“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein

Ladies and gentlemen, with that preface, we give you … ta-dum, professional football in the spring.


And again. And again.

This seems like a good time to mention this because the XFL began its season this week.

Pair of former BYU teammates facing each other during XFL’s opening weekend
Former BYU wide receiver Colby Pearson scores first pro touchdown during XFL’s opening weekend

Wait, isn’t this a rerun?

Yes, it is. It last appeared in 2001 and, well, that was it. One season and pffft, done, gone like Colin Kaepernick. 

It isn’t clear if the people who organize and fund these spring leagues have access to newspapers, TV or the internet and have somehow missed the news, so let’s spell it out in bold print for them:


It doesn’t work with Steve Young at quarterback, it doesn’t work with strange new rules, it doesn’t work with goofy team and player nicknames (“He Hate Me”), it doesn’t work with Donald Trump in the owner’s box, it doesn’t work if it’s moved to the summer or the winter, it doesn’t work indoors or out … it doesn’t work.

The failures don’t seem to matter, because professional football leagues keep popping up regularly, trying the same thing and hoping for a different result.

They all crash and burn, but is that any reason not to keep trying? Of course not.

These leagues are created on the premise that Americans can’t live without football for six months. Which is absolutely true of course, but spring pro football — or any football played during the NFL offseason — just doesn’t seem to scratch the itch. To get their fix, fans have college spring football practices and games, as well as the NFL draft, which illustrates a certain desperation for the game.

But not spring pro football.

Salt Lake Stallions defensive back Steve Williams (23) is congratulated by teammates after making an interception that sealed the win as the Salt Lake Stallions play the San Diego Fleet in an Alliance of American Football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 30, 2019. The Stallions won 8-3. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Let’s take a tour of the spring (summer/winter) football league museum.

Here we have the Alliance of American Football. It began play Feb. 9, 2019, six days after the Super Bowl. It filed for bankruptcy two months later, 10 days before the championship was scheduled to be played. It was shortlived, but at least it was boring.

Here's why Salt Lake Stallions' league, the Alliance of American Football, is suspending operations

And over here we have the Freedom Football League, which was introduced in December 2018. It reportedly will begin a spring-summer schedule this year, but if this is mentioned on the league website they have done a good job of hiding it. What the website does make clear is that it wants help. The website posted this solicitation: “Become a team owner / Join the Movement.” If they’re trying to sell teams to Joe Fan, that can’t be good. The league describes itself thusly: “Establishing economic justice via financial incentives through joint ownership and further eliminating financial exploitation and profiteering to the benefit of the few at the expense of many.”

Who’s the commissioner, Raul Castro?

In this corner of the museum we have the United States Football League. It opened for business in 1983 and endured three seasons. When the spring thing didn’t work, the league decided to play the 1986 season in the fall, going head to head with the NFL. “If God had wanted football in the spring, he wouldn’t have created baseball,” said one Donald Trump, who had just bought the New Jersey Generals. When his bid to join the NFL was rebuffed, he filed an anti-trust lawsuit and won, sort of. He was awarded $1. The USFL ran out of money and closed shop before the 1986 season. The league did leave a legacy — quarterbacks Steve Young and Jim Kelly moved to the NFL and took teams to the Super Bowl.

Over here we have the World Football League, whose ambition to have worldwide franchises extended all the way to … Hawaii. The league had the shelf life of a banana, but it did manage to land several big-name NFL players — Larry Csonka, Paul Warfield and Calvin Hill among them — and its bidding war forced the NFL to raise salaries. The WFL opened play in July 1974 and closed late in the 1975 season.

Continuing the tour, we have the Professional Spring Football League. If you blinked, you missed it. It was scheduled to begin play in 1992. It died before a game was played, after teams had invited players to camp and began practices.

We also have to pay homage to the World League of American Football, which later became NFL Europe. It actually was an international league, with 10 teams from California to Germany. It survived the 1991 and 1992 seasons and then took a two-year break and returned in 1995 with a league based entirely in Europe. With the backing of the NFL, it became NFL Europe in 1998 and served as a developmental league. Its biggest star was a former Arena League quarterback named Kurt Warner, who would go on to lead two teams to the Super Bowl. The league endured from 1991 to 2007 and then folded.

And finally we come to the Arena Football League, which is to football what pickleball is to tennis. It’s played indoors on a tiny field (66 yards by 28 yards). Remarkably, the league managed to survive 22 seasons, from 1987 to 2008. It has come and gone several times since then in various iterations, despite a couple of bankruptcies.

With all of the above going for it, the XFL — the sequel — is up next.