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

by Jeff Pearlman

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794338,338 (3.69)1
History. Sports & Recreations. Nonfiction. HTML:From Jeff Pearlman‚??the New York Times best-selling author of Three Ring Circus‚??comes the rollicking, outrageous story of the USFL, full of larger-than-life characters and you-can't-make-this-up stories featuring some of the biggest celebrities and buffoons in the game.
The United States Football League‚??known fondly to millions of sports fans as the USFL‚??did not merely challenge the NFL, but cause its owners and executives to collectively shudder. In its three seasons from 1983-85, it secured multiple television deals, drew millions of fans and launched the careers of legends such as Steve Young, Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, and Reggie White. But then it died beneath the weight of a particularly egotistical and bombastic team owner‚??a New York businessman named Donald J. Trump.
In Football for a Buck, 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 and 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 how, forty years ago, Trump was already 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
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Here I was trying to avoid a book about Trump and politics but even in this very entertaining book about the USFL, I could not completely get away. The USFL was a "professional" league that played football in the spring. It had franchises around the country including New York, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. How well most franchises succeeded depended largely on the business skills, football acumen and deep pockets of the owners who got involved in the fledgeling league. Herschel Walker, Jim Kelly, Doug Flutie and Steve Young were some of the league's superstars.

The book is full of very interesting stories and anecdotes about the league's various characters and players. How teams recruited for players in the early days was fascinating. Pearlman also recounts the various ways the league was marketed and how they fought for respectability. An then came Trump...

Trump wanted to play in the fall and winter and compete against the NFL and college football. How Trump miserably failed and helped take down the league is covered in the book.

I enjoy Pearlman's sports books---very interesting reading. A pity that the league was unable to survive. But the reader can see that the seeds of destruction were sown very quickly. ( )
1 vote writemoves | Jun 17, 2019 |
This is a marvelously engrossing story of the USFL--that's the United States Football League, for those of you not old enough to remember--an upstart organization that managed to survive for three years playing football in the Spring, with its championship game held in July. It was the first professional home of Steve Young, Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, and a few others who go on to star in the NFL. But while their stories are told here, it is the stories of those whose NFL career was brief or non-existent that are the most interesting. As high hopes turn into missed paychecks, teams folding, teams merging, and even two entire teams being traded for each other (!!), the author gives us amazing, funny, and bittersweet stories by the bushelful to keep us turning the pages. I'm not sure I have ever read any book that might have more instances of potentially libelous statements than this one. The USFL featured not just players smoking on the sidelines, but Al Pacino-Scarface quantities of cocaine, death threats, and airplane brawls. Many of those potentially libeled are no longer around to sue, but one man stands out as the worst of them all. The man who bought the New Jersey Generals and insisted the USFL switch to a fall schedule to compete head-to-head against the NFL. The man who put himself, his outsized ego, and his own ambition ahead of everyone else. And who is still doing so--our President, Donald Trump! First he destroyed the USFL. I guess that wasn't enough, so now he's going after the whole USA. You'll definitely enjoy this book if you care about football for the essence of the game, and the author does leave us with a nice closing scene that shows the camaraderie that still remains from those who are proud to call themselves former USFLers, even if few people have any idea what they're talking about. ( )
  datrappert | Jan 13, 2019 |
This was a fun read, with extra points for on-point Trump tie. The man seems to destroy all that he touches. I didn't really get into the USFL, but thought it was fun. I had no idea so many prominent stars started there - I remembered Walker but not Steve Young, Sam Mills, or Doug Williams. ( )
  kcshankd | Oct 26, 2018 |
FOOTBALL FOR A BUCK, by Jeff Pearlman, chronicles the creation, rise, fall and eventual demise of the USFL in the early 1980's. Pearlman reached back the early inklings of thought of a spring professional football league. He describes moments of inspirational forethought as well as doomed-from-the-start ideas that were the heart and soul of the USFL. The theme of the book, aside from a wonderfully detailed history of the league, seems to be that everyone involved with the league had a slightly different opinion on how and what the league really was. To some it was a more fun and relaxed version of professional football, to others a chance to extend your career in the sport, and to others a viable business model destined to succeed either by become profitable or by a NFL buyout.
Pearlman does an excellent job of describing how the league began and there is a certain point in the book where the reader is thinking "this all seems great, why didn't the USFL survive?", which echoes what so many people felt as the league started to fall apart. More gimmicky, more human interest, more fun. As the book moves forward, the kinks on the armor become apparent as some franchises thrive as an almost NFL franchise, while others struggle just to fill a roster and get all their players to the games on time. The disparity, coupled with two team owners who had wild aspirations, seemed to culminate in a implosion of the league after the 1985 season. The book has so many great stories that keep the reader entertained through the entire book, half the time laughing and the other time jaw-droppingly shocked. Donald Trump, the owner of the New Jersey team, played and integral part in the growth and collapse of the league and Pearlman does and exceptional job of being as objective as possible about Trump's involvement. He does provide many quotes from other owners and league executives and most of them don't hold back in their blame and contempt towards Donald Trump's part in the collapse of the USFL.
FOOTBALL FOR A BUCK drove me to start looking up league stats, facts, and stories about the league as soon as I finished the book. Well researched and written with care, this book is one for the ages, even though the league it recounts lasted only three years.
Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jeff Pearlman, and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! ( )
1 vote EHoward29 | Sep 12, 2018 |
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History. Sports & Recreations. Nonfiction. HTML:From Jeff Pearlman‚??the New York Times best-selling author of Three Ring Circus‚??comes the rollicking, outrageous story of the USFL, full of larger-than-life characters and you-can't-make-this-up stories featuring some of the biggest celebrities and buffoons in the game.
The United States Football League‚??known fondly to millions of sports fans as the USFL‚??did not merely challenge the NFL, but cause its owners and executives to collectively shudder. In its three seasons from 1983-85, it secured multiple television deals, drew millions of fans and launched the careers of legends such as Steve Young, Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, and Reggie White. But then it died beneath the weight of a particularly egotistical and bombastic team owner‚??a New York businessman named Donald J. Trump.
In Football for a Buck, 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 and 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 how, forty years ago, Trump was already 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

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