Now in its third iteration, the XFL has become a destination for football fans looking to scratch that post-Super Bowl itch. But what does the XFL stand for? Specifically, what the heck is that “X” supposed to mean? Let’s dig into this unsolved mystery.
How the XFL Was Named
When the XFL originally launched at the beginning of this century, co-owner Vince McMahon stated, “The NFL stands for the ‘No Fun League.’ The XFL is going to be the ‘Xtra Fun League.'” In fact, according to author Brett Forrest in his book, Long Bomb: How the XFL Became TV’s Biggest Fiasco, none of the league’s three letters actually stood for anything.
So if we’re to take McMahon at his word, the naming of the XFL was more a marketing ploy than a defining attribute. In a sense, the league represents what fans want it to represent.
Start with the two most obvious letters, “F” and “L.” Naturally, one would assume they stand for “Football League.” And nothing suggests otherwise. One would need to bend over backward to come up with something more compelling and aligned with the league’s principles. After all, the XFL features football and only football. It’s not a casual assemblage of talent but a full-fledged league that crowns champions.
However, the “X” is the wild card. It can mean different things to different people across different eras.
Defining the ‘X’ in XFL
I’m no alphabetologist (those who study letters, which actually might not be a real profession). But of the 26 letters in the English language, perhaps none is as iconic as the “x.” It’s the only letter that — standing on its own — can mean entirely different things, depending on context.
On the one hand, “x” is a negation of sorts. Or a correction. And/or simply conveying that something is wrong. On a piece of paper, an editor might draw an “x” over a word that the writer should remove.
And yet, an “x” can also be a desirable destination, like the classic “‘X marks the spot” on treasure maps real and imagined. Finding the “x” equates to success or to the end of a journey.
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An “x” also connotes intersections — connections between two points that compel us to react. We are not merely bystanders. We are participants in a larger sociological framework. Think of the x-shaped railroad crossing signs and x-emblazoned pedestrian-crossing signs. They command our attention; we ignore them at our own (and others’) peril.
New co-owner Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hit on this theme when unveiling the newly re-formed league’s branding and logo in 2022. He said, “Here’s the bottom line of what our new XFL logo stands for: The X represents the intersection of dreams and opportunity.”
And that’s the beauty of the name “XFL.” It’s vague enough to evolve as the league evolves. Yet, it’s also accessible enough to connect with our shared experiences.
Intuitively, we understand that the XFL means something different than the NFL. Whether that differentiation stems from a rejection of the NFL, a newly discovered destination for football players and fans, the intersection of dreams and opportunity — or all of the above — doesn’t matter. What matters is that each of us brings our own perspectives to the table.
The XFL is big enough to accommodate all of us.