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Hullabaloo


Sunday, September 24, 2017

 
Trump's history as a football team owner

by digby
























I had only known some of the details about his football league con until I read this Esquire story. Naturally, he bankrupted others and barely escaped with his own skin:
Before barreling through what he dismisses as his loser, low-energy, blood-coming-out-of-their-whatever opposition and shaking up politics as usual, Donald Trump was trying to shake the high holy shit out of professional football. He was just 37—a budding rogue rich guy with flyaway sandy (not yet orange) hair and a trophy first wife named Ivana. He'd just built a 68-story glass tower in the middle of Manhattan and, to make sure people noticed, put his name on it. In bronze. He'd soon open his first Atlantic City casino, slapping his name on that, too. Even back then, Trump wanted what he still wants most: more.

So in 1983 he bought a football team, joining a confederacy of other rich rogues who had just completed their first season of the United States Football League. The business plan: compete with the NFL—sport's one true, grim superpower, whom USFL owners mocked as the No Fun League—but not directly against it. The twelve-team USFL played its games in the spring, encouraged excessive end zone celebrations (the NFL penalized them), and allowed both replay challenges and two-point conversions after touchdowns (the NFL still didn't permit either). Games were televised on ABC and an upstart cable channel called ESPN.

Trump purchased the New Jersey Generals from J. Walter Duncan, a laidback Oklahoma oil tycoon who got homesick travelling each weekend to watch his team play ("You weren't going to outsmart him," one observer said of Duncan. "But you might be able to out-talk him"). With Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker already in the backfield, the Generals had been the league's flagship underachiever. They won just six games against opponents that stretched from Tampa Bay (whose halftime promotions included seven-car giveaways and the burning of mortgages) to Birmingham to Los Angeles, where the league eventually took over a team almost nobody came to watch. By the next season, when Trump bought in, the league swelled to eighteen cities—a money grab by owners to collect millions in franchise fees and soften their growing losses.

The Generals' fortunes rose instantly, but the league's did not. The USFL collapsed after just three seasons. Yet its Trumpian storyline hews eerily close to today's. The Donald made a media-inhaling, savior-is-born entrance; surged beyond expectations; then went all in on his attempt to upend the entrenched NFL by pushing his fellow owners to move games to the fall in hopes of inciting a merger. The bet brought the league, already in failing health, crashing down. Critics blame Trump's hubris. Haters wait for a similar last act in the upcoming Republican primaries.

"You can cut and paste the USFL and the GOP and it's the same damn story," says Charley Steiner, radio voice of the Generals and now play-by-play man for the Los Angeles Dodgers. "It's all about him and the brand and moving on to the next thing if it doesn't work out."

Read the whole thing. He pretty much destroyed the whole league. Now he's using that unique talent to destroy the whole country.


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