OK, so football season (my favorite season of all), is less than two months away.
It’s July and I need a football fix.
I’m sure you do too.
There’s only so many baseball games you can watch and there’s way to many left turns on the NASCAR circuit.
Football is near and you can feel the fever.
The Canadian Football League, already in Week 3 for those of you who might not know, has offered me a brief respite but even I can’t get used to three downs, single points, 12 men on the field, having TWO 50-yard lines and those ugly orange penalty flags.
So now I will give you my favorite and least favorite football movies of all time.
There’s a bunch of them — literally dozens and dozens and I haven’t seen them all. So without further ado, let’s put on the pads, strap on the helmet, strike up the band with the fight song and let’s run out of the tunnel.
1. Rudy (1993). The gold standard in football movies. Hands down.
Rudy is No. 1 and head and shoulders above all others even for all of you Notre Dame haters. There’s plenty of those people to go around in West Virginia.
It’s the story of the underdog and a young man, Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, a five-foot-nothing and a hundred-and-nothing, who dreams of playing football for his beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
He will stop at nothing to prove all of his friends and even his family wrong.
Rudy, played by Sean Astin, not only makes the scout team as a walk-on but also dresses in a game in his senior season, even sacking the quarterback.
It really happened. Well sort of.
In the actual event, Ruettiger and a teammate simultaneously sacked the quarterback (a half sack statistically). The game film shows Rudy bringing down the QB all by himself. Notre Dame radio announcer Don Criqui makes no mention of Ruettiger, unlike the play-by-play man in the movie.
There’s other historical inaccuracies as well, but hey, it’s only a movie.
Still, it’s an inspirational movie and shows just how much drive and determination can get you when your mind is set on something.
A young Vince Vaughn, a real life Irish fan, plays a minor role in the movie — one of the Notre Dame football players.
Ruettiger is a motivational speaker these days.
The movie’s soundtrack, by composer Jerry Goldsmith, is outstanding.
2. Remember the Titans (2000). Another inspriational movie, Remember the Titans follows the true-life story of African-American football coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) as he coaches his racially diverse team, T.C. Williams High School (Va.), to the state championship in the 1970s.
Although there are some historical inaccuracies, this movie scores a touchdown big time. You don’t have to be a football fan to enjoy this one.
3. The Longest Yard (1974). There’s nothing like the original.
And 1974’s The Longest Yard, starring Burt Reynolds, offers football realism, as opposed to the crappy Adam Sandler remake years later (see below).
TLY, directed by Robert Aldrich, was a revolutionary and groundbreaking film in the sports movie genre.
The film follows disgraced former pro football quarterback Paul “Wrecking” Crewe (Reynolds), an inmate who is forced to cobble together a rag-tag football team made of of prisoners and then play the guards, the five-time defending national champions in semi-pro football.
There’s some funny moments in the movie but the football itself is quite realistic. You can almost feel every crunching block and tackle.
Many of the actors, either playing for the guards or the Mean Machine, had previously played football either in the NFL, CFL or at the major college level, most notably Ray Nitschke, Joe Kapp, Pervis Atkins, Sonny Sixkiller and Ray Ogden.
Nitschke was a middle linebacker for the Green Bay Packers and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978, four years after the film’s release.
Way back in the day, Reynolds himself was a high school football star and grid standout at Florida State before a knee injury ended his career. He has the look and feel of a real football player. That’s because he was.
Sonny Shroyer, who played the inmate Tannen (Enos on TV’s Dukes of Hazzard fame), went to Florida State as well on a football scholarship.
The movie was set in Florida but was filmed in Georgia with the cooperation and help of then Gov. Jimmy Carter.
4. We Are Marshall (2003). How could you not like 2003’s historical biopic We Are Marshall and be from West Virginia? Not unless you are a West Virginia fan maybe.
The movie follows the true-life story of the 1970 Marshall University plane crash, the aftermath and the rebuilding of the program a year later.
Director McG’s film is very underrated on the national and world-wide stage, and tugs at your emotional strings, especially for West Virginians who lost loved ones on that horrible day in November.
The plane crash scene itself is quite moving and powerful.
The Xavier game — the movie’s centerpiece and climax — makes you want to stand up and cheer for the Thundering Herd. Even if you wear the Blue and Gold of WVU.
The film’s title score by Canadian composer Christophe Beck futher stirs your soul. The late 60s/early 70s rock/pop soundtrack is also supurb.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Marshall football coach Jack Lengyel, who is given the colossal task of rebuilding a program from scratch following the tragedy.
