The Result of Express vs. Arizona Game: 8,200 : And for Those Keeping Score, Outlaws Defeat L.A., 21-10, at Pierce College
After the game, you half expected Los Angeles Express players to throw their helmets in the air and shout: “Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate?”
The team’s postgame meeting was held in a tiny, dusty shed that looked more like a greenhouse than anything else. The sign above the entrance, proclaiming this to be “The Hilton,” perhaps best captured the moment.
On Saturday, this was the Express’ locker room.
It must have seemed like a stroll down memory lane for the Express and Arizona Outlaws, who played this professional football game at Pierce College in Woodland Hills.
“I thought I left all this when I left high school,” said Outlaw quarterback Doug Williams, who might have wished that he was back in the NFL.
Before an estimated crowd of 8,200, Williams led his Outlaws to a 21-10 win over the Express in what was billed as the San Fernando Valley Expermiment.
It was interesting, to say the least. When was the last time Steve Young held his postgame press conference on a hill of dirt?
The experiment in question here was whether the Express would ever be able to call the Valley its home. Running out of options, this ownerless USFL team moved its final home game to Pierce, hoping to entice new fans and ownership. The Express drew a total of 12,000 fans for its last three games at the Coliseum, which isn’t the kind of support it is seeking before switching to a fall season in 1986.
The Express knows its future is in the Valley. Saturday was a test more than a game. In fact, the play on the field seemed insignificant.
The verdict, please?
“Compared to what we’ve been drawing at the Coliseum, I’d say it was a successful experiment,” Express President Don Klosterman said. “In my judgment, this is our only chance.”
Sure, there are a few bugs to work out. First, the Express has to find an owner willing to buy a team with a 3-14 record and move it to the valley.
But remember, this was only a test. The Express did draw 8,200, which is a big enough crowd to give this team claustrophobia.
Pierce College normally seats 5,000, but 10,000 additional seats were added for this game. Express and USFL officials were hoping to fill every last one, but they came up a little short.
Because there are no turnstiles here, there wasn’t a turnstile count. Express officials made an estimated guess at the crowd.
“We didn’t have adequate help at the gate,” said Herb Vincent, Express public relations director.
And though Express players were a little embarrassed by having to play at a junior college, most were encouraged.
“Judging from what I saw today, I’d fix this thing up and keep it (the team) here,” said running back Tony Boddie, who rushed for 73 yards on 18 carries.
The stadium does need a little fixing up. The Superdome it isn’t.
Makeshift interview areas were set up within a sniff of the exhaust fumes of team buses, and there’s still a lot of dirt around.
Afterward, players hung around the cozy little stadium as if they were waiting for postgame snow cones. Whose mom was car-pooling this week, anyway?
“I thought maybe the cheerleaders would decorate the team bus like they used to do in high school,” Young said.
It was just another day in the life of the Express and the United States Football League.
The Express was lucky to even field a team Saturday. Devastated by injuries this season, it suited up just 37 players for the game.
Boddie was the team’s only healthy running back.
“We came into the game with just one back,” Boddie said. “I knew it was up to me to stay in the game and pace myself.”
The Express, of course, went with its one-back offense against the Outlaws.
And as usual, it just didn’t have the manpower to stay with the Outlaws (8-9) for an entire game.
“We only had 13 healthy players on offense,” Young said.
At the end of the game, Young wasn’t one of them. He was sacked twice in the final minute and wobbled off the field at game’s end.
Somehow, it’s harder to keep up when you know you’ll be walking out of Pierce College instead of Texas Stadium.
“I felt like I’ve come full circle,” Young said.
Yeah, so does Doug Williams.
“Playing here was a little letdown, to tell you the truth,” said Williams, who once played in an NFC championship game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “But you have to player where they play and go and win no matter the situation.”