Alan Alda, Billy Dee Williams, Brian Piccolo, Brian's Song, Chicago Bears, Daniel Ruettiger, Gayle Sayers, George Plimpton, Horse Feathers, James Caan, Marx Brothers, Paper Lion, Rudy, University of Notre Dame
Yesterday, I talked about my favorite baseball films. But with the Super Bowl on Sunday, I thought a football movie episode of “As The D.J. Turns” is in order and what I consider my favorite football films.
“Horse Feathers” – This 1932 Marx Brothers film turned college and college football upside down. The four brothers descended upon Huxley College and anarchy was king. There were college students only enrolled at Huxley and rival Darwin College to play football. That would never happen today. (SARCASM ALERT! SARCASM ALERT!). In the open moments of the film, Groucho takes over as president of Huxley College with a preview of his leadership with the song, “I’m Against It.”“I don’t know what they have to say. It makes no difference anyway. Whatever it is, I’m against it! No matter what it is
or who commenced it. I’m against it!”
“Rudy” – This 1993 film, from the same writer and director as the 1986 Indiana high school basketball classic “Hoosiers”, isn’t as good as that. But it comes close. It’s the true story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger and how he fulfilled his dream of attending the University of Notre Dame and playing for the football team despite a lack of size and talent. Yes, I knew I was being emotionally manipulated at many points of the film. But I didn’t care. Who doesn’t want to see someone achieve their dream? The movie is inspiring and exhilarating. And the scenes of football practice show that Ruettiger paid a price to be on the football team, so the movie is not a sugar coat treatment. I was fortunate enough to be at the premiere of the movie in Ruettiger’s hometown of Joliet. And I was at the Boston College at Notre Dame game where the scenes of the first and only game Ruettiger played in were filmed during halftime. I’m sorry to say my work on the film ended up on the cutting room floor. Well, I was in the 56th row or so of the stadium. That probably didn’t help.
“Brian’s Song” – Men, you will not lose you gold mancard or the cable company will not take the Spike channel off your channel lineup if you choke up at this 1971 film. It is the story of the friendship between future hall of fame running back Gayle Sayers and Chicago Bears teammate Brian Piccolo, who was struck down by cancer and died at age 26. Avoid the 2001 remake, watch the original with James Caan as Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams as Sayers.
“Paper Lion” – Four years before the start of “MASH”, Alan Alda was the star of this adaption of the book by George Plimpton on his experiences as a player in the Detroit Lions training camp. Plimpton was a writer and out of his element participating in the camp and that’s what makes this moving funny and entertaining. And it’s interesting to see how the NFL was before it became a mega-entertainment empire.
UNTIL NEXT TIME. . .