Sundays and matinees

“How Ben Roethlisberger got in my pajamas, I’ll never know.”

“How Ben Roethlisberger got in my pajamas, I’ll never know.”

My football season always ends three times: when the Denver Broncos are eliminated, when my fantasy team is eliminated and when the NFL season actually ends. This year, the Broncos were bounced while the river was still warm, and my fantasy team’s chances shattered right along with Tony Romo’s shoulder, Dallas Clark’s wrist and Jeff Fisher’s sanity.

Now that I’m facing seven months until my next botched fantasy draft, the specter of football withdrawal grows increasingly close. Movies are my coping mechanism in cases like this, but Hollywood has produced few watchable football films over the years.

Part of the problem is that the stop-start rhythms of football go against the tenets of good Hollywood filmmaking—even Brian De Palma couldn’t make a booth review look cinematic. The scarcity of mano a mano showdowns and emphasis on team play are also anti-Hollywood; American movies at their best are about the individual, while American football is exactly the opposite.

Most of the time, Hollywood has used the sport for its pre-game speech-style inspirational elements (The Blind Side, Rudy, Remember the Titans), its potential for slapstick comedy (The Replacements, The Longest Yard remake), or as pure demographic window dressing (The Game Plan, Leatherheads).

There have been a few quality football documentaries (Jim Brown: All-American, Harvard Beats Yale 29-29), a few legit entertainments (the original Longest Yard, Paper Lion), and at least one two-thirds-there attempt at a warts-and-all look at the league (North Dallas Forty, with Nick Nolte).

Beyond that, the football-film prospects are as weak as Jimmy Clausen: Jerry Maguire is about the romance, and it also stinks; Big Fan tried to examine insane fandom semi-seriously, but it also kind of stinks; and I have yet to find definitive proof that Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday takes place on the planet Earth.