USFL may be back, but without the fool who ruined it the first time

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Donald Trump signed Heisman winner Herschel Walker as owner of the New Jersey Generals.
Donald Trump signed Heisman winner Herschel Walker as owner of the New Jersey Generals.
Image: AP

In case you missed the news, the USFL is back!

The ol’ football league, gone since its final spring season in 1985, will be returning in 2022. There will be eight teams, just as there were eight teams for the initial 1983 season. There will be a TV deal (Fox Sports), just as there was a TV deal long ago (ESPN and ABC televised the games). The names and logos and uniforms will recapture the golden era. No, not recapture—duplicate. New Jersey Generals! Houston Gamblers! Arizona Wranglers! On and on and …


Despite a New York Post headline screaming THE USFL IS OFFICIALLY BACK!—well, the USFL is as officially back as a Beatles cover band is THE BEATLES ARE OFFICIALLY BACK!


In order to be OFFICIALLY BACK!, the USFL requires three things the old league boasted:

• 1. Mounds upon mounds of cocaine.

• 2. A desire to rival the NFL.

• 3. Donald Trump.

Admittedly, the first two are attainable, with some complications. But the third—now there’s the golden ticket.

Back a half-decade ago, when I wrote and released my USFL biography, “Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazy Demise of the USFL,” every sliver of research ultimately returned to Trump, the owner of the New Jersey Generals. He was in his mid-30s at the time, an up-and-coming New York City real estate developer who loved fucking models and scoring tabloid front pages and spending Daddy’s money on stuff coated in fake gold.

And while Donald Trump ruined the USFL in a holy-shit-this-is-a-precise-blueprint-for-how-he-ruins-everything preview of his (dear God) presidency, he was the league. He was the one who projected swagger and bravado. He was the one who signed NFL stars like Brian Sipe and Gary Barbaro.


He was, um, the one who met secretly with Pete Rozelle and promised to destroy the upstart spring league in return for an NFL franchise. He was the one who insisted/demanded that the USFL move to fall to rival the NFL, then lied to his fellow owners about all three major TV networks wanting to televise fall USFL games (he asked; they had no interest). He was the one who sat through the national anthem; the one who mocked a fellow owner who was dying of brain cancer; the one who signed Boston College QB Doug Flutie to the largest contract in pro football history—then wrote a letter to the other USFL owners, threatening them to pay for it (Mexico/wall, anyone?). He was the one who led the antitrust lawsuit against the NFL; the one who suggested he be the star witness in the court case; the one whose testimony was laughably pathetic; the one who — after the USFL’s death — dismissed the whole enterprise as “small potatoes” and walked off into the sunset as players and coaches saw their dreams die.

In 1984, shortly before his death from cancer, John Bassett, owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits, wrote Trump a letter in which he noted, “You are bigger, stronger and younger than I, which means I’ll have no regrets whatsoever punching you right in the mouth the next time an instance occurs where you personally scorn me, or anyone else, who does not happen to salute and dance to your tune.”


Just like diarrhea isn’t really diarrhea without loose, watery stools, the USFL isn’t the USFL without its loosest, wateriest stool—Dear Leader, Donald Trump.

The bestest of best news? According to this website he’s available and waiting for the phone to ring. There’s always a new football league to ruin.


Jeff Pearlman is the author of Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL, which can be purchased here.