Michigan Panthers and The USFL Are Back. Will This Pressure the Lions?
The Michigan Panthers along with a group calling itself the USFL will be playing football this spring. It's actually more like USFL 2.0, or if you really want to be mean - $2.0 (I"ll explain in a bit) The Panthers were the league's first champions in 1983. In fact, they won more playoff games (two) than the Lions have since 1957. They drew more than 60,000 for a playoff game at the Silverdome. The Silverdome is gone, but the Panthers are back.
The new USFL will be a spring football league, backed by Fox, with eight teams from different cities, but all the games will be played in one location.
All the other USFL teams are teams that were in the original. Joining the Panthers in the North Division are the Philadelphia Stars, New Jersey Generals, and Pittsburgh Maulers. The South Division is comprised of Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, New Orleans Breakers, and Tampa Bay Bandits.
You see, back in 1982, the United States Football League was created, and with that came the Michigan Panthers. They were owned by Alfred Taubman, who made a fortune owning shopping malls and other things. He hired a good management team, even tried to hire Detroit native George Perles (who chose the Philadelphia Stars for a year before heading to Michigan State for a decade.) The coach the Panthers got, Jim Stanley, led the team to the first USFL title. And they drew a few crowds in excess of 60,000.
(USFL Forever via YouTube)
The Panthers were very good the following season, too, but an injury to star receiver Anthony Carter hurt the Panthers and they couldn't repeat. Then some USFL owners got greedy.
A group of owners led by New Jersey owner Donald Trump wanted to go up against the NFL (and maybe get absorbed, as the American Football League did in 1970.) That move was a colossal failure. The USFL sued the NFL for anti-trust violations and actually won the case, but the award was $1. The USFL never returned.
Some of the best players then went to the NFL and some are even enshrined in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (Bills QB Jim Kelly and 49er's QB Steve Young, just to name two.)
Could a spring football league work? Sure, though it depends on what yardstick you measure success with. There is talk of a big work stoppage in baseball this spring. That could help the new USFL, too. Will this pressure the Lions? Not likely. In the American sports world, the NFL is king. Even a winless Detroit Lions trumps any kind of USFL.
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