Three days before Super Bowl LI, ESPN Films will premiere the 30 for 30 documentary “This Was the XFL,” directed by Charlie Ebersol, chronicling the short-lived, ill-fated pro football league. The documentary, airing on February 2 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, tells the story in fascinating, candid, and often rollicking fashion featuring fellow television legends and close friends – Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon.
A bold challenge, a fearless experiment and ultimately, a spectacular failure. In 2001, sports entertainment titans Ebersol and McMahon launched the XFL. It was hardly the first time a league had tried to compete with the NFL, but the brash audacity of the bid, combined with the personalities and charisma of Ebersol and McMahon and the marketing behemoths of their respective companies — NBC and WWE — captured headlines and a sense of undeniable anticipation about what was to come.
Bringing together a cast of characters ranging from the boardrooms of General Electric to the practice fields of Las Vegas, “This Was the XFL” is the tale of — yes — all that went wrong, but also, how the XFL ended up influencing the way professional team sports are broadcast today. And at the center of it all – a decades long friendship between one of the most significant television executives in media history and the one-of-a-kind WWE impresario. This film will explore how Ebersol and McMahon brought the XFL to life, and why they had to let it go.
“I grew up on the sidelines watching my father and Vince enjoy incredible success with just about everything they touched, and then, along came the XFL,” said director Charlie Ebersol. “I saw them take bold creative risks, face unparalleled success and failure with dignity, but most importantly they maintained and celebrated a friendship where most would have cut and run. I learned more about integrity and character in those 18 months than just about any other time in my life, so when ESPN Films asked if I wanted to tell the story of the XFL, I jumped at the opportunity because I knew that the real story was that of an unbreakable friendship.”
John Dahl, Vice President and Executive Producer, ESPN Films said: “We felt that the colorful personalities and storylines featured throughout the rise and fall of the XFL deserved a more detailed examination, and as Dick Ebersol’s son, Charlie provided a personal understanding of it all. The XFL was a gamble, and even though the league didn’t ultimately succeed, we think audiences will really enjoy this tale of risk and ambition.”
“This Was the XFL” will have its world premiere tomorrow at the DOC NYC film festival in Manhattan. Additional details and ticket information can be found here: http://www.docnyc.net/film/this-was-the-xfl/