October 21, 2009
Last night's installment of the "30 for 30" series on ESPN detailed the rise and fall of everyone's favorite defunct football league, the USFL. The official title was "Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?" but it might as well have been, "Donald Trump Murdered the USFL, Brutally and Without Remorse, and Then Urinated on the Corpse."
Whether or not that's true, I couldn't tell you, but Trump is certainly who this documentary blames for the league's demise. Of course, there are two sides to every story, and for the record, Trump has called the documentary "dishonest," "third-rate," and its director "a loser." It should be noted, though, that loser/filmmaker Mike Tollin seemed easily able to find a lot of people who agreed that Trump's greed and ego were the primary reasons for the USFL's death.
Regardless of blame, it was a fun hour of USFL reminiscing. I remember the league, but not a lot of specifics. I remember it existing in the spring, and I remember being happy that there was football on television. I remember that the league had some sweet logos, and I remember my Topps USFL trading cards. I remember everyone making a big deal about how Herschel Walker was going to be making a million dollars a year.
I remember that (to my young mind, anyway) it had a "big league" feel. It wasn't like watching a UFL game today, with that nagging "this is nice and all, but I get about 20 reminders every minute that this is extremely bush league" feeling. It felt like an event. People were genuinely interested in and excited about this thing.
I have no memories of any specific plays or players, though, so this documentary was nice to help paint a better picture for me. I knew that the USFL had some quality players, but I don't think I realized just how many. The NFL had use for 187 of the USFL's players after they folded, and 15 of them went to the Pro Bowl in their first year out of the USFL. That will not be happening with the UFL.
As for the documentary itself, I think its strength -- that it was so personal -- was also a bit of a weakness. It was truly an inside look at the league, and a lot of people clearly were very passionate about it. But it also felt like there was an agenda, specifically, to paint Trump as not just the bad guy as it relates to the USFL, but a bad guy in general.
And maybe that's true. Maybe Trump really did single-handedly kill something awesome that should still be alive today. It's hard to trust that, though, when the documentary was so heavy-handed about making sure that viewers knew Trump was the villain.
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