Title: Football for a Buck
Author: Jeff Pearlman
What’s it about?
This book highlights the rise and fall of the United States Football League (USFL), which lasted for three seasons in the 1980s. It dives into the incredible highs that the league experienced, such as enticing the talents of Steve Young, Jim Kelly and Reggie White to play in the league. But it also goes into detail on the laundry list of reasons why the league failed so quickly, as well as its ties to current US President, Donald Trump, who was one of the league’s team owners.
How did you hear about it?
I follow Pearlman on Twitter, so I was pulled in as he shared info about the book during the reporting process. I have also read two of his previous books, Gunslinger and Sweetness, which are biographies on Brett Favre and Walter Payton, respectively.
It is impossible to read this book and not draw parallels between Trump’s actions now and how he acted in the USFL, despite that being over 30 years ago. Whether you support him or not, Trump was a key contributor to the eventual downfall of the league. Backed by a series of bold lies, he convinced the other league owners that a move from the spring to the fall to compete directly with the NFL was not only necessary, but it would allow the USFL to win a lawsuit against them for creating a monopoly on professional football. Instead of the slow, steady progress that the league initially aimed for, the immediately-shoot-for-the-moon path instead catapulted the USFL directly into the sun as it faded away into football history.
This book was especially interesting to read after the Alliance of American Football (AAF) failed this past spring as it also attempted to provide football for fans during the NFL offseason. That league was shut down after half a year due to some of the same pitfalls as the USFL, but after reading more about both leagues, it was clear the USFL had a lot of things right that the AAF didn’t. The USFL had some of the best football players in the world, while the AAF primarily had NFL rejects. And with Vince McMahon’s reboot of the XFL planned for next year, it’ll be curious to see if one of the other biggest egos in sports entertainment will take the history of these failed leagues and turn his venture into a success.
In closing, the reporting and storytelling by Pearlman are top notch as usual. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in pro football history.
Contributor: Austin Vitelli is an associate editor for a medical publishing company and graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in journalism. He’s been a football fan his whole life, cheering for his beloved Philadelphia Eagles. His blog, which mostly focuses on the Eagles, can be viewed at http://austinvitelli.com/thephillysportsreport/.
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