Jeff Pearlman

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I’m in love with a book. Which, in this case, might sound weird

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So if you read this blog with any regularity, you likely know that I’m in the waning days of finishing up my USFL book. It’s been an absolute labor of love—my all-time, all-time, all-time favorite project. Why? Because I was a kid who couldn’t get enough of the United States Football League, and this past year has been the joyful opportunity to dive headfirst back into my youth.

Alas, I am not alone in taking this dive.

In the course of researching the league, it was brought to my attention that a man named Paul Reeths was also working on a USFL book. My initial reaction? Fuck. My second initial reaction? Fuck fuck. My third—and most reasoned—initial reaction? OK, this is no biggie.

First, Paul is an Appleton, Wisconsin-based web developer who runs a website, Our Sports Central, devoted to minor league sports news. In other words, I didn’t really think his book would be particularly good. I mean, I’d never heard of him, he’d never published an actual book. Hell, who knew if it’d even come out.

Second, his publisher was something called McFarland & Company—best known for academic works.

Third, the book was set to retail for $45. Forty five bucks? Sheesh.

Well, I received The United States Football League, 1982-86 about a month ago, began reading 10 days ago and … and … and … and—it’s wonderful. To be honest, a part of me wanted to hate this book. I sorta hoped I’d pick up some pamphlet-sized rag, grouse about dropping $45 on crap and move on with my life. But Paul’s work is remarkable. It’s thorough, it’s detailed, it’s funny, it’s breezy-yet-informative. He and I are about the same age, and for guys like us the only USFL book of real weight has been Jim Byrne’s The $1 League, which came out 30 years ago and was equal parts interesting, dry and misguided. In a way,  The United States Football League, 1982-86 gets right what Byrne got wrong. It’s more accurate, far better sourced and significantly more entertaining. Best of all, it’s written with passion. I don’t know Paul personally, but I know he wrote this not for big bucks, but love. Love of the league. Love of the era. Love of what’s been lost.

So how do I feel now, having read a quality USFL book that beat mine from the gate? Oddly relieved. Paul’s book and my book are drastically different. He interviewed about 50 people, with a significantly heavier focus on league operations and team mechanisms. I’ve interviewed about 400 people, with a far greater interest in the players, the cheerleaders, the fans, the sideline oddities and locker room weirdness. There’s a lot of crossover, but Paul and I are producing two entirely different books.

Really, though, that matters not. Yes, $45 is a lot for a book. But if you’re a football fan, and especially a USFL fan, this one is money well spent.

  • avjagfan

    I commend you for your generosity; looking forward to your book.

  • Jeremy Brandt

    Jeff, Does your book have a title or estimated publishing date?

    • Working title: The Useless. Pub date: spring 2018

  • Abcya

    Great article, and one that I feel more people should be taught in schools and colleges…

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life