The League

Doug Farrar

Doug Farrar

A staff writer

The Dynamics Don't Fit


The primary problem with adapting fictional football stories to the big screen is that the real thing is simply better. There hasn't been one single football movie with half the wit, or poetry, or panache, as "Bull Durham", but the NFL Films team of Steve and Ed Sabol may be among the greatest propaganda filmmakers of the 20th century. The Sabols took the visceral thrill of football, married it with Sam Spence's outstanding music, and John Facenda's "voice of God" narration. Quite simply, the real thing is better with football.

In baseball, one Ken Burns miniseries aside, documentary film making fails to capture the personal stories in a game with a pace that facilitates conversation and contemplation. You can have a mound session about five unrelated topics, as the Durham Bulls famously did, and it fits the pace of the game. It makes sense and it's realistic to interject an element of humanity into the actual game. Without that story train, without the narrative thread, baseball falls slightly flat.

Dramatizing football is a nearly impossible task. First of all, you're never going to get players at the same level of the current NFL stars, and it doesn't take an expert to tell the difference. Second, the action moves by so quickly, you're left with actors spinning out reactive dialogue as opposed to initiating and moving the action along. Try to have that same conversation about Jimmy and Millie, and the live chicken, and Nuke Laloosh's eyelid, and you're in for three straight delay-of-game calls.

There's just no way to make football better than it actually is from a fictional action standpoint, and the pace doesn't make for great dialogue. Baseball lends itself to more complex story arcs, because the pauses in action are longer and weightier. If you want to see a great football film, load up on some Sabol stuff and go to town. That's as close as you're likely to get.

By Doug Farrar  |  June 15, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Doug Farrar , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Spoiled for Choice | Next: The Truth Helps

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company