Remember the Philadelphia Stars? The red-and-gold-shirted Stars (based on owner Myles Tanenbaum's old Central High colors) played at Veterans Stadium for the upstart pro United States Football League, made it to the league championship in the summer of 1983, and won it all the following year.
"We were the last true champion in Philadelphia football. We call it 'the Team that Time Forgot'," says ex-Stars tight ened Ken Dunek. That's also the working title of the movie Dunek has started making about the Stars. He says investors have pledged "in the seven-figure range" to produce the film over the next year; he's "received interest" from people at HBO and ESPN; and he's got former Sport Magazine football reporter, author and informercial producer J. David Miller and Derek Britt of New York rap video-reality show-documentary producer SeroyBritt working on the project.
It's a business story as well as a football idyll. The Stars dominated their league; they dreamed of going on to greater things -- even an NFL berth. It wasn't to be; a group of rival team owners, led by the New Jersey Generals' Donald Trump, got tired of losing money, and pressed the league to challenge the NFL's supremacy, in court with an antitrust challenge, and at the ticket office by switching to autumn games, in head-to-head competition with the much richer NFL.
That forced the Stars to relocate to a college stadium in Baltimore, where they won the league's final championship; then the USFL collapsed. Before that happened, founding Stars owner Tanenbaum, a shopping-mall developer and donor to Republican and Jewish causes and the University of Pennsylvania's Tanenbaum law library, had sold and cut his losses.
A backup on the Eagles 1980 NFL division championship team, Dunek joined the Stars two years later, after he was released by the New York Giants. His Stars teammates included Sam Mills, later an NFL All-Pro for the Saints; Bart Oates, who centered the New York Giants' Super Bowl teams under coach Bill Parcells; quarterback Chuck Fusina, punter Sean Landeta, and others who made it in the NFL.
Dunek retired to Mount Laurel, whe he runs KRD Marketing LLC; the long-ago Memphis State U journalism student self-published a book of real-life stories last Spring. His ambition is to make the Stars story a football "classic" that stands comparison with Invincible, Rudy and other grit-inflected guts-and-glory gridiron films. The Web site went up earlier this month. "This project," Dunek concluded, "is just getting off the ground."