By Keith Antigiovanni
When I looked at the calendar this morning I noticed it was March 6 and something about that date stuck in my mind but I couldnt figure out what it was until late morning. March 6, 1983 was opening week of the first regular season for the mid-1980's professional United States Football League (USFL).
I still remember watching opening day when Donald Trump's New Jersey Generals traveled to the Los Angeles Coliseum to face the Los Angeles Express on a sunday afternoon televised by ABC. I recall how odd it was for football to played only about 6 weeks after the Super Bowl but was pleased because as a kid I always enjoyed watching the sport as much as possible. The idea of a new football league was also interesting and at that time I had no knowledge of previous professional football leagues other than the NFL.
I remember the Express hanging on to a 20-15 win over the Generals and a New Jersey wide receiver getting knocked out off bounds near LA's goal-line to end the game.
There were 12 teams in the USFL that first year most of which played in cities or markets that already had an NFL team. The teams were :
Arizona Wranglers, Birmingham Stallions, Boston Breakers, Chicago Blitz, Denver Gold, Los Angeles Express, Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, Orlando Renegades, Philadelphia Stars, Tampa Bay Bandits and Washington Generals. There were also many former and future NFL coaches and players including Red Miller, Brian Sipe, George Allen, Jim Mora and Herschel Walker.
The league was broken up into three divisions: Pacific, Central, Eastern and each team played an 18-game regular season schedule which stretched it well into summer. The Michigan Panthers defeated Jim Mora's Stars 24-22 in the championship game played at Denver's Mile High Stadium in the summer. If you've ever been to Denver in the summer then you know it is not only hard to breathe because of the altitude and is also very hot. If you dont believe me then search for "1983 USFL Championship Game" on youtube. It was broadcast on ABC and the announcers were the legendary Keith Jackson and a recently retired Lynn Swann.
The USFL would add 6 teams for the following season and exist the next two seasons before they foolishly tried to compete with the NFL instead of developing their own niche as Spring/Summer football but it was entertaining while it lasted especially for the football fans who experience withdrawals every offseason.