The USFL dig

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So as I’ve said a few times, I just started work on a new book project—a biography of the United States Football League (my all-time favorite sports entity).

Anyhow, I’m only about two weeks in. But that doesn’t mean I’m not deep into the whole research thing. Hell, it’s sorta the opposite. I’m deep down in the trenches, which means—as we speak—I’m going page by page through the painfully/joyfully  thick 1984 league register, creating a Word file for every player and trying to nail down their whereabouts. This is accomplished via several routes:

A. A general Google search: If you type in “Guy’s Name” and “Delaware State” (or whatever college he attended), you’ll often wind up with either a LinkedIn In page or an actual company website where he now works. The second is absolute gold, because you’ll almost always get either a phone number, e-mail address of both.

B. Nexis search: Nexis, while way overpriced, has a fantastic person find tool. Back 10 years ago (even five years ago) this was golden. But nowadays, I’d say only 40 percent of Americans ever answer their home phones—and Nexis only offers home phones and addresses. So that can be a bummer … finding someone, calling and hearing ring … ring … ring … ring.

C. College sports information directors: This is a legit option, and the universities are usually happy to try and help. But, with the passing years comes decreased contact. A 2012 Miami halfback is still in the system. A 1978 Miami halfback is often gone into the abyss.

Anyhow, the whole thing is sorta pleasure-pain. Because I love the USFL, I love this project. But this stage can be daunting, and a tad tedious. Oh, it can also be depressing. One thing you realize from writing a football book is that the sport’s participants truly do die young at a staggering rate. Every page of the directory has five players listed, and I tend to take them on in groups of 10. With rare exception, one … two … three of those men are no longer with us. For example, these guys are listed back to back, and they’re—tragically—gone …

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Anyhow, I’ll spend the next few weeks finding people, creating Word documents with their contact info, hoping it’s correct. Then I’ll start the big calling portion. Which is always fantastic.

Stay tuned …