As you probably don’t know, I hadn’t allowed myself to invest any kind of emotion or eyesight into pro football’s recent attempts to give football fans professional football that wasn’t the NFL—I’m referring to the AAF and XFL, respectively—but I had my reasons, which were two-fold.
Number one, neither league was the NFL, which wouldn’t have been bad if this meant a professional football alternative on par with the 1960s AFL or the 1980s USFL; I’m talking about a league that was backed by filthy-rich team owners capable of stealing talent away from the NFL. Obviously, neither league had the capability of repeating that kind of history.
Number two, my city of Pittsburgh wasn’t represented by a team in the AAF or XFL, so what fun was that? At least that would have been something. You’re reading an article from a man who happily went to many Pittsburgh Power games during the few years when the Arena Football League had a team in town. I loved it. The football sucked, but it was good, clean fun, and the tickets were cheap. Heck, going to Pittsburgh Power games back in the day helped me with getting over my long-time girlfriend...for the most part, at least. I remember going to one game shortly after the breakup and excusing myself to the restroom so I could shed a few tears in the bathroom stall. As I was sobbing—and this is something that would normally only happen to a Steve Carell-generated movie character—the person in the stall next to me was heaving up his pre-game “fun.”
Like I said, the level of play sucked, but it was good, (mostly) clean fun.
Anyway, fast-forward to the now and the mostly-recent news that the USFL would be starting back up again in 2022. Not only that, but the Pittsburgh Maulers, my old Pittsburgh Maulers from the 1980s (well, 1984, anyway), would be represented in this eight-team league. I immediately knew this new USFL wouldn’t be capable of the same financial things as the 1980s USFL when several NFL and collegiate stars—including Doug Williams, Steve Young, Jim Kelly and Mike Rozier—signed with this upstart league. But I had visions of spending money on some cheap tickets to go watch the Maulers play in person at Heinz Field or a more realistic venue such as Highmark Stadium on the South Side.
I stopped paying much attention to the USFL after I heard the initial news until a few weeks ago and my discovery that the Maulers won’t set foot in Pittsburgh at all after the USFL kicks off in April. That’s right, Pittsburgh, along with every other team in the new USFL, will play in Birmingham, Alabama in 2022.
What fun is that? And forget about fun, what about logistics? Can a team call itself the Pittsburgh Maulers if that team doesn’t play a single game in Pittsburgh?
Also, there are two divisions in this reimagined USFL, a North Division and a South Division. With all due respect, shouldn’t these divisions be called the Birmingham Division and the Birmingham Division? What’s the point of having directional divisions if all eight teams are going to be playing in the same city?
How can I allow myself to fall in love with a team if it doesn’t really play in Pittsburgh? I realize many Steelers fans from all over the world have allowed themselves to do that over the years (obligatory Steelers news thrown in), but it least they love a team that actually calls Pittsburgh home.
I realize that the Maulers might eventually set up shop in Pittsburgh in 2023 or beyond, but who are we kidding? What are the odds of the USFL being around after the 2022 campaign? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
What if the Maulers drafted a notable quarterback to play for them during their inaugural season? Would that be enough to entice me to watch them? Hmm, I never thought of that. Let me check to see who they picked to be their quarterback.
Kyle Lauetta? I fold!
Maybe I can find some old Maulers home games at Three Rivers Stadium on YouTube.