Our Attempts to Stay On Board with the USFL are Failing

Source: USFL

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The USFL is off to a rough start.  We were committed to covering this league, with Pittsburgh having a team, although just in name alone.  The Pittsburgh Maulers were an exciting, new professional football team that would don the…purple and orange?  Despite not being black and gold, this color scheme actually made sense, staying true to the original league back in the 1980’s.  However, it was already not being accepted by some die-hards in Pittsburgh.

Another difficulty of becoming loyal to this new team was that no game would be played in Pittsburgh for the first season, nor was the team owned by anyone associated with the city.  Fox Sports owns this entire new league and all games would be played in Birmingham, Alabama, at least for the first season.

However, professional football in the spring is fun so we were eager to get on board.  We previewed the draft, reported on their rule adaptations, and talked about them several times on Saved By the Ball, our newest Pittsburgh sports podcasts.  

We did this despite very little information being released by the league itself.  They hadn’t even released the player poll prior to the draft, essentially ending any draft speculation that fuels football talk in the offseason.  The NFL offseason thrives on draft speculation.

After the USFL Draft, we reached out through several different avenues to try and interview any Pittsburgh Maulers’ player or coach.  We never received a response.  Our goal was simply to promote the league to more fans and get the word out.  Nothing.

Now this isn’t some sour grapes story.  We are not the largest media outlet so we would have been honored by an interview, and certainly did not expect one.  Also, it did not stop us from continuing to cover the league and still have excitement for the upcoming season.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this weekend’s opening games can be characterized by anything other than underwhelming, and maybe even a bust.  First, starting your league on Easter weekend turned out not to be a good idea.  People have too much going on, prior commitments, and long-standing traditions that don’t involve watching football on Easter.  I did not see any social media buzz about the games up until the Pittsburgh Maulers game was set to start.

I finally was ready to tune into the Maulers when I noticed the game was not starting on time.  I didn’t notice this from a tweet nor an Instagram post from the league, but just the fact that it was 8PM and the game was not on the scheduled channel.  I had to Google “Pittsburgh Maulers” to find that the game was indeed delayed an hour due to weather. 

A football game delayed due to weather?  I mean it occasionally happens in the NFL, but we certainly would call it unusual.  This delay was perpetuated by the fact that all the games are played on the same field throughout the weekend.  The combination of the weather and the amount of football that had been played on that field caused the surface to be unsafe for the 8PM game.  The game was postponed. 

It is rescheduled for tonight, Monday the 18th at 7PM.  Just in time for it to now compete with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers at 7:40 PM.  While the Pirates are not the city’s favorite team right now, they will still steal fans away from the Maulers.  

Case in point, I have two televisions in my living room.  One is for whatever my wife wants to watch together and the other is for a muted sports game.  I will have the Pirates on the latter tonight where I would have had the Maulers on last night.  I am just one guy, but as the USFL’s target demo, I can use myself as an example of a lost fan.  I can't be the only one.

It's simply a tough start for a league desperate to find some footing. 

Then, this embarrassing and incriminating video came out about the Maulers and former running back De’Veon Smith.  Smith is meeting with Maulers head coach Kirby Wilson.  In the video, Smith is cut because he was delivered a chicken salad instead of pizza.  Seriously, here’s the video below.  Watch for yourself.

The most embarrassing part about this video is it’s not as if the video was leaked.  It was put out by the league as some sort of “we hold our players to higher standards” type video during the rain delay last night.  It makes Wilson look like a total fool and the league itself look even worse.  It is making its rounds through Twitter today, and the more views it gets, the worse it is for the USFL.

In a league that already is terrible at reporting relevant news, has very little buzz around it, and had several issues opening weekend, this video is not a good look for a league hoping to be taken seriously.  We will continue to try and report news of the Pittsburgh Maulers, when they even give us relevant news to report, but this league does not appear as if it will last long.


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