30 for 30: Season 1, Episode 3

Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? (20 Oct. 2009)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary | Biography | Sport
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 408 users  
Reviews: 5 user | 2 critic

The story of the rise and fall of the United States Football League, focusing on two owners: John Bassett, who wanted the league to compete in the spring; and Donald Trump, who wanted to take on the NFL and play in the fall.


(as Mike Tollin)


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Himself - Director
Himself - Owner, New Jersey Generals
Harry Usher ...
Himself - USFL Executive
Steve Ehrhart ...
Himself - USFL Consultant
Marv Albert ...
Himself - Announcer (archive footage)
Howard Cosell ...
Himself - ABC Sports (archive footage)
Peter Spivak ...
Himself - Acting Chairman, USFL
Chet Simmons ...
Himself - USFL Commissioner
Himself - Running Back, New Jersey Generals
Dom Camera ...
Himself - Marketing Director, USFL
Charley Steiner ...
Himself - Broadcaster, New Jersey Generals
J. Walter Duncan ...
Himself - Owner, New Jersey Generals
Vister Hayes ...
Himself - Player (archive footage)
Himself - Actor, The Fall Guy (archive footage)
Jim Lampley ...
Himself - ABC Sportscaster


In 1983 the upstart United States Football League (USFL) had the audacity to challenge the almighty NFL. The new league did the unthinkable by playing in the spring and plucked three straight Heisman Trophy winners away from the NFL. The 12-team USFL played before crowds that averaged 25,000, and started off with respectable TV ratings. But with success came expansion and new owners. This included a certain high profile and impatient real estate baron whose vision was at odds with the league's founders. Soon, the USFL was reduced to waging a desperate anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL. This yielded an ironic verdict that effectively forced the league out of business. Now, almost a quarter of a century later, Academy Award-nominated and Peabody Award-winning director Mike Tollin, himself once a chronicler of the league, will showcase the remarkable influence of those three years on football history and attempt to answer the question, "Who Killed the USFL?" Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

20 October 2009 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

A whole bunch of folks who hate Donald Trump!
20 July 2012 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

While I am not a sports fan, I must admit that ESPN's sports documentaries are very well done and are well worth seeing even if you aren't a sports nut. In this case, I wanted to reminisce about the defunct football league. When it was in operation, I was in college and, frankly, I was so busy in school that I never watched a single USFL (and very few NFL) game during this time--so I was curious.

According to this film, there were many reasons why the USFL failed. It expanded too fast, had progressively lower ratings over time and lower attendance than anticipated. However, THE big reason the film seemed to make as interviewee after interviewee blamed Donald Trump (owner of the New York/New Jersey franchise) for the league's demise. It came off, after a while, as a long succession of folks saying why they hated and blamed Trump. As for Trump, he came off as a bit arrogant during his interviews for the film. The bottom line is that this is an interesting film AND great for anyone who dislikes Trump (such as Ivanna). Oddly compelling and worth a look.

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