"Holy Toledo!"

March 9, 2017

The U.S.F.L. Is Not Dead Here! A Look Back After 34 Years

Do you remember where you were, or what you were doing 34 years ago this week? I can offer an assist if you aren’t good at math. That would be the week of March 6th thru the 12th, 1983.

What was going on back then?
In the NFL it was all about The Fun Bunch, The Hogs, John Riggins and Joe Theisman. They were the toast of Washing and the NFL world because they had just won Super Bowl XVII. But that is not why I asked the question.

The band Men At Work were singing “Down Under” and Michael Jackson had a new #1 hit titled “Billie Jean”. At the box office we were all watching Return Of The Jedi, and the price of gas was $0.95 per gallon. But again, that is not why I asked where you were 34 years ago this week.

Officially the date was Sunday, March 6th, 1983.
The birth of the United States Football League.

Twelve brand new teams would play five games that day, and one game on Monday, marking the beginning of a whole new concept for fans, Spring football. The premier game would be televised on ABC as the Washington Federals hosted the Chicago Blitz at RFK Stadium. It was billed as “Coach George Allen returns to RFK”. If you’ll recall Allen had a very successful seven year run as head coach of the Redskins before being let go after the 1977 season. The Federals had signed a star running back from SMU named Craig James.

What followed was three amazing years of entertaining football that introduced us to guys named Bobby Hebert, Jim Mora, Sam Mills, Gary Anderson, and many others. It also gave guys like Anthony Carter, Doug Flutie, and Albert Bentley the opportunity to prove NFL scouts wrong. The USFL also had it’s share of stars. Herschel Walker, Steve Young, Reggie White, Jim Kelly, and Mike Rozier, just to name a few.

The original twelve teams were:
Arizona Wranglers
Birmingham Stallions
Boston Breakers
Chicago Blitz
Denver Gold
Los Angeles Express
Michigan Panthers (I loved their uniforms!)
New Jersey Generals
Oakland Invaders
Philadelphia Stars
Tampa Bay Bandits
Washington Federals

The USFL league champions and MVP’s:
1983
Michigan Panthers
Kelvin Bryant RB Philadelphia Stars
1984
Philadelphia Stars
Jim Kelly QB Houston Gamblers
1985
Baltimore Stars
Herschel Walker RB New Jersey Generals

For those of us in Oakland the Invaders came at a great time. The Raiders had left for Los Angeles the year before, and there was a void that the USFL filled nicely. Also Spring football for some cities was outstanding. Other cities were less fortunate, poor weather being the cause of poor attendance. Oakland was terrific in April, May and June. I can easily recall a warm Saturday evening at the Coliseum watching Herschel Walker and Anthony Carter do battle. I proudly admit that I was an Oakland Invaders season ticket holder, and I attended their first game in Oakland on March 13, 1983. Somewhere I even have a copy of the gameday program from that game called “Kickoff”.

There are many of us who loved the USFL, it gave us a local team to identify with, and many hours of football to watch during the time we used to call the “off-season”. The league is still missed, and I am convinced that Spring football would have succeeded over time.

Unfortunately the league failed for several reasons. Team owner spent far more than their television deals compensated them, and a failed lawsuit vs. the NFL proved to be a fatal blow. In the end it is but a footnote in football history, but for those three years it gave many of us a great deal of entertainment.

Being an avid collector of vintage sports video you had to know that I have a decent collection of USFL games on DVD. I would like to expand my collection, so I am open to trading if someone out there has any USFL games. I can even convert those old vhs tapes to dvd for you, if that is what you need.

At this moment here is my list of USFL games on DVD:

*** USFL Game List *********************************

1983

1983 Wk1 Chicago Blitz at Washington Federals
The 1st ever official USFL game premiers on ABC
Coach George Allen returns to RFK
Greg Landry completed 11 passes to WR Trumaine Johnson 156 yards 1 TD
Craig James runs for the Federals
Jim Lampley & Lee Corso announcers
Pregame, 2 disks

1983 Wk6 Oakland Invaders at Boston Breakers
Network switches to a different game with 6:16 in the 4th, game well in hand
Nice Quality, 2 disks

1983 Wk14 New Jersey Generals at Oakland Invaders
Herschel Walker goes for 2000 yards
Pregame, Halftime, 3 disks

1983 Wk17 Boston Breakers at Oakland Invaders
Invaders clinch the Pacific Division title as QB Fred Besana leads the way
Ex-Raiders Raymond Chester & Cedric Hardman have good games
Coaches: John Ralston vs. Dick Coury
Don Heinrich & Tom Kelly announcers
Some audio issues early, fine after 5 minutes
Brief pregame, halftime, postgame, 1 disk

1983 USFL Semi-Final Playoff
Oakland Invaders at Michigan Panthers
1 disk

1983 USFL Semi-Final Playoff
Chicago Blitz at Philadelphia Stars
Good Overtime game, 1 disk

1983 USFL Championship
Michigan Panthers vs. Philadelphia Stars
at Mile High Stadium
Good Quality, 2 disks

1984

1984 Wk6 Tampa Bay Bandits at Philadelphia Stars
Kelvin Bryant powers for 3 TD’s and 114 yards on a pulled hamstring
Sam Mills, Chuck Fusina, William Fuller, Irv Eatman, Bart Oates,
Coaches: Jim Mora vs. Steve Spurrior at Veterans Stadium
Tim Brandt & Lee Grosscupx announcers
Nice Quality, 2 disks

1984 Wk9 Arizona Wranglers at Houston Gamblers
I have 3 versions of this exciting game.
Original broadcast has edited huddles and parts are poor
Classic version is good quality
I made a combination of both, it’s the best of both
All are 1 disk each

