Football to the X-Treme: Time for another chance

There was no joy in the Seattle sports world when in March of 2020, it and the rest of the world effectively shut down operations, and a small football team that was only beginning to win the hearts of the 12th Man fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fans were crushed. I was crushed. The Seattle Dragons, despite just a 1-4 2020 record, showed such innovation and interest in its fan base, it was hard to ever see the XFL fall, let alone so soon. So when it was announced three years later that the league would return, all eyes turned to the new ownership to see what role, if any, Seattle would play.

It was safe to say that ownership had “Rock-solid” faith in the city, and the prodigal franchise returned to play once again as the Sea Dragons. Fans were excited. I was excited…and concerned.

Don’t get me wrong. Seattle as a football market has more than proved itself to be a compelling, deafening voice in the football world. My concerns were instead tied to loyalty. Who would be coming back? Who would take it seriously?

It was sensible to also consider a new team, the Seattle Kraken, has captured the hearts of Seattle fans since the Dragons’ departure. That, of course, comes with lots of ticket sales toward the NHL and away from the XFL.

So it amazed me that the same night the Kraken would take to their home ice in a crucial regular season game, the XFL’s Sea Dragons would suit up for their home opener Feb. 23. It was a questionable move, but it gave fans such as myself the chance to see what the XFL 3.0 was made of with such heavy competition.

Needless to say, my reaction was mixed in the 20-18 loss to the St. Louis Battlehawks.

It’s pretty hard to find a bad seat in the house as all of the tickets have people sitting in the lower bowl, up close to the action. In the NFL, the tickets would cost several hundred dollars, but the lowest price for endzone seats is around $30 here. That frees up more money for food and drink, which in any league is expensive.

As expected, the fans came by the thousands, many of them wearing the old and new team’s apparel or dressing as the most crazed of us fans do. Those who did not own a piece of Sea Dragons decoration wore the many jerseys that represent the other professional sports team, including, yes, a few Kraken. Lo and behold, even a few Battlehawks fans were spotted around Lumen Field. It wasn’t quite the same volume of fans as in 2020, but warmer weather should attract a bigger crowd in future games.

Right from kickoff, the crowd was into it despite frigid temperatures. Loud cheers were given for starting quarterback Ben DiNucci and ex-NFL star wideout Josh Gordon as the Sea Dragons took the field. On offense, while at times frustrating to watch, there was an eagerness to see the players succeed. On defense, there came loud roars from the crowd as in any other home game to disrupt the Battlehawks.

Obviously, the game was not a sell-out. Heck, it wasn’t anywhere close to filling any side of seats, but that comes with the territory of a new league. Considering the Sea Dragons have one of the biggest stadiums to fill, it was a promising start.

One thing that did shock me was the presentation. I was under the impression that fans watching in-person would have access to the new exclusives, such as witnessing live XFL replay feed or hearing from players mid-game. Instead, it was about as routine of a football game as anyone could see in the NFL. The fact that it was their top advertising tool and it wasn’t implemented on field astounded me.

Despite early flaws and an 0-2 record, I’m excited to see what this team, this franchise and this league can do. I believe attendance will increase as the year goes on. It’s an exciting time to be a football fan in Seattle. Now if a Seattle XFL team could finally start winning some games and holding on to the football, that would be the icing on the cake.