The first embodiment of the Philadelphia USFL team was owned by Myles H. Tanenbaum. He was a real estate developer and a native of Queens, NY. He acquired ownership of the team in May of 1982 and eagerly wanted to name the team after the fictional character created and portrayed by actor, Sylvester Stallone, or rather his moniker, “Stallion,” as in “The Italian Stallion,” Rocky Balboa.
So yeah, he wanted to name the team The Stallions. This was not to come to pass however, as the team out of Birmingham took that name. Therefore Tanenbaum went with The Stars by default.
George Perles, former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach was named as the inaugural coach for the Philly Stars in 1982 as well, but he never coached a single game despite being officially named. Jim Mora was subsequently hired to lead the team in that position officially being the proper inaugural active head coach for The Stars.
Legendary QB, Chuck Fusina was in the QB position for the team in what was to be the 1983 season. He would survive the move to Baltimore in the 1985 season.
And about that move…The Stars had only two seasons in Philadelphia. It was a time that was plagued with trouble, as they were constantly moved around. Their home stadium would change a total of three times in a two year period…Veteran’s Stadium, Franklin Field and finally Byrd Stadium.
Despite all the moving around, their first season did everything to send the right message, and as history proves, as the Wiki page dedicated to them shows, they along with the Panthers and Blitz, “were almost NFL-quality units,” many at the time professed.
The other unfortunate thing that affected their success was the ticket sales for games. Essentially, this is perhaps what would undo the very essence of the USFL as a whole. Pro football was dominated by the NFL at that time, and in the eighties, TV deals had a large part in making a league successful.
Nowadays, with the internet, that isn’t absolutely necessary—to procure a deal of that magnitude. Back then, advertisements, hype and overall attention was garnered by the NFL. They did get coverage of course…on ABC and ESPN, but the hype wasn’t at all what it was for the NFL.
Hype takes money, dear readers, and although Donald Trump was at the helm of the USFL and owner of the New Jersey Generals, the people out there already had their game…and that was the NFL.
This current generation may be an era of excess, but back in the eighties, people still needed time to digest. Was the league given enough time? Many argue that “no,” would be an appropriate answer. I would have to agree.
Which is precisely why attendance to games was usually low; not always the case though, for all of the USFL teams. But The Stars definitely suffered in that regard.
It was in the 1984 season that the Stars did start getting popular with the fans, however. They backed up all of their hype, The Stars starting that season incredibly well with a 16–2 record, which was a league best at the time.
A monumental moment came after the league championship game that the Stars played the Bandits at Wembley Stadium in England on July 21st of 1984.
It was in the inaugural season that The Stars battled the Panthers in the final for the USFL Championship but lost.
By the 1984 season, they defeated the Arizona Wranglers to win their first USFL championship.
By the 1985 season, Donald Trump would vote that they move to Baltimore, as they still couldn’t compete with the NFL Philadelphia Eagles, despite a growing interest in the team, but no real stadium to play out of….as even the Phillies in the MLB were a factor in that.
Such a shame for a championship winning team and no home to play out of; this hurt them considerably, and so they flocked to Baltimore, where they were known quite obviously as the Baltimore Stars, thus severing any further interest from the Philadelphia locals for reasons that perhaps don’t need specifying.
As a Montréal native myself, who lost the Expos to Washington, I didn’t follow along with them. I had to root for another team altogether when that happened and went for the Red Sox, who are still my team in the MLB, and the now defunct Expos are a thing for the history books and are to be heralded as a thing of the past. Perhaps the same was true for the fans of the original Philadelphia Stars.
After all that moving, the Stars struggled in Baltimore at first and throughout the season, but interestingly enough found a way to win the USFL championship that year as well, defeating the Oakland Invaders. That was the last game played for the USFL in that era in its original embodiment.
Tanenbaum sold the team and all interest to Stephen Ross, another developer.
Now at this time, the USFL was involved in an antitrust lawsuit with the NFL. Another added issue…much like what’s going down now between the old USFL and the new USFL although for different reasons that I’ll specify in a bit.
Anyhow, lawsuits were filed even back then… an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL that went in favor of the USFL. Because of damages, they were granted 1$ million dollars and because of specified antitrust laws that sum got bumped up to $3 million dollars, but it was all for not, as the league folded a day after the ruling regardless.
Specifics of the suit back then were quite simple: The USFL and its principle lawyer, Harvey Myerson, set out to prove that the NFL had planned strategically to monopolize professional football, thus leaving no room for the success of any other league. As mentioned earlier in this piece, the USFL was losing loads and loads of money, their ratings were down, despite coverage, and their attendance at games wasn’t where it should have been.
So they filed suit and won, but the reward was nowhere near enough; many at the time suspected a possible pay-off from the very powerful NFL, but of course that was then what it is now: nothing but conjecture.
As has been reported by senior writer for espn.com, Greg Garber, the suit did the USFL a lot of harm and not a touch of good in the end.
And now the new USFL is being sued by the old USFL for copyright infringement, false association and false advertising according to reports. Looks like they didn’t learn the lesson that was staring them in the face at the end of that 1985 trial, eh?
Regardless, fans are elated that these teams are coming back on April 16th, and The Philadelphia Stars get a go at making quite the comeback in all its glory…representing the city they never got properly settled into but fought so hard to defend.
This time, Philly gets to make it right. This time, Philly gets to trample all over the naysayers and those that did them wrong in the past…very much like a Stallion would, and hey…why not? After all, he is Philly’s patron saint even if he is fictional: Rocky Balboa “The Italian Stallion” himself.
They’re here to hit, get hit, and keep moving forward, no matter how many times they’ve been down; a lot of history behind this team; behind this league, and a lot of impressions to be made and left out on that USFL field; a lot of ghosts to answer to and a lot of games to be played.
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” – Sylvester Stallone (Script for Rocky Balboa – Rocky’s soliloquy to his son, Robert)