The XFL is back? First thought: Why? Second thought: The circus that lasted one season now expects to find traction it couldn’t before at a time when the NFL extends tendrils in more places than ever. Meanwhile, the explosion of television and media options fracture our attention span unlike any time in human history.

That said, I’ll quietly root for the Houston Roughnecks because the name is the best in the league and they were smart enough to bring back a version of an oil rig logo. If only we could also bring back Earl Campbell and Bum Phillips — and Bum’s exquisitely oversized cowboy hat.

And the Cleveland Browns are relevant? What in the name of Earnest Byner is happening here?

The franchise that flat-out defined draft ineptitude, big-game unraveling and NFL misery suddenly has a brash quarterback and equally brash postseason expectations. This, from a team that has won seven or more games in a season just three times in nearly three decades.

One inescapable truth, though: The league is immediately more interesting … with the Dawg Pound back on national TV. Some members may be leaning on Medicare and portable oxygen these days, but the bark is back.

Speaking of shifting NFL fortunes, it looks like the Bears seem firmly back. The last time they’ve been consistently relevant and in the annual playoff mix was the late 1980s.

It’s been a dozen years since the franchise sniffed back-to-back playoff seasons, capped by the Super Bowl trip at the end of the 2006 season. Which dusts off the old question: How did they pull that off with Rex Grossman, anyway?

The Twins seem committed to making the baseball playoffs for the second time in three years. They haven’t made it out of the American League Championship Series since the days of swatting fireplug Kirby Puckett. It’s so long ago, Chuck Knoblauch remembered how to throw to first base.

Runs flow from that lineup. Can the pitching hold up? Probably not, but it will be fun to see them trying to crash the big-market party.

Nebraska football is ranked in college football’s preseason AP Top 25 for the first time since 2014. This might not sound like long to some, but it’s an absolute, excruciating eternity in Lincoln. It might as well be 1914, as far as they’re concerned.

At a university where coaches get fired after nine-win seasons — see Bo Pelini, see Frank Solich — and the spring game sells out in a 90,000-seat stadium, for a second consecutive season, being in the mix isn’t nice. It’s required.

San Diego State is taking a trip on the time machine, too. For the first time since 2010, Rocky Long and Brady Hoke are teaming up again. The last time? When the pair patrolled a dusty basement office at Oregon State.

One safe bet, because of both coaches’ pedigrees, is that the defensive side of the ball should be intriguing to track as the season shuffles along.

There’s a lawsuit related to the theme song for “Sunday Night Football,” so NBC is going back to the original tune used when it assumed coverage rights in 2006. The old song “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” was modeled after Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”

Let’s be clear, though. The best football theme music belonged to “Monday Night Football’s” untouchable tour de force that absolutely no one can name. The instrumental is called “Heavy Action” by British composer Johnny Pearson. Give it a listen and you’ll know it three or four notes.

An aside: The best NFL highlights package was Howard Cosell, hands down. He was a true coast-to-coast sports personality in those days, unlike anyone before or since. It was a huge deal to hear Cosell and his staccato voice infuse energy into what would be considered ancient news today. I always stayed up late to watch before lapsing into a sleep-deprived coma before school the next day.

If only baseball cards came back, too. Sure, they exist now. Not the way they did in the 1970s and ’80s, though. recently ran a story running down some of the greats, including Braves infielder Glenn Hubbard with a disturbingly large snake hanging off his shoulders and Angels utility player Rex Hudler milking a cow on the field in full uniform.

Yes, the gum more closely approximated powdered cardboard and routinely snapped into shards of glass — as Padres analyst Mark Grant and broadcast voice Don Orsillo can confirm after a broadcast this season — but you ripped into the packs without regard for personal safety.

Well, maybe some things do deserve to remain in the past.


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