In 1985 a battle between two Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young and Jim Kelly faced off in the season opener that seemed destined to change the fate of one football league. Down 20 points with 10 minutes to go Jim Kelly tossed 3 touchdowns passes in minutes to secure a 34-33 victory. Kelly finished the day with 574 yards and five touchdowns in a game that is otherwise known as ‘The Greatest Game Nobody Ever Saw’. That match up was of course between the Houston Gamblers and Los Angeles Express of the USFL, a league that had potential to be the perfect summer league counterpart to the NFL. No this was not the Arena league or the Canadian league, the United States Football League featured superstar caliber players such as Herschel Walker, Reggie White, Doug Flutie, and many more. Unfortunately for us the USFL folded after just 3 short seasons. One lone man was responsible for the downfall of the USFL, Donald Trump. With the Republican National Convention set to premier what better way to reflect on the upcoming election in coalition with the infamous summer football league. Donald Trump ruined the USFL, should we be concerned about him ruining our great country as well?
Many people reading this may be entirely unfamiliar with the USFL. The United States Football League was founded on the principles of playing football during the spring and summer time. This vision was founded in 1965 by New Orleans business man David Dixon. Over the next 15 years he would go on to study the NFL, AFL, and world football league. Dixon was determined to be real competition to the NFL as was able to construct a 12 team league, holding those teams in the 13 top markets in the USA. This league was more than just some spring fling as they were able to secure mega TV contracts from ABC and ESPN to broadcast the games. In the beginning stages the league was a perfect gateway to NFL castoffs to receiving a 2nd chance at football life. What made the USFL so unique were the innovations the league was able to make.
To gain a leg up on the NFL, the USFL decided to implement a rule allowing college juniors to forgo their senior year and enter the USFL. This rule was not yet in the NFL rule books yet as players had to finish their collegiate careers to enter the NFL. This allowed the USFL to gain their first superstar in Herschel Walker. The former Heisman trophy winner from the University of Georgia was only interested in playing for the Cowboys or one of the New York teams in the NFL. Entering the USFL allowed Walker to sign with whoever he picked which happened to be the New Jersey Generals, a team later owned by Donald Trump. Trump did not sign Walker as he purchased the team in the second year. Herschel Walker eventually set the professional football record for single-season rushing yards with 2,411 yards in 1985. He averaged a ridiculous 5.50 yards per attempt in 18 games.
Being able to pick your team was a huge advantage for players who didn’t like their NFL homes. The best example of this was Jim Kelly who was selected by the Buffalo Bills 14th overall in the 1983 NFL Draft. Kelly went to college at the University of Miami Florida and was not happy about having to go play for the cold weather Bills. After being unhappy with the Bills selection Houston Gamblers Gm Bruce Allen contacted Kelly with the chance to play in the Astrodome in Houston. The decision was easy for Kelly as he later would go on to say “Would you rather be in Houston or Buffalo?” Kelly threw for 9,842 yards and 83 touchdowns in two short seasons in the USFL.
This league was not small potatoes. They had real players and were the perfect compliment to the NFL. Giving football fans some entertaining summer league action was exactly what we needed to fill the gap between the NFL Draft and the start of the NFL season. The innovations the league was able to make will forever have an everlasting impact on the NFL. Make no mistake about it celebrating was encouraged in the USFL as compared to the no fun league where players were fined. Below are some of those innovations.
- The two-point conversion (since adopted by the NFL, in 1994).
- The college rule of stopping the clock after first downs was used only for the final two minutes of each half and overtime.
- For the 1985 season, a method of challenging officials’ rulings on the field via instant replay (using a system that is almost identical to that used by the NFL today).
- A tight players’ salary cap of US $1.8 million per team. The NFL introduced a salary cap in 1994
One man would forever change the fate of the United States Football League, Donald Trump. Initially he was exactly what this young upstart league needed. Trump offered an injection of money to his new franchise often times exceeding the salary cap in order to sign players. Without Trump the salaries of today’s players may in fact be much lower than they are today. Worried about losing players to the USFL, the NFL had to reach into their pockets more than ever before to retain their star players. Giants all pro linebacker Lawrence Taylor was an example of this. While their was no salary cap, NFL owners were still keeping a large portion of the profits. That percentage quickly changed with Trump’s entrance into the USFL. However with any Donald Trump project there is always a building up and tearing down process. A man with a history of filing for bankruptcy should have painted a clear picture to what was going to come next for the United States Football League.
