by Adam Riske
I don’t know what happened (maybe Draft Day?), but all of a sudden I’ve become a football fan. I’ve always been a huge fan of baseball and especially basketball, but football? No way! I used to go to the movies on Sundays to get away from football (oddly enough, I once saw Two for the Money once on a Sunday), but now I’m all about fantasy football leagues and watching some pigskin with my boys while we eat crabby snacks and homemades. The movies made me appreciate football.
My aversion to football started when I was young. Unlike baseball or basketball, my family never went to football games when I was growing up. My first live pro football game was not until after I graduated from college, so all I remember was that I lost my dad one day a week to the television. It sucked. I like my dad. He would pace around the living room as the Bears or the Colts played and I would pace around the living room wanting it to be Monday. Fuck, there’s a game on Monday!
When I turned 10, I super hated football, but was ok with football in movies. For example, I watched Class Act on HBO incessantly and I always perked up with the scene where Kid tries out for the football team. I also recall going to see Suburban Commando in the theater and leaving in the middle to “go to the bathroom,” which actually meant “peek in other theaters.” One of those movies I would check in on was Freddy’s Dead (because danger). Another was Necessary Roughness. Why Necessary Roughness? Because Kathy Ireland. Surely, the audience for NR was having a better time than the one for SC. Because Shelley Duvall.
The Last Boy Scout, which I saw WAY TOO YOUNG but loved. It was so adult. I couldn’t get enough of it. It taught me many things: 1) Friday night IS a great night for football; 2) Jimmy Dix could have had a hell of a career if he didn’t start up with drugs and 3) “Ain’t life a bitch?”
To this day I still love these movies. Willie Beamen is my favorite football player. The Miami Sharks are my favorite football team. These things will never change. I know, I live in Chicago Bears country, but if the Bears and the Sharks ever faced off, you best believe I’m going in fins up. But still, no matter how much I loved football movies, I didn’t give a damn about football the sport.
Lucky for me, three movies have come out in recent years that have made me enjoy football because they focus on a) fans or fanatics or b) people who work in football but don’t actually play football. Those movies are Big Fan, Silver Linings Playbook and “Say it with me, you pancake-eating motherfucker,” Draft Day (which I love a little bit despite knowing it’s not a good movie).
Big Fan is a movie I can relate to because it shows the dark side of being a die-hard fan of anything. In the movie it’s football, but I once saw an opening night screening of Big Fan at the Music Box and the director Robert Siegel was there. He said the story was arbitrarily about football because you can’t do a dramatic arc about something like baseball fandom with its 162 game season. Football is 16 compact games, which makes it easier cinematically, but honestly Big Fan could be about a movie fan just as much as a football fan so I can relate better to it. In Silver Linings Playbook (my favorite movie), it’s the community of football that I love. Everyone getting together, getting into each other’s business and ribbing one another communally. I eat that shit up in movies and in life. I love it. It makes me want to believe in the Philadelphia Eagles juju while noshing on the aforementioned crabby snacks and homemades. And when it comes to Draft Day, it’s simple – I love business. I am fascinated by the business of movies and the business of sports equally, so it makes me a captive audience. I would be lying if I didn’t pretend I was Kevin Costner in Draft Day during my fantasy football draft this year. #PeytonManningNoMatterWhat
P.S. No, I am not going to watch When the Game Stands Tall. Because never Jim Caviezel. He’s in it for himself.