1984 Wk10 Los Angeles Express at Houston Gamblers
Hall of Fame QB duel: Steve Young vs. Jim Kelly
Exciting overtime game
Pregame, Halftime, 2 disks

1984 Wk11 Houston Gamblers at Michigan Panthers
Great OT game, 2 disks

1984 Wk15 Houston Gamblers at Denver Gold
Todd Fowler sets USFL rushing record with 208 yards, & 2 TD’s
Jim Kelly ties George Blanda & Y.A. Tittle’s pro record 36 TD’s in a season
The Gambles prolific “run & shoot” is on full display in this game
Coaches Jack Pardee vs. Craig Morton at Mile High Stadium
Tim Brandt & Lee Grosscup announcers
Nice Quality, Pregame, Halftime, commercials, 2 disks

1984 Wk16 Michigan Panthers at Oakland Invaders
Battle between the two teams that would merge next year
Missing both team’s first drive, no scoring

1984 Wk17 San Antonio Gunslingers at Houston Gamblers
Jim Kelly and the run & shoot
Good game, Halftime, some edited huddles, 1 disk

1984 Wk18 Pittsburgh Maulers at Jacksonville Bulls
The last game ever played by the Pittsburgh Maulers
I had to get this game just so I could remember these uniforms!
In a heavy downpour part of the Gator Bowl field was actually under water
The Bulls played more like alligators, swamping the Maulers
Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier & QB Glenn Carano wore flippers instead of cleats
A great day for Robbie Mahfouyz, Tom Dinkle, Mike Whiting, & Larry Mason
Coaches: Lindy Infante vs. Ellis Rainsberg
John Sanders & Steve Talbot announcers
Halftime, commercials, 3 disks

1984 USFL Quarter Final Playoff
Michigan Panthers at Los Angeles Express
Legendary Triple Overtime game
Steve Young vs. Bobby Hebert
Pregame, 2 disks

1984 USFL Quarter Final Playoff
Arizona Wranglers at Houston Gamblers
Jim Kelly vs. the old veteran Greg Landry
Exciting game, 2 disks

1985

1985 Wk8 Oakland Invaders at Birmingham Stallions
1 disk

1985 Wk12 Los Angeles Express at Oakland Invaders
Steve Young vs. Bobby Hebert & Anthony Carter
2 disks

1985 Wk14 Oakland Invaders at Denver Gold
Important battle for the lead in the Western Division
Bobby Hebert 4 TD passes, 337 yards
Anthony Carter, Gordan Banks, Albert Bentley, Derek Holloway
Dave Browning, Gary Plummer, Ray Bentley, David Greenwood
Bob Gagliano, Leonard Harris, Bill Johnson,
Coches: Charlie Sumner vs. Darrel “Mouse” Davis at Mile High Stadium
Fred Manfra & Marv Levy announcers
Nice Quality, , commercials, 3 disks

1985 Wk14 New Jersey Generals at Tampa Bay Bandits
Exciting OT game, wacky ending 30-24
Doug Flutie & Herschel Walker vs. Gary Anderson
Coaches Walt Michaels vs. Steve Spurrier
Keith Jackson, Lynn Swann, & Tim Brandt
Halftime, commercials, 2 disks

1985 Wk17 New Jersey Generals at Oakland Invaders
Herschel Walker rushes for over 200 yards
Fun game to watch
Good game, 2 disks

1985 Wk18 Arizona Outlaws at Memphis Showboats
Reggie White, Doug Williams, Tim Spencer & John Corker
In a 38-28 win QB Mike Kelley throws & runs for a TD
Coaches: Pepper Rodgers vs. Frank Kush at the Liberty Bowl
Jim Simpson & Paul Maguire announcers
Some commercials, 1 disk

1985 Wk18 Oakland Invaders at Houston Gamblers
The final regular season USFL game ever
MNF, Halftime, commercials, 2 dosks

1985 USFL Quarter Final Playoff
Tampa Bay at Oakland
Nice Quality Upgrade of entire broadcast
Gary Anderson has a huge 1st Half, 197 total yards
Bobby Hebert & Anthony Carter lead a 2nd Half comeback
An exciting 30-27 game, Coaches: Charlie Sumner vs. Steve Spurrior
In 2nd Q:Network Breaking News return of TWA Flight 847 hostages
Pregame, Halftime, postgame, commercials, 4 disks

1985 USFL Semi-Final Playoff
Oakland Invaders at Memphis Showboats
Upgraded version no longer joined in progress
Anthony Carter has a big game 157 yards 2 TD’s
Reggie White, Mossy Cade, Mike Kelley, Tim Spencer, Walter Lewis
Albert Bentley, Gordan Banks, Gary Plummer, Dave Browning
Halftime feature on Reggie White
At the Liberty Bowl: Coaches: Charlie Sumner vs. Pepper Rodgers
Keith Jackson, Lynn Swann, & Tim Brandt announcers
Pregame, Halftime, 3 disks

1985 USFL Championship
Baltimore Stars vs. Oakland Invaders
The last USFL game ever is a good one
2 disks

*** USFL Shows & Highlight Films **********

“What A Feeling” 1983 USFL Year In Review
1984 Houston Gamblers Yearbook
Small Potatoes, The Story of the USFL

Hopefully I will have more to come soon!
Sincerely,
Bill
from Holy Toledo!
holeytoledo@sonic.net

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1 Comment »

  1. Bill,

    I went to the Pasadena Super Bowl in 1983, sat with Washington Redskin fans. What a hoot that was.

    Do you have a master list of Bill King announced games (radio or television) for the Oakland Raiders?

    I have a bunch of Bill King tapes (most from you), but I would like to put them in order and compare them against what you have.

    I like your Santa Rosa remembrance article.

    Craig

    Comment by Craig Parker — March 10, 2017 @ 3:04 am


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