Trump and the USFL

Is Donald Trump the man with the tin touch?  According to many, he can magically turn billions into millions.  Equally magical is his ability to claim “Yuge” success from big financial failures over the years.  One of his all time “Hall of Fame Turds” is his investment in the USFL.  I did not discuss the USFL in my book as my focus was solely on the NFL (and leagues that merged into the NFL) but, looking back, it probably deserves at least a footnote in the second edition.  The upstart league almost made it and I remember watching a number of the games and thinking “these guys are pretty good.” And by these guys I mean Herschel Walker, Reggie White, Jim Kelly, Steve Young and many others.  If you haven’t seen the the ESPN 30/30 movie about the USFL called “Small Potatoes – Who Killed the USFL“, be sure to check it out.  Especially the part where Mr. Trump enters the scene and leads the USFL into a disastrous anti-trust fight with the NFL, a loss that all but ended the league.  For a more recent look at this, the New York Times published a story today on Trump’s involvement in the USFL. Click here to read it.  From the article:

“But the owners made two early mistakes. Eager to recoup some of their losses, they decided to expand to 18 teams for their second season, allowing them to pocket franchise fees of $4 million per team from the six new owners. It was too much too soon; from that point on, franchises folded, merged, moved — it bordered on chaos. And second, they let the Generals’ owner, an Oklahoma oilman named J. Walter Duncan, sell the team to Trump. The price was reported to be $9 million. (Trump later claimed it was only $5 million.)”

Trump’s idea was to move the league’s schedule from the spring to the fall where it would compete head-to-head against the NFL (even though it was clear that the league was not ready for that move).  While successful in the spring, the league’s move to the fall was a “Yuge” failure.  Additionally, Trump was – surprise! – everywhere.  Making newspaper headlines for his brash comments and kooky plans.

“At first, many of the owners were glad to have him play this role because it put a spotlight on the new league. But many U.S.F.L. observers soon came to believe that he did not necessarily have the best interests of the league at heart. “He was a dynamic figure, but he was dynamic on behalf of the Donald Trump interests, not the whole league,” said Keith Jackson, who broadcast U.S.F.L. games for ABC.”

Not hacking it on the field, the solution? Litigation!

“How was Trump planning to dig the U.S.F.L. out of a hole he had largely created? Litigation, of course! The U.S.F.L. would sue the N.F.L. for being an illegal monopolist. Among other things, the lawsuit charged that the N.F.L., by having TV contracts with the three major networks (this was pre-Fox), was preventing the U.S.F.L. from signing a television deal for a fall season. It asked for $1.32 billion in damages, which in an antitrust case are trebled if the plaintiffs win. That would be more than enough not only to sustain the league, but also to enrich its beleaguered owners.”

The result?  The jury awarded the USFL $1 in damages (yes, that is $1).  Trebled (as required under antitrust law), total damages came to $3.  Yes, Trump had magically “tripled” the league’s investment in the lawsuit. Needless to say, the USFL folded shortly thereafter.  The NFL got an influx of great talent from the disbanded teams, but knew enough to vote “no” to keep Trump out of the ownership club. Trump may not always be the smartest guy in the room or the most successful, but damn he is the most entertaining (and the most orange)!

That’s it for now football fans.



Hall of Fame, Super Bowl, and Blood is Spilled at NFL Owners’ Meeting

Looks like I have several things to talk about as we are now at the end of the 2015-16 NFL season.  First up is the recent Hall of Fame voting and the Class of 2016.  No surprise that Brett Favre got in on the first ballot or that Marvin Harrison finally made it.  The same for Orlando Pace.  The rest of the bunch, with one exception, I just say “Fine.  If that’s who you think belongs, good for you.” The one exception:  Ken Stabler. It should have been a federal crime to keep Ken “The Snake” Stabler out of the HOF until this year, just  after he passed away in 2015.  The Snake was “The Man” in the 1970’s, the undisputed leader of the baddest, toughest, winning-est, and weirdest bunch of outcasts in the NFL – the Silver and Black, the Oakland Raiders.  I saw many games where Stabler would somehow, twist and turn and scramble out of a sure sack to hit the long bomb or a crucial touchdown pass.  So many times my friends and I would look at each other and say “How the $%k did he do that?!” All Oakland did was win, and then win some more.  Hell, even their punter (Ray Guy) was awesome.  So, Mr. Stabler finally getting into the Hall of Fame, well after so many lessor candidates were inducted, is well deserved.  As for the voters prior to this year – they should be drug out back behind the barn and punched in the kidneys until they admit that they are idiots.

