The UFL truth

Tonight, at AT&T Park — the home of your San Francisco Giants — the new United Football League (to be referred to hereafter as the UFL) kicks off its inaugural season.

Nobody cares.

This maiden contest pits the homestanding California Redwoods (whose uniforms, in stark contrast to the obvious hues suggested by the name, are a sickly lime green) against the visiting Las Vegas Locomotives.

Nobody cares.

All four of the UFL’s teams — the others are the New York Sentinels and the Florida Tuskers, the latter of which will play home games in the Tampa Bay area — are coached by NFL veterans. The Redwoods’ main clipboard holder is Dennis Green, former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals, who has local ties as a two-time assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers and head coach at Stanford University.

And still nobody cares.

The last serious attempt to burrow into the National Football League’s stranglehold hegemony occurred back in the early 1980s, when the United States Football League (USFL) struggled along for three seasons. (I use the word “serious” because no one took seriously the short-lived XFL, concocted by by the same geniuses who brought you the WWE.)

The USFL played its games in the late spring and early summer, avoiding direct competition with the NFL. The moment that the USFL — in a fit of self-destructive bravado — decided to move its season to the fall, the NFL pulled in the reins. The upstart league died with barely a whimper.

I actually enjoyed the USFL for two reasons. For one, the local team, the Oakland Invaders (a certain similarly named NFL squad was slumming in Los Angeles at the time), played many of its home games on Saturday afternoons, making it possible for those of us with Sunday responsibilities to attend. For another, the Invaders’ tickets were relatively inexpensive and readily available, unlike those of the then-dynastic 49ers, so that even on my college student budget I could take in a few contests each year.

As most startup sports leagues do, the USFL went through near-constant franchise turmoil throughout its three-year run. Between the second and third seasons, the Invaders absorbed the former Detroit franchise, the Michigan Panthers, and the two teams’ rosters merged. This resulted in the Invaders, a mediocre club their first two seasons, suddenly becoming a powerhouse — thanks to the addition of several top players from the former USFL champion Panthers, including quarterback Bobby Hebert. The rejuvenated Invaders compiled a 13-4-1 record on their way to the league championship game, which Oakland lost in a 28-24 thriller to the Philadelphia Stars.

Then the USFL went away.

I anticipate the same dire fate for the UFL. Only, I doubt it’ll take three years.

Go Redwoods?

Nobody cares.

[UPDATE: I’m informed that the first UFL game between the Redwoods and the Locomotives is actually being played in Las Vegas, not in San Francisco. You know what? Nobody cares.]

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2 Comments on “The UFL truth”

  1. Rory Nolan Says:

    Actually people do care. And by the way it wasn’t the Inaugural game. Dont give up on something you gave no chance to.

  2. SwanShadow Says:

    Rory: I appreciate your enthusiasm, my friend.

    Let’s be honest, though. The Redwoods’ first home game drew a crowd of 6,341 to one of America’s most beautiful sports venues on a Saturday evening with perfect weather. That’s not an awful lot of people caring. Or it’s an awful lot of people not caring, depending on your perspective.

    Just for comparison, the Golden State Warriors pulled more than 4,000 spectators for a preseason intrasquad practice scrimmage in the middle of a work day. The Redwoods only got a couple of thousand more on a weekend, for a game that actually counted.

    Most of the rabid sports fans I know — and I know quite a few — don’t even know that the UFL exists, much less that we have a local team in the league. People can’t care about what they don’t know about.

    So, it’s not a matter of me giving up on the UFL, or not giving it a chance. (I’m still writing about it, aren’t I?) It’s a matter of telling the truth… and the truth is that (almost) nobody cares.


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