Last night I watched the ESPN documentary on the USFL “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?” I really enjoyed it, as I am one of the few people I know who has any real memory of the league, and the only person I have ever met who has been to a USFL game.
I lived in Phoenix for only one school year (1982-83), but for being such a long time ago, and being so young I still have lots of memories of it.
One of them was attending a USFL game at Sun Devil Stadium between the Boston Breakers and the Arizona Wranglers. The Breakers were a good team and the Wranglers were not. The stadium was half full, but the Wranglers were still popular since Phoenix was just burgeoning as a major metropolitian area, and were sports crazy. The only other sports team in the area was the NBA’s Suns, so getting a pro football, any team meant that the town was going places.
One of my classmates, JV invited to go with him and his family to a game. JV’s family was little odd, I remember being at his house and the only thing that was allowed to be on their tv was Christan Evangelicals. I would go over there and his mom, who was pretty and nice and her boyfriend, who was quiet and weird, would be sitting in front of it, as if they were enjoying it, if that is possible.
I remember one time being at JV’s house after school and we had just finished playing Intellivision and were watching Mtv, a new channels that was super-awesome. Intellivison was probably the only thing that JV and I had in common and probably the only reason we were friends since we were the only two kids who had the system rather than the dominant Atari. When JV heard his mom’s car pull he quickly changed the channel from the Mtv to the 24/7 Evangelical channel, before hustling us off to his room to go with play with Star Wars guys or something. This was before the Jim and Tammy Baker scandal hit, so this kind of thing on cable was dominant. I remember thinking that was weird. JV would also take me to an Awana meeting, which freaked me out, and to which I never returned but that is another story.
Part of the appeal of the USFL was that it was the “fun” league, it was the league without strikes and without penalties for spiking the ball. The league prided itself on being fan-friendly at the Wranglers game there was a rock band behind one of the endzones who would crank up middle of the road hits during time outs and breaks in the action. “Rockin’ Robin” must have been played three or four times, and that is the first time that I had ever become aware of the tune. I liked it. The game wasn’t very good, as Boston was a good team and Arizona was not. The Wranglers were just getting dominated all game and in the first half were down 24-0. Apparently at all Wranglers game a new car was given away at halftime to “some lucky Wranglers fan”. At our game the lucky winnere was introduced at half to the crowd, near the Wrnagler band and given the keys to her new car, when the MC asked the winner where she was from she replied sheepishly “Boston, Massachusetts”. Boos rained down from the stands.
We left the game early, which I didn't like, and the Wranglers went on to lose 44-23.