From a multiple New York Times bestselling author, the rollicking, outrageous, you-can’t-make-this-up story of the USFL
The United States Football League—known fondly to millions of sports fans as the USFL—was the last football league to not merely challenge the NFL, but cause its owners and executives to collectively shudder. It spanned three seasons, 1983-85. It secured multiple television deals. It drew millions of fans and launched the careers of legends. But then it died beneath the weight of a particularly egotistical and bombastic owner—a New York businessman named Donald J. Trump. The league featured as many as 18 teams, and included such superstars as Steve Young, Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, Reggie White, Doug Flutie and Mike Rozier.
In Football for a Buck, the dogged reporter and biographer Jeff Pearlman draws on more than four hundred interviews to unearth all the salty, untold stories of one of the craziest sports entities to have ever captivated America. From 1980s drug excess to airplane brawls and player-coach punch outs, to backroom business deals, to some of the most enthralling and revolutionary football ever seen, Pearlman transports readers back in time to this crazy, boozy, audacious, unforgettable era of the game. He shows how fortunes were made and lost on the backs of professional athletes and also how, thirty years ago, Trump was a scoundrel and a spoiler.
For fans of Terry Pluto’s Loose Balls or Jim Bouton’s Ball Four and of course Pearlman’s own stranger-than-fiction narratives, Football for a Buck is sports as high entertainment—and a cautionary tale of the dangers of ego and excess.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Jeff Pearlman is apparently unafraid of being eviscerated on Twitter. In Football for a Buck, he dives into the rapid ascent and faster demise of the United States Football League. Between 1983 and 1985, the USFL appeared to be an honest-to-god NFL competitor, launching the careers of titans like Steve Young, Reggie White, and Herschel Walker. No one, however, was as central to the story of the league—and its epic failure—as a young owner named Donald Trump. Pearlman’s reporting makes for a dramatic yarn. It left us wondering what would’ve become of Trump, football, and the nation if these underdogs had actually pulled it off.
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.