The DC Defenders were given a hero's welcome after saving the love of football in Washington.
Really, why else would this new startup team in a sport that has repeatedly failed as a spring league gain so much attention by both traditional and social media? Because they're not the Redskins. Tickets don't cost a fortune. The game was in the city.
The XFL is not the NFL. The level of play is more than a few notches below the fall league, but its opening weekend was fun to watch. Something new and fresh that still felt familiar. Kickoffs with players just a few yards apart – brilliant. The NFL just found a long-sought alternative to eliminating kickoffs. The extra point varying from one to three won't translate to the NFL, but it was fun watching.
There were old friends and foes. Jim Zorn looking befuddled like a decade ago. Rashad Ross catching a touchdown. Cardale Jones vying for the Redskins' vacant backup role.
Watching football where money hasn't corrupted everything rekindles hope that life can be good. Fans bearing shields as defenders of the capital was inspiring. This type of fun has been absent for so long at FedEx Field, it seemed a relic embedded in RFK's bouncing stands.
The crowd bought Defenders gear like they were joining the Avengers. Comparatively, many Redskins fans declared a merchandise boycott until at least president Bruce Allen was fired. Maybe it's safe to wear burgundy again, but for now a different red team is getting the love.
The XFL and Defenders' success is all relative, of course. Drawing 17,163 in a 20,000-seat stadium was a great start for the Defenders, but let's see what Weeks 2, 3 and 4 bring. Meanwhile, even the Redskins' inflated crowd counts are in reality – even on a bad day – still twice what the Defenders drew. Jones looked better than his old Ohio State teammate Dwayne Haskins does now in Washington because the Defenders' passer faced players that couldn't make the NFL. Translation – Haskins would look like Tom Brady if playing in the XFL.
Many Redskins fans are seeking somebody to love because they love football. Maybe they'll return to the burgundy-and-gold this fall, given an interesting new coach and maybe a big draft pick like Chase Young. More importantly, Allen is gone and real football people are running the team. Surely things will get better than 3-13.
But for now, the Defenders get an unconditional embrace for making fans remember football is fun.