If you have to rationalize or debate your decision to root for the Pittsburgh Maulers, you’re probably not going to root for the Pittsburgh Maulers.
The Maulers are a professional football team that is part of the re-imagined version of the USFL.
The USFL was a much bigger entity when it first debuted in the early-’80s and seemed to be making a name for itself by playing football in the spring and not trying to compete with the NFL in the fall. This isn’t to say the USFL didn’t try to go head-to-head against the NFL in other ways. In fact, it convinced many noteworthy college and professional football players to sign up for spring ball—in exchange for very lucrative contracts.
The ‘80s version of the USFL could do that because, much like the AFL of the 1960s, it was comprised of wealthy people who had the ability to buy individual football teams and throw lots of money at talented players.
The current USFL, which was re-launched in 2022, doesn’t have that ability. Unlike the ‘80s version, a league that New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump once called “small potatoes,” the modern USFL is the very definition of a minor league. If the 1980s USFL, a league that included Herschel Walker as one its most prominent stars, was small potatoes, the current incarnation is nothing but a tater tot.
A tater tot can be good, but you probably have to pour some ketchup on it, preferably, Heinz Ketchup.
Not only is the current USFL comparable to a side dish you'd order when you don’t have a ton of money and/or are drunk, none of its teams play in their home markets.
OK, some may. I haven’t done all the research, but I do know the Maulers haven’t played a single game in Pittsburgh since 1984.
This decision to have hub cities was a way for the league to save money on travel costs. Great for saving money on travel costs but a horrible way to get people emotionally invested.
I’m supposed to care about a minor league football team just because it includes “Pittsburgh” as part of its name?
Child, please. Or, better yet, “Bless your heart,” which is usually an insult in southern cities like Birmingham, Alabama, where the Maulers played their games a season ago. The Maulers moved their home games to Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, for the 2023 regular season.
Unfortunately, it still didn’t feel like the Pittsburgh Maulers were actually the Pittsburgh Maulers.
In fact, nothing about the Pittsburgh Maulers has felt like the Pittsburgh Maulers since I was 12 years old in 1984.
They even moved away from the original orange and purple color schemes and switched to a Pittsburgh-themed black-and-gold look in 2023.
That brings me to Saturday night and the Maulers' appearance in the USFL Championship Game against the Birmingham Stallions. The game was played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, but despite the Maulers having the same advantage as the Buccaneers and Rams in Super Bowls LV and LVI, they fell to the Stallions, 28-12.
I would be depressed if I felt anything, but I’m not because I don’t.
I wanted to be emotionally invested in the Pittsburgh Maulers, but thanks to the league’s desire to save money, I decided to not pay attention to the “Pittsburgh” Maulers.
Someone asked me if there was any buzz around town after the Maulers defeated the Michigan Panthers a week earlier to advance to the championship game. No, there was no buzz because there’s never been a Maulers’ presence in the Pittsburgh area. For that reason, there’s been very little media coverage.
Why should there be? Because of the name Pittsburgh?
It’s going to take more than that to get us to care.
The only Maulers presence in Pittsburgh over the course of the 2023 regular season was on those digital billboards where the team would promote upcoming games and encourage “fans” to buy tickets and then travel two hours to Canton, Ohio.
I’m not sure how effective that marketing was.
I might have perked up at the thought of watching a Maulers game at Acrisure Stadium or Highmark Stadium, where the Pittsburgh Riverhounds frequently play their soccer matches in front of sell-out crowds.
In fact, I definitely would have gone to a Maulers game had one been played in Pittsburgh over the past two years. Getting to watch football on the cheap and in a warm climate? Sign me up!
After all, we take our sports seriously in Pittsburgh, but the teams actually have to represent Pittsburgh.
And you don’t represent Pittsburgh until you play your games in Pittsburgh.
Until then, you can spell it Pittsburg and say you represent the city in Kansas.
The Maulers probably won't mean anything to the folks in Pittsburg, Kansas, but you can pretty much say the same thing about the yinzers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The audacity to say you were going to try to win a championship for the City of Pittsburgh.
Get ahta tahn!