April 27, 2013

30 for 30: Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?

Michael Tollin, 2009

          Take a step back in time to the early 80's when the NFL actually had some competition, albeit short-term. Michael Tollin examines what specifically caused the sensational USFL to come to a screeching halt even though they had some big names on the field and big money in the front office.
          These 30 for 30 documentaries are very well made, and I've yet to see one I do not like. This is a particularly interesting examination because its hard to even think of any organization competing with the NFL, which is clearly the biggest sport in the U.S. and is a behemoth in television ratings. That wasn't always the case, and at one point America was looking for something different. The USFL offered a league with more edge, less regulation, and a more intimate connection between the players and the fans. It seems that the two biggest faults that were made that led to the demise were 1) expanding the league from 12 teams too early and 2) Donald Trump's push to move the league from the Spring to the Fall much too quickly. Trump is not painted well in this film, and is the scapegoat from all of the people involved in the league who felt wronged in some way. Ultimately, I think its a fun idea to think of a Football league played the Spring - but I don't believe it would remain sustainable in today's climate. The modern day equivalent to this is the Canadian Football League. There are of course some talented players in the CFL, but the National Football League is the mecca of the sport and sits high on top of its mountain. At one point there may have been room for some competition in the football market, but those days are clearly over.

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