Thursday, January 22, 2009

The USFL

Although Superbowl XLIII is almost upon us, Slimbo’s Shelf will not be commenting on the upcoming matchup between the Cardinals and Steelers (except to say Steelers 20, Cardinals 17). You’ll all get your fill of pre-game nonsense once Obamamania dies down a bit. Instead, I’d like to take pause and temporarily resuscitate an extinct relic from the world of professional football: the United States Football League.

It was Morning in America when the USFL was born. I think one can point to the USFL (of the mid 1980’s) and the late XFL (of pre-9/11 2001) and definitively state that alternative professional football leagues are born out of a hubris indicative of times when America is flush with a good economy and mired in collective social brain death.

I’ve always been fascinated by the rise and near-immediate fall of these leagues. It’s a testament to the NFL that they have created a product so incomparably established in the America sports marketplace that any attempts to dethrone are akin to those midgets who used to try and wrestle Andre the Giant.

I have great memories of the USFL. When this league came about I was a naïve young lad and I assumed that it was here to stay. It seemed like such a great idea to an eleven year-old. Then again so does grape Kool-Aid.

One could point to a litany of reasons the USFL did not live past the age of three – the biggest undoubtedly were the saturation of the American sports market and the disdain Americans have for watching football in the sweltering summer sun. But one need only look to the team identities of this league and find the ultimate answer for the USFL’s downfall. Let’s take a look:


Birmingham Stallions - Someone sat around a marketing table in Birmingham and said, ‘our identity should conjure the image of white wooden fences, rolling green hills and riding boots’. This logo is so non-threatening; one could substitute the word ‘Stallions’ with ‘Home for the Aged’.

Boston Breakers - Jonathan Livingston USFL Team. No wonder they moved through three cities in three years. Looking at this gives me horrible flashbacks of when the Islanders went to that goofy fisherman jersey.

Denver Gold - I could easily see this image on the robes of cultists getting ready to commit mass suicide in preparation for their return to the mother ship.





Jacksonville Bulls - It makes sense that this bull is facing right, headed East towards Jacksonville, because it looks as though he just ran through a member of the 1980 Houston Astros and is now marked with the stripped remains of his uniform.







Memphis Showboats - This team should have been coached by Hal Holbrook in full Mark Twain attire. Okay, people….think striped blazers, straw hats, hoops skirts and paddle boats. Yeah, that’s football. Having a Dixie-land theme is all right if you’re opening a casino or planning a high school play, but did anyone ever think that perhaps the concept of Dixie might be a bit tainted for African American players? Downtown Memphis still features a street called ‘Auction Avenue’. You see where I’m going with all this, no?

New Jersey Generals - It’s fitting that a team owned by that fascist Trump would have a logo that conjures the image of militant totalitarianism. Like so many in the tri-state area, I looked to the New Jersey Generals and loafingly gave them my support with a passion that said, ‘well, uh…okay, whatever.’ They did have Hershel Walker and Doug Flutie after all.


Pittsburgh Maulers - When one looks at the image of this hammer swinger and sees the word “Mauler” above it, one can’t help but to assume that the figure presented here is a disgruntled worker committing an act of violence towards another human being and is not, like his NFL Steeler counterpart, a glorified symbol of American labor history.



Outlaws / Bandits – Isn’t it incredible how fond recollections of lawlessness have become an integral part of how we reminisce about the Old West. Perhaps these two teams, when matched against one another, would emerge from the locker room tunnel and simultaneously suffer an instantaneous mass identity crisis? Could it be that each team then turned on itself, a mass extinction through friendly fire?

San Antonio Gunslingers – if this “gunslinger” was successful, it’s because no one could see him behind a lamppost. My God. Take away his hat and guns and this team could have been the San Antonio Accountants.




Washington Federals “Government is the problem”. These words were spoken by Ronald Reagan at his inauguration as he was about to take the helm of our…well…government. An increasingly conservative wing of our nation had managed to vilify the very concept of the entity they were taking control of: government.
It’s odd that this Washington franchise would choose a brand identity that one could easily see featured upon a booklet describing some allegedly wasteful government program. Perhaps while entertaining fans, the team simultaneously wanted to remind them that all tax returns were due on April 15th
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So I’ve decided to start my own alternative to the NFL. Unlike the USFL, my league will feature names that will be deeply rooted into the soul and character of each city.

Eastern Conference
Boston Syllabus
New York Sexual Ambiguity
Atlanta Soulless Suburban Sprawl
Cleveland Post Industrial Malaise
Mississippi Most Unhealthy and Illiterate Americans

Western Conference
Sacramento Austrian Governors
Las Vegas Lapdances
Denver Nicest American City to Live In
Seattle Venti
Texas Death Penalty

1 comment:

  1. The image of the Memphis squad taking the field to the banjo-laced "Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer" over the PA is just too much for me to handle right now. "Striped blazers." Yes, and handlebar moustaches. I also want to see what kind of damage the Post Industrial Malaise would do to the Syllabus. Just once before the league folds.

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