Friday, March 7, 2008

Remembering one upstart football league while aborting another

Remembering one upstart football league while aborting another
The first USFL games were played on March 6th, 1983, and yesterday marked the 25th anniversary. On that first weekend, the USFL, with their Birmingham Stallions, Washington Federals, and New Jersey Generals, drew an average of about 40,000 people at each game, and 33% of everyone watching television at the time watched USFL action.

And despite the optimism of the above paragraph, they died three years later.

I do recall it being a moderately thrilling 3 years, though. The USFL trotted out talents like Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie, Steve Young (pictured), and the late, great Reggie White.

But it wasn't just that. The league managed to feel both "big time" and slightly renegade. They had the sac to stand up and smack the NFL in the face, and while it turned out that they couldn't compete with the NFL, of course, they did annoy them for a little while. I love the NFL, but I also fully support efforts to annoy giant corporate monoliths.

Also yesterday, in a neat bit of timing, punter Sean Landeta officially retired (to slightly less fanfare than Brett Favre). Landeta was the last remaining NFL player that once plied his trade in the USFL. Landeta might not make the hall of fame, but he can honestly claim to be the best punter in Philadelphia Stars history.

Meanwhile, the All-American Football League, which was just like the USFL, except that they never played a game, is probably dead. The league sent out an e-mail yesterday begging for a new majority owner so they could play their inaugural season, which is probably about the same thing as getting the rusty coat hanger treatment in a back alley.

It's a shame, because the AAFL wasn't going to be without star power, either. They had Wayne Fontes' brother signed up to coach.

Sean Landeta: A tribute to the single bar / Randball
AAFL facing crisis - upstart football league has money woes /
A Misty Look Back At The First Organization To Gainfully Employ Sean Landeta / Can't Stop the Bleeding
The USFL Chronology / Remember the USFL

Jets sign fullback Tony Richardson
After signing two offensive linemen known for their run blocking, the New York Jets Jets continued Thursday to beef up their lackluster ground game, signing former Vikings fullback Tony Richardson to a one-year contract for less than $2 million the New York Daily News reported.

Richardson, 36, is on the downside of his 13-year career, but he's still regarded as a solid blocker. He made his third Pro Bowl last season, riding shotgun with tailback Adrian Peterson, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Richardson will team with veteran Thomas Jones, although he could get the chance to block for a Peterson-like back, Darren McFadden, the top runner in the upcoming draft. He could be available for the Jets, picking at No.6.

Niners GM: "We will be twice as good this year''
For the San Francisco 49ers, the process of beginning to shed last year's tattered skin took place over a weekend of free-agent signings that will give the club a shiny new look going into the 2008 season, with the draft yet to come the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Whether that does the 49ers any good will be determined in a fall fraught with significance for coach Mike Nolan as he tries to make the 49ers winners in his fourth season in San Francisco. The man to whom he now answers, instead of the other way around, believes progress will be made.

"We're going to be twice as good this year, in my opinion, on offense in keeping the ball in our hands and that's going to make our defense better," general manager Scot McCloughan said in a conference call Wednesday. "The whole idea of the 49er organization is 'Let's make our team the best we can right now.' "

Dorsey on the defensive over his health
Could a leg bone cost Glenn Dorsey millions? A clouded injury history puts the LSU star on the draft-day hot seat, Alex Marvez says.

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