The United States Football League had a really great thing going, well before Donald Trump took over as the league’s head honcho anyway. Trump, owner of the New Jersey Generals, wanted to move the league into the Fall. Trump once said “If God wanted football in the spring, he wouldn’t have created baseball.” Trump’s premise was foolish and somehow convinced the other owners to move the season to the Fall as their third season in existence. At the time many teams were in hard financial standing as it was. The move to the Fall lost them their lucrative television contracts that were never going to support them in the heart of the NFL season. Donald Trump then sought out an Anti-Trust lawsuit claiming the NFL essentially was a monopoly. The problem was Trump was never truly seeking justice, his main concerns were either finding a way to merge with the NFL or gaining some name recognition in the process. The problem for Trump is the NFL didn’t want his business. The NFL was never going to allow him to be apart of their league. The lawsuit wasn’t going to work either. The merger between the AFL and NFL made this notion of a monopoly a moot point anyway. The NFL did have a strangle hold over the TV rights but that was the USFL’s fault for forgoing the deals they had in the spring and summer. Trump’s case did prevail but his case wasn’t really taken seriously. The lawsuit was between Trump and the NFL make no mistake about it. After 42 days the USFL was awarded a total of $1.00 in damages. Since those numbers are tripled in an anti-trust case they were awarded $3.00 instead. The USFL appealed all the way to the supreme court which accounted for a 76 cent interest. The lawsuit bankrupted the company and never played another game afterwards. Trump would later go onto say “After taxes, I would say I lost $3 million,” he told the AP. “And I got a billion dollars of free publicity.”
Like any of Trump’s endeavors they all end with a build up to an eventual crash. Trump’s next move set his sights on the casino business in Atlantic City. We all know how that disaster turned out. For those who don’t the process is quite simple, bankrupt and earn millions. As for sports are concerned every event that has Trump’s name on it usually spells some sort of nightmare. The PGA tour refuses to hold any events at his 17 golf courses. This notion started by his racist comments about Mexican immigrants. Many of these golf courses have bankrupted including one in Puerto Rico in 2015. Years later the NFL did not sell the Buffalo Bills to Donald Trump after he fought hard to buy them. If there is anything to learn from this lesson it is how to accurately predict Trump’s future presidency.
When you think about all of the possible scenarios that could have happened had the USFL stayed afloat there are some interesting dynamics. Would Raiders legend Bo Jackson have played in the USFL instead so he could enjoy baseball in the late summer and fall? Would other athletes such as Tom Brady and Russell Wilson followed suit as they were also baseball players. Would the Baltimore Ravens even exist after the USFL already had a franchise in Baltimore? Would the dream team of Jim Kelly and Herschel Walker ever come to fruition becoming one of the greatest offenses ever? Would the USFL and NFL coincided on a joint Super Bowl between the two leagues? Those questions we will never have the answers to.
Donald Trump, a lifetime Democrat, makes people who are die-hard Republicans voting for Trump are either uneducated or hypocritical to say the least. His political views have changed drastically because he knows antics only cater to the Republicans who have a very different outlook on how the world actually operates. In reality from his past we can be certain the people who Trump likely caters to is the top 1 percent. Oddly enough most of his voters will likely come low-income families that don’t seem to understand that our countries economy has greatly improved under Barrack Obama as compared to George Bush. The same can be said for Bill Clinton as his tenure was filled with an economic surplus. When looking at Trump’s future presidency many may think he may be unpredictable but his presence on the USFL may be all you need to look at. Let’s face it folks any presidential nominee that is supported by North Korea has to have trouble written all over it right? Trump’s misogynistic and racist views will likely get us in trouble sooner or later, it’s just a mater of what. When it comes to the USFL it goes to show you that the little guy and small businesses don’t stand a chance if Donald Trump is elected president. The USFL was not small potatoes it was a league that showed a lot of promise. Are we ready to make the same mistake again by electing Trump to run the United States into the ground this time?