I saw Jeff Pearlman speak on this, his new book at a nearby Barnes and Noble. He was concerned that nobody would read it. Pearlman has written books on such exciting sports subjects as Roger Clemens, the 90s Dallas Cowboys, and the 1980s Showtime Los Angeles Lakers. And yet, it was this subject, the relatively obscure minor league USFL that excited him more than anything else he’s worked on. But he knew it would be a tough sell, which is why, despite his relative success as a writer, it took so long to get published.
Pearlman’s excitement shines in the pages. He clearly has both a fascination with the league, mixed with a little reverence and a lot of levity. He covers its rise and fall through telling the important parts of the story while buttressing it with almost unbelievably comic tales of miserly owners, strange player, and weird fans. He also makes the case that with spring football and the moderate tv success the USFL was having, it could have been on to something if not for…
Discussions about Donald Trump leave me greatly fatigued. We’re coming up on the 2-year anniversary of his election and I still remember the feeling I had waking up on November 8th, 2016. It was one of relief that this obnoxious man would soon be out of my life. Alas, that was not to be. While I’ve read a few books on the Trump presidency, I look to reading as escapism so I wasn’t too excited that he had to be a main subject.
Fortunately, Pearlman deals with him well enough. There aren’t any wink nod references him being President some day. Just honest quotes and tales about how the guy was a moron who helped torpedo what was a really good idea. There is a small coda about USFL personnel reacting to him becoming President but it’s not treated at length and that’s good. Donald Trump makes everything about him and Pearlman is wise enough to make the story about the USFL, not just Trump.
The book has shortcomings. Pearlman will do a deep dive on a subject he finds fascinating but not go deep enough in other areas. Reading this is like visiting a beautiful home that’s not fully furnished: some rooms are great, others are empty. There’s an entire chapter on the wackiness of the San Antonio Gunslingers but other teams barely get a mention. The Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars, the league’s big dynasty, is referenced at convenience to the story but probably should have received more play.
This issue was the case with his (still enjoyable) 80s Lakers book. I think Pearlman works better with either single subjects: his Bonds book is my favorite of his and his Brett Favre one is good too. His Cowboys one is also good but I think that’s due in part to Dallas’ dynasty existing in such a short time frame as opposed to the Lakers.
Still, this is a fun read that you’ll enjoy as a sports fan even if you don’t have much interest on the subject itself. Pearlman is probably my favorite contemporary sports author.