The League

Gene Wang
Fantasy Guru

Gene Wang

A sports staff writer at The Washington Post

The Truth Helps


Traditionally football movies have been critical disasters and box office duds. Think "Any Given Sunday," "Varsity Blues," "Necessary Roughness" or "The Program."

The first problem with most football films is casting. Al Pacino, for instance, as a football coach in "Any Given Sunday" was hardly believable. Same goes for Adam Sandler as an inmate in the remake of "The Longest Yard."

Another issue is cliches. Football movies, and sports flicks in general, are full of them. Why watch a pretend character throw a winning touchdown in the closing moments when we can see it really happen almost every Sunday?

Another glaring flaw in football movies is authenticity. Most actors grew up having learned at some point how to throw a baseball or shoot a basketball. Very few learned how to throw a football correctly, much less block and tackle, so it's not surprising to see some of those movements portrayed inaccurately on screen.

That's not to say all football movies are bad. "We Are Marshall," "The Express" and "Remember the Titans" were highly entertaining and critically acclaimed. What separates them from other football movies, however, is that they were based on true stories.

Consider "North Dallas Forty," perhaps the best and certainly the funniest football movie of all-time. It too was based on actual events as written by former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Pete Gent in the book of the same name.

So the rule of thumb for football films is to avoid fictional accounts of the sport. It's those movies that give the entire genre a bad name.

By Gene Wang  |  June 15, 2009; 8:12 AM ET  | Category:  Gene Wang , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Related to this is the fact that people in show business who never played the game relate to sport primarily through the common, accessible features of another entertainment venue. Too often the alleged football movie turn into a thinly-veiled analysis/self-criticism of Hollywood: the skill players become the stars; the linemen become the technical crew; the coach becomes the director; the owner is usually the blundering and arrogant producer.

Posted by: n_observer | June 15, 2009 5:24 PM

You think Any Given Sunday was a BAD movie? This is without a doubt the best football movie ever made. Cameron Diaz makes a great villain as the evil daughter of the original owner. And the fact that Al Pacino bears an uncanny resemblance to football's OTHER Al only makes him that much more believable. His last locker room speech is one for the ages. A truly great movie, because it balances a love of the game with a healthy dose of cynicism about the business side. Don't listen to anything these columnists say -- go watch the movie and judge for yourself...

Posted by: jerkhoff | June 15, 2009 5:34 PM

"Any Given Sunday" is a fantastically entertaining movie. Is it accurate? I have no idea. But I have no problem believing Pacino as a coach (he reminds me a bit of Tom Flores). And how accurate is "Pride of the Yankees"? or "Field of Dreams"?

The movie gives an idea of the violence, excitement, triumph, and heartbreak involved in the game. It is not meant to be used as an instructional film.

Posted by: StPaul1 | June 16, 2009 10:37 AM

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