The XFL’s Team Introductions Are the Most Affecting Poetry Ever Written – Slate

After a nearly two-decade hiatus, the XFL looks to flip the bird once more.

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The XFL will be back next year, and we now have the names to prove it. On Wednesday, the league unveiled the eight squads participating in the rebooted football league’s (re-)inaugural season. None of the teams from the XFL’s original, ill-fated iteration is being revived, so Memphis Maniax and Los Angeles Xtreme fans will have to buy all new merchandise. Say hello to the Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats, Seattle Dragons, DC Defenders, New York Guardians, St. Louis BattleHawks, and the Tampa Bay Vipers.

Accompanying each team announcement was a movielike trailer complete with stern and passionate narration. For a burly taste of what these sounded like, check out the video welcoming the New York Guardians into the world.

The voice-overs are … something. The transcripts alone will put some hair on your chest.

The immersive imagery. The beguiling punctuation. The phrase, “This is your darkest fantasy, in cleats.” It’s like William Carlos Williams writing a Dodge Ram ad, or perhaps the dying words of a sentient six-blade razor. This is a sea change moment, the birth of a stunning new literary movement.

I needed to learn more, so I reached out to XFL President and COO Jeffrey Pollack, who was kind enough to provide some insight into this intense poetry. “Well, football is an intense sport,” he said. “I wouldn’t read anything into the tone of the trailers other than that we think that our teams are pretty badass.”

On whether there was a specific inspiration for the narration (I guessed haiku), Pollack says it is all open to interpretation. “A lot of thought went into those scripts. The wording is all very precise. We offer that up as a bit of a mantra if you will. Or a manifesto for each team. The little phrases that came after the name of each team, you know: ‘Taking their stand.’ ‘On duty.’ ”

In January, when Vince McMahon announced the XFL’s rebirth, he said the league “will have nothing to do with politics.” Nonetheless, XFL officials have stated that players will be forced to stand for the national anthem. Pollack denies that the phrase “taking their stand” is a reference to this rule. “There is nothing to be read into that,” he said.

But should we believe him? All true art contains layers—there has to be more to unpack here. I scoured the team introductions for allusions and hidden meanings. Could the one-word sentence “Demons” in the Tampa Bay Vipers intro be a reference to the San Francisco Demons of the old XFL?

“No,” Pollack says. “There is no code in these scripts.”

How about the lack of X’s? Old XFL teams had tons of X’s in their names (Maniax, Xtreme, etc.) but nary an X can be found in this new batch. “Those names were for a different league at a different point in time with a different product,” he says. “We felt that all of that would benefit from a new set of names.”

While it was a quick chat, I learned enough to build a basic style guide:

• “Precise” wording.
• No coded messages.
• Don’t use X’s.
• Little phrases and mantras are important.
• Poetic, but no allusions to anything, especially not the national anthem.
• Main message is the teams are pretty badass.

To put these rules to the test, I wrote introductions for eight NFL teams. If I can make these lame and un-extreme franchises sound badass, then I know I’m onto something.

New York Giants. In the meadows crawls a bigger baby. Forehead of muscle. Needy. Cloying. Mouth agape, fish-style. The New York Giants. Ready to meet Dad’s friends.

Detroit Lions. Atop the mountains of Motor City, a meow roars. The clip-clop of progress. Chewy. Deliberate. Won’t stop until they hit bone and also during commercials. The Detroit Lions. Buying a new suitcase just for this.

Minnesota Vikings. From the land of lakes swims a new kind of hair braid. Purple with passion. Punctual to a fault. Turgid. Indoors. The Minnesota Vikings. Going to eat lunch at home.

New England Patriots. Blood-soaked fangs, sharpened in suburban Massachusetts. Sulking like a cobra. Nightshades. Uggs. The New England Patriots. Willing to vote twice.

Baltimore Ravens. The ghost of Francis Scott Key rampages home. Forged in a star-spangled fire. Ramparts. Gleaming. The Baltimore Ravens. Backed out of signing Colin Kaepernick.

Dallas Cowboys. In the sands of Texas belches the heat of air conditioning. Flying in stepsons for golf. Fulsome. Wobbly. The Dallas Cowboys. Eager to attend a theme party.

Los Angeles Rams. Stars shine on the studio lot, but the soundstage is hell. Flipping over a craft services table. Timid. Metallic. The Los Angeles Rams. Patiently waiting for a shared Lyft.

Oakland Raiders. Shrieks from the desert, sounds like a voicemail. Scam likely. Drowsy. Clammy. The Oakland Raiders. Proudly walking to the airport.

Amazing. It’s almost too effective. I am ready for some football. Any football. In any league. This is our time to roar.