The USFL’s Boston Breakers: Pocketful of Memories
Before Donald Trump single handedly destroyed the USFL, the Patriots weren’t the only professional football team in town.
Do you remember the Boston Breakers?
If you blinked, you may have missed them. They only played in Boston for one year.
The year was 1983.
The USFL threw their hat into the professional football arena with the NFL.
One difference they would play in the spring rather than the fall.
I was only 10 years old but I vividly remember the Breakers. I think my dad even scored tickets for a game but we never ended up going.
The franchise was awarded to Boston businessman, George Matthews and former New England Patriot, Randy Vataha.
The team like their NFL counterparts, the Patriots, also had a hard time finding a home.
After being rejected by Harvard University and Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, the Breakers struck a deal with Boston University to play at Nickerson Field.
Coach Dick Coury was the first coach in team history. Coury had stints with USC and coached at Cal State Fullerton in
his collegiate career. He also bounced around the NFL and coached the Portland Storm of the World Football League.
The team’s first year was moderately successful posting an 11-7 record. The team was led by the likes of former World Football League QB, Johnnie Walton (who was coaching football) and Canadian Football League running back, Richard Crump.
Walton had a productive year throwing for 3,772 yards and 20 touchdowns. Crump complimented the passing game with 990 yards on the ground.
The team would miss the playoffs that year by one game. However, their most memorable moment was their victory over the league’s powerhouse, the Philadelphia Stars.
The Breakers were trailing 17-13 late in the fourth quarter. Boston had the ball at Philadelphia’s 14 yard with a few ticks on the clock. Johnnie Walton threw a prayer intended for tight end, Charlie Smith.
The ball was deflected in the air.
It was up for grabs.
Would the Breakers last ditch effort go for naught?
Not if wide receiver Frank Lockett had something to say about it!
He hauled in the ball and the Breakers broke the Stars’ eight game winning streak.
The 12,000 or so fans in attendance rushed the field college style. Something you would never see in the stuck up NFL.
Before the excitement and fan following could build, the Breakers bolted out of town.
The Breakers probably couldn’t afford Mayflower trucks like the Baltimore Colts when they made their move to New Orleans.
The team’s main reason for the move was the size of Nickerson field. The capacity of the stadium was only 20, 000. The Breakers were one of two USFL franchises that drew less then 14,000 people per game.
For the team to survive, they needed to put more people in the seats.
Matthews sold his interest in the team to New Orleans real estate mogul, Joe Canizaro. Canizaro struck a deal with the Louisiana Superdome which was the home of the NFL’S New Orleans Saints.
The team started out quick but faded down the stretch and finished 8-10. The city embraced the team. The New Orleans Breakers averaged over 40,000 people a game.
Things were looking up for the USFL and the Breakers.
Until Donald Trump, then owner of the NJ Generals, pushed for the USFL to go head to head with the NFL.
There was a great risk for a small reward.
Some teams like the Breakers had to move because they could not compete with their NFL rivals.
The Breakers moved yet again to Portland, Oregon.
The team played at Civic stadium to only 19,000 fans per game which was huge drop off from their season in the “Big Easy”.
The Breakers had an abysmal season finishing 6-12.
The USFL just like the Breakers went from promise to disaster in 3 short years.
It’s unfortunate that the league folded.
The Breakers could have built a following here in Boston. By the late 80’s and early 90’s, Boston and all of New England craved for a football alternative.
If you remember the Patriots were just plain bad then.
Thanks to the USFL’s Boston Breakers for a pocketful of memories.
Check back every Tuesday and Friday for the next Cup Of Joe. If you have a story idea or just want to talk sports, you can e-mail Joe directly at email@example.com