My favorite scene in the movie is when Lengyel and assistant coach Red Dawson (Matthew Fox) travel to Morgantown to study the veer offense, which was the bread-and-butter at WVU, then coached by the legendary Bobby Bowden of later Florida State fame.
Bowden allows the coaches to study WVU’s game film and notes and stay as long as they want. A pair of WVU football players come into the film room and a green MU memorial stickers are shown on the back of the Mountaineers’ helmets to honor the 75 who perished.
Bowden himself reportedly became emotional when he first viewed the film. In real life, Bowden petitioned the NCAA to allow for his WVU players to don Marshall jerseys and play the Herd’s last game for them in 1970 following the plane crash. He was denied.
There were some well documented historical inaccuracies in the movie. The Herd actually beat Xavier on a screen pass play and not a toss to the end zone. They didn’t have FieldTurf in 1971. The memorial service was held at the old field house and not Fairfield Stadium as depicted in the movie.
But again, hey, that’s Hollywood.
5. All The Right Moves (1983). My No. 5 all-time best football movie is 1983’s All The Right Moves, starring a young Tom Cruise.
It may be too high on the list — most people’s lists — but the film is very good, although it seems quite dated some 30-plus years later.
The movie follows the story of a cocky western Pennsylvania high school senior football defensive back Stefan “Stef” Djordjevic (Cruise), who dreams of leaving his rough blue-collar hometown and getting a shot at playing major college football.
The backdrop is depressing — the gritty ficticious steel/coal town of Ampipe, Pa., during an economic recession of the early 1980s.
The movie also stars Craig T. Nelson (Coach Nickerson) of later TV’s Coach fame, the late Christopher Penn who plays Brian, one of the Ampipe football players and Stef’s best friend, and Lea Thompson, Stef’s saxaphone-playing, easy on the eyes, cute girlfriend.
The movie was filmed in and around the Johnstown, Pa., area and Cruise lends credibilty as a prep football player. He was quite an athlete in his day I have read, even playing high school football his senior year.
Two things, however, always stick in my craw about the movie.
I’m no football coach but why did Coach Nickerson call a handoff on the last play of the game up four points on their own 1-yard line in those muddy, rainy conditions in the Walnut Heights game? Ugh. Tough to watch.
The QB could have fallen on the ball and ran out the clock. Or they would have given them the two points and the safety and punted it out of there they would have won the game.
Win some, lose some I guess.
The other thing I don’t like is Coach Nickerson’s locker room speech where he uses totally unexcusable racial slurs about his players when talking about what the Walnut Heights fans think about them.
Still, a very good football film.
Back in 2012, to honor the 30-year anniversary of the movie, two Pennsylvania high schools donned replica Ampipe and Walnut Heights uniforms in a game.
This time Ampipe (actually Greater Johnstown High School), didn’t choke and beat the Knights (Westmont Hilltop High School) 20-17.
Here’s the best of the rest:
HONORABLE MENTION (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER):
Friday Night Lights (2004).
Jerry Maguire (1996).
The Blind Side (2009).
Brian’s Song (1971).
The Waterboy (1998).
Quarterback Princess (Made for TV 1983).
The Best of Times (1986).
THE WORST (THERE’S ONLY ONE):
1. The Longest Yard (2005). Not to be confused with the brilliant original, by the way.
Although Adam Sadler’s character in the 1998 comedy The Waterboy was laughable, he’s not to be taken seriously as a REAL quarterback and a REAL football player. That’s why the 2005 remake The Longest Yard is such a loser compared to the 1974 classic of the same name starring Burt Reynolds.
This is by far my LEAST favorite football film and a movie that I absolutely hate. Why have remakes anyway? This was a prime example of why you should not remake or “re-imagine” a classic.
Reynolds makes his return in the remake, instead playing the role of the aged Coach Nate Scarborough, but he can’t make this clunker into a winner.
As noted above, Reynolds actually played college football back in the day and was a real football player. Sandler, well, um, he’s just in Mean Machine costume.
Sandler, this time taking the lead role Reynolds played in the original — former pro QB Paul Crewe — informs the Warden (James Cromwell) that his team made up of the prison guards, needs a tune-up game against a bad team like Appalachian State and then “beat the crap out of them.”
Umm, didn’t Appy State go on to beat beat Michigan at the Big House?
This cringe-worthy remake is a real stink bomb, what can I say?
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).