With that off my chest, let’s turn to the Super Bowl.  It was a good game  – one of the more entertaining of the past ten years or so.  While I could care less who won, it kept my attention until the very end, something a lot of the Super Bowls fail to do.  Was great to see Wade Phillips get his due as a coach and to see Von Miller and Demarcus Ware show up big time.  They were beating on Cam Newton like it was their job!  On reflection, I guess it was their job.  As for the Panthers, hard to believe it was the same team that steamrolled through the NFC playoffs.  Cam looked like one of the 17 back-up QB’s the Cowboys used this year.  None of the commercials really grabbed my attention other than the monkey/baby/puppy horror served up by Mountain Dew.  That was worse than the constipation commercial.  I can only imagine that at the meeting where they are firing the numb-nuts who came up with the constipation commercial, his defense is “at least I didn’t come up with monkey/baby/puppy creature!”  Halftime was kind of a mess.  I though Coldplay was playing.  Felt like they got one song in and then two other bands kidnapped the stage.  I love Bruno Mars – mega talented.  Could live without Beyonce.  She writes/performs the same song (and dance) over and over and over.  Made me wish for “Up with People”!

Finally, I came across this great article on about the owners meetings that led up to the Rams move from St. Louis to Los Angeles.  Click here to read it.  It’s long so set some time aside to read it.  It is a fascinating story about the the backdoor dealing, backstabbing, and backsliding that went on behind the scenes.  You could tell from the public announcements about the new L.A. stadium and the Rams move that something goofy had been going on behind the scenes.  It wasn’t just goofy, it was bloody!  From the article:

“One NFL owner called the meeting a “s— show.” A “nightmare,” another said. Yet another described it as “the most contentious and polarizing” in decades. On Dec. 2 at the Four Seasons in Irving, Texas, the owners-only meeting had a single agenda item: Which team or teams should be allowed to relocate to Los Angeles?”


“Before the meeting ended, [Jerry] Jones, as would be his habit, took control. He delivered a rollicking, profanity-laced eight-minute endorsement of Kroenke’s monumental vision, saying in his Arkansas drawl that whichever owner returned to Los Angeles, he needed to have “big balls.”


“In the lobby of the Westin after the news conference, Jerry Jones exited an elevator, carrying a nearly empty glass of whiskey, looking both energized and relieved. Though he deeply believed that the vote reflected the league’s best interest, Jones had engineered the defeat of one of the most beloved owners by one of the shrewdest. A few feet away at the hotel bar, some owners took turns consoling Spanos. He felt as if he’d been stabbed in the back. Someone suggested that he should pull a Kroenke and move to Carson anyway. Spanos didn’t want to hear it.”


I guess the days of “all for one and one for all” – a hallmark of why the NFL became the most popular and successful sports league in America – are over.  The NFL has a lot of issues on its plate at the moment – popularity isn’t one of them.  But at some point, the owners really need to think about what they’re doing and how it impacts interest in the game.  They need to make it safer for players, stop the extortion of cities over stadium funding, and give something to the fans other than the finger when it comes to ticket prices/parking/concessions, endless pre-season games, and televised games that are taking longer and longer to play.  Not saying the league is in a danger right now, but I think you’re starting to see a few cracks in the foundation.  Better shore it up quickly Mr. Goodell.  Here comes the NHL!

That’s it for now football fans,



Go Snake Go!

The Hidden Super Bowl I Tapes – Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Like many I recently watched a replay of the entire Super Bowl I on NFL Network (thanks to my buddy Bart for reminding me about the broadcast).  The game was the first between the NFL and the upstart AFL and was a condition of the 1966 merger between the leagues (and the game wasn’t even called the “Super Bowl” yet, it was the “World Championship Game”).  In honor of the 50th anniversary of the game, the league pieced the television broadcast together through film saved by NFL Films as neither NBC or CBS (which both broadcast the game) bothered to save a copy. But, there is another copy of the game, taped on a professional quality machine.  It belongs to Troy Haupt whose father taped the game in 1967.  There is a great story about the taping in the New York Times (click here to read it), discussing the years-long fight between the NFL and Mr. Haupt about the price for the league to buy it from him.  Mr. Haupt asked for $1 million, the league countered with $30,000 and has not budged.  Moreover, since the broadcast is copyrighted by the NFL, the league has threatened to sue Haupt if he attempts to sell it to a third party.  From the article:

“A letter from the league to Harwood last year provided a sharp warning to Haupt. “Since you have already indicated that your client is exploring opportunities for exploitation of the N.F.L.’s Super Bowl I copyrighted footage with yet-unidentified third parties,” Dolores DiBella, a league counsel, wrote, “please be aware that any resulting copyright infringement will be considered intentional, subjecting your client and those parties to injunctive relief and special damages, among other remedies.”

The law favors the league, said Jodi Balsam, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.

“What the league technically has is a property right in the game information and they are the only ones who can profit from that,” said Balsam, a former N.F.L. lawyer.

But, she added, the league has not handled the matter as well as it should have.

“It seems they’ve misplayed their hand here,” she said. “They’ve known about this tape for years, and it seems to me they should have resolved this years ago, because it’s important footage.”

But until the league and Haupt resolve their differences, the public will never see the game as it happened, on the winter day when Green Bay became the champion of the N.F.L. and A.F.L., and Martin Haupt took a mysterious route to recording history.”


While the NFL Film version is good (other than constant interruptions of the annoying panel of commentators) it would be vastly improved with access to this tape.  Come on Troy and NFL, let’s work this out so fans can enjoy the full legacy of the first Super Bowl!

That’s it for now football fans.


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