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Donald Trump got the urge to merge last week. The master builder and showman, who owns the USFL's New Jersey Generals, gutted that team, annexed a number of Houston Gamblers and came up with a combined squad whose razzle and dazzle rivals the Trump Tower's. Adding the ground-floor game of the Generals' Herschel Walker to Jim Kelly's sky-scraping air attack makes for what USFL commissioner Harry Usher calls a "dream team."
What was already the USFL's showcase franchise is now even more attractive as a prospective NFL team if the upstart league goes under. "My real goal is to challenge the NFL," asserts Trump. Though he appears to be calling the shots, Trump now co-owns the Generals with Manhattan real-estate man Steve Ross, who recently bought the Gamblers. "There's no way the Giants can beat this team," says Trump. "There's no way the Jets can beat this team. There's no way the Giants or Jets can even compete with this team."
Walt Michaels, the low-key former Jets coach who guided the Generals to the playoffs the last two seasons, reportedly will be replaced as coach of the renovated Generals by the Gamblers' Jack Pardee. Also apparently sloughed by Trump is last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Doug Flutie, whose signing was the social event of the winter in Manhattan. "There was a marriage in February and a divorce in August," said Bob Woolf, Flutie's attorney. "Thank God there's a prenuptial agreement." Flutie, who has a five-year $7 million deal with Trump, could conceivably return to Boston with the prodigal Portland Breakers, originally of Beantown.
The Generals could become New York's Team by moving into Shea Stadium in Queens, though Trump is soft-pedaling that idea. Shea is deteriorating and lies under noisy flight paths of nearby LaGuardia Airport and is, many believe, too windy for football. That leaves the bigger Giants Stadium across the Hudson in New Jersey, where both the Giants and Jets are based, but the Generals presumably would have to play on a day other than Sunday.
The merger-between the two clubs may strengthen the USFL's hand in its pending antitrust suit against the NFL, for the Generals now could very well be the most glamorous franchise in New York, yet one that, like the USFL as a whole, has no network TV contract.
COULD YOU REPHRASE THE QUESTION?
In a nationwide poll of 1,000 people, the USFL posed the question: "When you watch football on TV, do you usually also drink beer or not?" Twenty-seven percent of the respondents said yes, 70% said no.
Three percent said they didn't know.