30 for 30 (2009–2017)
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Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? 

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)


(as Mike Tollin)

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Himself - Director
Himself - Owner, New Jersey Generals (as Donald Trump)
Harry Usher ...
Himself - USFL Executive
Steve Ehrhart ...
Himself - USFL Consultant
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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References The Fall Guy (1981) See more »


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User Reviews

Not for the casual or uninformed viewer (which is not really the fault of the film)
29 January 2017 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I came to this film off a throwaway comment on a satirical podcast; the comment was that if you wanted to see how Trump approaches business, then watch Small Potatoes. With this motivation it did not occur to me that it may have mattered that I had never heard of the USFL, and that really my only interest in American Football at all is to occasionally watch the highlights of the Super Bowl.

In the end this did seem to make a massive difference, and I confess that part of the reason that I took very little from the film was that I was not target audience or even close; one could argue that a good documentary draws the viewer in, but I do not think that argument really applies here. As a result, I was mostly left cold – I had no knowledge of the characters, the situation, and the very limited involvement of Trump (in a truncated interview) meant that my only point of interest was not really key to the film. For sure people dislike him for what he did, and it certainly was a selfish act to benefit himself at the cost of others – but really is this all stuff we already know about him.

For those who remember the USFL, there is probably a good slice of history here, presented at brisk pace with plenty of highlights; however, for those just coming with the very limited interest I had, there is not enough here for the casual viewer. Not really the fault of the film, but something worth keeping in mind if considering watching it.

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