Skip to main content

FIELD NOTES: Spring football

If you watched the "big game" on Sunday, you know that the Los Angeles Rams scored a touchdown with less than two minutes to play to earn a come-from-behind win over the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a fitting end to arguably the most exciting NFL playoffs ever. It was undoubtedly a better finish than most of the Super Bowls of my youth, which were almost always blowouts. There was a stretch of games in the '80s and '90s where the only drama was whether the absurd margin of victory would exceed the previous year's.

During much of that run, I watched the games at a party that was my boss's signature annual event. He always went out of his way to make it a fun time, even when the score was entirely out of hand by halftime; great food and drink, and prizes for things like the total points scored by quarter or the number of passing attempts by a particular QB. But when the party was over, I would always walk out into the frigid Ohio night and think, how will I get through another three months of cold and snow before baseball season?

Eventually, I solved that problem by moving south, but for a few years in the mid-'80s, there was also the promise of spring football. The USFL launched to much fanfare in March of 1983. It was the first serious attempt at starting a new professional football league since the WFL flamed out the '70s. The original twelve USFL teams had exciting names, colors, and logos. Philadelphia Stars. Boston Breakers. Chicago Blitz. Tampa Bay Bandits. There were even a few recognizable players on the rosters. The quality of play, especially for the first few games, was not great but got better as the season went along. The Michigan Panthers, sporting one of the unique logos and color combinations (royal plum, light blue, champagne silver) in the history of the sport, won the inaugural championship 24-22 over the Stars.

Behind the star power of some breakthrough players like QB Bobby Hebert and DL Reggie White, it appeared the league might survive and prosper as a spring-summer counterpart to the NFL. Alas, some owners got greedy and pushed for expansion into marginal markets with under-financed ownership. A New York real estate "tycoon" named Donald Trump bought the New Jersey franchise and eventually convinced a majority of the other owners to make a disastrous attempt to move to the fall and compete directly with the NFL. The USFL went up in smoke after its third season.

A little less than eight weeks from today, though, the USFL will be back to try again. This time with fewer teams and a different business model that strives to keep initial expenses low and owner egos out of the equation, at least for now. Eight of the original USFL franchises will be reborn and will begin play on April 16th. During the inaugural season (and perhaps beyond), all the games will be played in one city, Birmingham, Alabama, and the players will earn an average middle-class salary of about $50,000, as well as free college tuition.  

Can the new USFL succeed where the old USFL and a few other spring startups have failed miserably? That remains to be seen, but the sports landscape today is very different than in 1983, and there is a chance the league learned from its mistakes. 

More than one million people tuned in to watch Tulsa defeat Old Dominion in the Myrtle Beach Bowl this past December. Nearly that many were on the edge of their seats as Miami of Ohio rallied past North Texas in the Frisco Football Classic. Clearly, there is a market for watching very mediocre football players square off against each other on national TV. If the USFL can keep its average player salary in the neighborhood of a mid-level sales manager and put a vaguely competitive product on the field, the revenue will be there.

Playing all the games in one city will help keep expenses low, mitigate the impact of potential COVID restrictions on travel, and alleviate tricky stadium lease agreements, but I'm not sure who is actually going to attend these games after the first couple of weeks. I have some difficulty seeing how the good people of Birmingham are going to show up for a New Jersey-Philadelphia matchup. Of course, gate receipts are not what this league ultimately is about, but playing games in front of a couple of thousand fans is still a bad look. 

What do you think? Does the new USFL have a chance? And how about those Michigan Panthers; do you like their colors/logo or the Carolina panthers colors/logo better?


Popular posts from this blog

Economic Development in Anson County Just Took a Huge Step Forward

Yesterday, Governor Roy Cooper signed the North Carolina budget into law. This was important for every resident of the state, as we have been operating without a budget since 2018. Teachers and government employees will receive much-needed raises, the personal income tax rate will drop, and a slew of necessary infrastructure projects will finally be funded. A strong argument can be made, however, that no county benefitted more, in relative terms, from the signing of this budget than Anson.  As noted in our post last week, AnsonEDP worked with Representative Brody and Senator McInnis to include two critical line items in the budget. One provides $4 million toward the construction of a sewer line extension connecting the new Atlantic Gateway Logistics Park to the existing pump station at Hailey's Ferry Road and making upgrades to that station to handle the increased flow. This sewer line, which we anticipate will be finished by the end of 2022, will allow for a more diverse mix of te

FIELD NOTES: Pro hockey coming to Wadesboro

Woody Sports Entertainment announced today that Wadesboro, N.C., has been approved as the newest franchise in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). The team, which will be known as the Anson Loggers – a nod to the region’s forestry and wood products industry – will begin play for the 2022-23 season at the new Peaches ’n Cream Ice Arena in Wadesboro. The SPHL currently has teams in 11 cities across the South and Midwest, including the Marksmen in nearby Fayetteville. “We’re especially excited to see how that rivalry develops, seeing that the cities are less than two hours apart,” said Loggers General Manager Bulge Davenport.  The Anson County team will play at Peaches ’n Cream Ice Arena, formerly the Wadesboro Walmart Supercenter. “When the building became available last year, we thought, hey, that’s about the size of an ice rink, and the rest was history,” said Davenport. The arena is named for the nearby roadside attraction which signed a multi-year naming rights deal report


Ford Motor Company recently announced they are suspending orders for their Maverick (A) compact truck because they have outsold the company's capacity to manufacture them. The Maverick is an anomaly in today's pickup truck market, where bigger is better, and even bigger is even better. My "midsize" Toyota Tacoma is as large as many full-size pickups from the early 2000s. A new full-size F-150 or Silverado wouldn't have looked out of place at a monster truck show in the '70s.  The major truck manufacturers justify their increasingly enormous vehicles by claiming "no market" for smaller trucks. The success of the Maverick, however, would seem to contradict that.  The Maverick is based on the Ford Escape compact SUV, and while it is slightly longer than the Escape, it is significantly smaller than any other pickup currently sold in the U.S. It does not have the towing capacity or off-road capabilities of larger trucks, but it should work just fine for t