimately excite a non-football fan. It feels rooted in hometown weather patterns; it establishes mythology. Short of a dragon roasting some start-up guru/ coffee, you couldn’t ask for much more from it.
The emerald dragon feels a bit Arena League for my tastes and, while that’s sort of splitting hairs, I think the color scheme surrounding it will yield solid merch if the UAB Blazers are any indication. So it’ll do.
Promo: 2 of 8 Logo: 6 of 8
Tampa Bay Vipers:
There have been a lot of camp moments over the course of these eight promos, but none of them compare to the smash cut at this video’s 0:22 mark.
That simple transition — from swamp grass to football hash — illustrates how videos like these can achieve actual greatness. Though the lunacy of content culture catalyzed this promo’s existence, smart and playful moments emerged from it. I don’t think any other project could’ve birthed this. (Literally: Any Given Sunday’s set in Florida, so it missed this chance.)
Promo: 6 of 8 Logo: 8 of 8
To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve learned anything about the Vipers or any of the teams they’ll face or the league they’re going to play in. (I know the Houston Roughnecks are strapping — that’s it.) But I had fun engaging with all of them. As I sift through tweets hashtagged #XFL in preparation to submit this piece, as the train I’m on takes me home, I am struck by a tinge of community. There are passions gathering.
And for another ten seconds, I feel less alone.