cover image Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL

Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL

Jeff Pearlman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-0-544-45438-5

Pearlman (Gunslinger) wonderfully recounts the story of the spring professional football league that enthralled fans, frustrated the NFL, and withered to the dismay of the players who fought for the game they loved. The United States Football League played its first season in 1983 as a cadre of businessmen tried to cash in on the financial boom of televised football. Starring a smorgasbord of luminaries such as Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, and Steve Young, as well as NFL has-beens and third-tier college stars, the USFL was far more than the joke that the NFL wanted to believe it was. In addition to providing a rough history of the short-lived league, Pearlman illustrates how hubris led to the league’s abrupt demise, as team owners—including a young Donald Trump, who owned the New Jersey Generals—began to believe the spring league could move to the fall and challenge the NFL’s supremacy, resulting in an antimonopoly case that virtually bankrupted the league in 1985 and led to owners abandoning their teams while players jumped to the NFL or faded into obscurity. Pearlman’s hundreds of interviews with former players and coaches shine a light on this almost forgotten league. This is an excellent book for football junkies, but it’s just as enthralling for a general audience. (Sept.)