OK, in case it hasn’t been clear before when I talk about his books, let me state straight out that I cannot possibly be unbiased when I talk about my man Jeff Pearlman’s books, which I’m about to do.
For one, he’s one of my closest friends in the world, and one of the finest human beings I know. He and his amazing and talented wife Catherine have an incredible marriage, two great kids, and I love them all to death.
Two, as with Jeff’s other books I’ve had the privilege of helping shape it in its early incarnations, editing/proofing/suggesting what parts are good, what could be better, and what a “normal reader” might have questions about and need clarification on. He’s amazingly dedicated and has been so good to me as a friend and colleague. (hell, he dedicated his last book to me.)
And three, I know how incredibly hard he works on his books, and this one, especially. Why did the world need a book about a long-gone pro football league that existed for three years in the 1980s, then faded away?
Because there were a million great characters in that league, including an owner named Donald Trump who almost-singlehandedly ruined the league.
There were future stars in the USFL like Reggie White, Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Herschel Walker … and there were also a bunch of also-rans like Greg Fields, aka “Big Paper,” who tried to kill his coach and that’s only like the fourth-craziest thing you learn about Greg Fields in this book.
The idea for a spring football league was a terrific one, and the USFL was, by 1984, slowly developing a fan base and an identity: The “fun” league, with two-point conversions and crazy offenses and playing in cities like Memphis that the NFL never would come near.
But then a certain cocky New York City real estate developer bought the New Jersey Generals, and decided he’d convince all the rest of the USFL owners to move their season to the fall, and take the NFL head-on. This was an awful idea for many reasons, namely, who’s going to go to a Philadelphia Stars game when the Eagles are playing the next day?
But Trump, as Jeff explains in the book, was able to convince his brethren to take the NFL on, then sue them for antitrust violations. The USFL won the lawsuit, but gained only $1 in damages (hence the book’s title).
I don’t want you to think this book is about Trump, although there are so, so many precursors to his behavior as a politician that were evident back then (read this John Bassett letter for a good idea).
“Football for a Buck” has the most entertaining, impossible to believe stories you’ll ever read. Like the player who slammed his penis in an equipment truck and missed a few games (Ouch). Or like the genius schemes of Jim Bob Morris of the San Antonio Gunslingers, who loved his out-of-town girlfriend but loved local women just as much.
So to have his cake and eat it too, Morris had a second phone line put into his apartment, had a maintenance man drill a hole in the wall and embed an answering machine within the wall.
“So I had a regular phone line and I had a phone line for my bitches,” he said. “We’d be laying in bed, me and my girl, and you could hear the answering machine in the wall, beeping. I’d pile clothes against the wall so she couldn’t hear.”
The man was a regular Hugh Hefner!
But seriously, “Football for a Buck” is a fabulous read. It’s got egos and greed and men playing the sport they love and putting up with awful conditions to do it. It’s Jeff’s most hilarious book yet, and if you know any football fans, I guarantee they’ll enjoy it. The book is getting fabulous reviews but it’s a really hard thing, selling a book, so if you buy it for someone you like, you’d be doing something very worthwhile.
“Football for a Buck,” the USFL book the world needed.
Now, if we can just get ONE Donald Trump tweet about it, it’ll go straight to the top of the bestsellers list.
**Next up today, a small video that gave me a smile: A man in the Baltimore Ravens Marching Band is clearly a fan of 70s rockers Rush, and their fantastic song “Tom Sawyer.”
Watch as he perfectly nails the drums in this part of the song during Sunday’s Ravens beatdown of the Bills, in the rain.
You go, air drum hero!
**Finally today, yesterday was of course 9/11, the 17th anniversary of the worst day of so many of our lives. We watched the names of those lost being read out loud from Ground Zero on TV, and I took a few minutes to look at the most powerful thing I ever saw about the tragedy, this wonderful video montage put together by a man named Jason Powers.
Seventeen years seems unfathomable. To think a child born that year is preparing to graduate high school now… seems impossible. All we can do is not let the passage of time dim our memories of the heroes, and tragic figures, of that day.
And take a few minutes to think about the sacrifice so many have made, trying to protect our freedoms since that horrible day.
Seventeen years. Hard to believe.