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Filling The Void

Filling The Void: Steve Young’s Express vs. Jim Kelly’s Gamblers (No, not that one)

The USFL had some good games. This isn’t the best one, but it’s not bad.

USFL Football by Mike Russell is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Filling The Void: Steve Young’s Express vs. Jim Kelly’s Gamblers (No, not that one)

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Having a hard time with this whole “social distancing” thing? Yeah – us too. Especially when it comes to the lack of sports. So, we here at The Turf thought we’d offer a way to help ease the pain and suffering. While we may not have any of the current sports leagues to watch live, there is PLENTY of archive footage available at our fingertips. We’ve scoured the internet and assembled some of the most iconic, noteworthy and remarkable sporting events we could find. We also found some mundane, run of the mill matches and contests, that seemed banal at first watch. However, at this point, we’ll take anything that resembles sports, right? Each day, we’ll feature one of the contests and provide you a link where you can relive the glory, exhilaration, and thrill from the comfort of your couch.


I’m going to level with you. I didn’t do this right.

Steve Young’s Los Angeles Express and Jim Kelly’s Houston Gamblers did once play each other in a USFL game that Sports Illustrated called “The greatest game no one saw.”

And it does sound spectacular. There was a massive comeback and Jim Kelly almost threw for 600 yards.

I did not watch that game.

Instead, I assumed if I just looked up a Steve Young/Jim Kelly USFL game then the one I found very easily on YouTube would be this so-called classic.

It was not.

Still, we’re going to push through and look at a game that was essentially the Hydrox cookie of Young/Kelly USFL battles.

Still a classic…

This game was shown on ESPN Classic. You can argue the exclusivity of games included in the collection ESPN has labeled “classics,” but it was still a good game.

The game opens with the announcers saying, “Tonight’s game is not The Shootout at The OK Corral, but it should come close.” They also said to expect 1,000 yards of offense and 60+ points.

Paul Maguire also said the following things about the Houston offense:

“For the people who have not seen the Houston Gamblers before, they do not have a tight end”

“If you don’t catch more than 30, you don’t make the road trips for this team.”

The offensive firepower did not happen (7-7 at halftime, despite each team scoring on their opening drives), but if I can put my Stefon Ed Hardy shirt on for a second, this game did have everything else:

  • A head coach that looks just like Pete from “30 Rock”
  • A goal-line stand where future Detroit Lion Mel Gray gets stopped (though he actually probably scored)
  • A fumble returned for a touchdown by a player nicknamed “The Meat Clever”
  • A game played in a baseball stadium where a player at one point slips where third base would be
  • A TON of missed calls
  • Single bar helmets
  • A kicker who was perfect at that point missing his first kick (and also clearly being the inspiration for Adam Sandler’s “Lonesome Kicker” video)
  • Overtime
  • The dad of current NFL players (Frank Kalil, father of Matt and Ryan)
  • Multiple Hall of Famers (Young & Kelly, but also Gary Zimmerman is a rookie who recovers a fumble)
  • On-screen typos (There are two N’s in Michigan at one point)

Watching this game was like using a rotary phone. There was a comfort in visiting a time gone by, one without instant replay and where they fire an actual gun at the end of quarters. But the fact there was no scoreboard/clock on the screen at all times was super annoying, so I’m good with the 21st century.

Was the game an all-time, must-watch? No. But who are we fooling? It was a sporting event I did not know the outcome of, and at this point, isn’t that what we’re all looking for?

Terry is from Massachusetts and is a passionate fan of the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins. He also will admit he only pays attention to Syracuse basketball when they're good. If there's a Twitter trade rumor even remotely associated with one of his teams, he's likely fallen for it. Finally, he believes 100% that if the Celtics had beaten the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals they would have swept the Thunder in the Finals.

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