A Movie A Day #36: Four Falls of Buffalo (2015, directed by Ken Rodgers)

four-falls-of-buffalo-movie-posterIn America, they love winners and that’s especially true when it comes to the Super Bowl.  Every year, one team wins the Super Bowl and goes home to a parade and sometimes a riot.  Another teams loses the Super Bowl, often becomes a laughing-stock, and spends the next season searching for “redemption,” never mind that even the team that loses the Super Bowl still did something that 30 other NFL teams failed to do.

Just ask the Buffalo Bills.  In the early 1990s, the Bills accomplished something that no other football team had ever accomplished.  They went to four consecutive super bowls.  And yet, because they lost all four times, the 90s Bills are remembered for what they lost instead of what they accomplished.  If the Bills had won all four of those Super Bowls, they would be remembered as the greatest team of all time.  But because they lost, they are forever remembered as being  joke.

Four Falls of Buffalo is a documentary about those four Super Bowls, all told from the point of view of the players that lost and the city that loved them.  Four Falls of Buffalo is very much a fan’s film but it’s still interesting to watch.  Along with detailing what went wrong (and sometimes right) at all four of the Super Bowls that the Bills lost, it also features interviews with the Bills players.  Particularly notewothy is an interview with Scott Norwood, the kicker who missed a field goal that, had he made it, would have won Super Bowl XXV for the Bills.  Even though the city of Buffalo embraced him after the loss, it is obvious that missed kick still haunts him.

Watch Four Falls of Buffalo in honor of all the teams that made it to the Super Bowl but did not get that win.

My Super Bowl Predictions

Since we are only a few hours away from the big game, I better get my Super Bowl predictions in.

I predict that the final score will be:

New England Patriots — 32

Atlanta Falcons — 17

After winning his fifth Super Bowl, Tom Brady will announce his retirement, run against Elizabeth Warren in 2018, and will be elected President in 2028.

Congratulations, Mr. President!


A Movie A Day #35: This Was The XFL (2017, directed by Charlie Ebersol)

hhmRemember the XFL?

Though it may be regarded as a joke today, the XFL was a big deal for a few months in 2001.  The brainchild of the WWF’s Vince McMahon, the XFL was a football league that, like the USFL before it, would play during the NFL’s off-season.  McMahon promised that, if the NFL was now the “No Fun League,” the XFL would be the “Extra Fun League.”  McMahon’s longtime friend and the President of NBC sports, Dick Ebersol, purchased the rights to broadcast the XFL’s first two seasons.

Ebersol and McMahon put together the XFL (8 teams and 2 divisions) in just a year’s time.  They recruited players who hadn’t been able to find a place in NFL.  Using many of the same techniques that he perfected in the world of professional wrestling, McMahon encouraged the players to be big personalities and allowed them to pick their own nicknames.  Rod Smart would briefly become a star as He Hate Me while another player requested to be known as Teabagger.  McMahon tweaked the rules, encouraging faster and more aggressive play.  Instead of a coin flip, each game would start with two opposing players scrambling for the ball.  The XFL was not only more violent than the NFL but it also had sexier cheerleaders.


In 2001, I was really excited for the XFL.  It was everything that an 18 year-old male football fan could hope for.  I was one of the 14 million people who watched the very first broadcast.  I watched half of the second broadcast and that was it.  I lost interest and I was not alone.  The XFL started with higher ratings than expected but the final games of that inaugural season set records for being the lowest-rated prime time sports telecasts in history.

What went wrong?  That’s what ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 documentary, This Was The XFL, explains.  Directed by Dick Ebersol’s son, Charlie, This Was The XFL features interviews with McMahon, the senior Ebersol, players like Rod Smart and Tommy Maddox, and sports journalists like Bob Costas.  The XFL’s rise and demise is presented as being a comedy of errors.  Already viewed with skepticism because of McMahon’s unsavory reputation, the XFL was doomed by a combination of terrible luck and bad gameplay that confirmed why many XFL players couldn’t find a place in the NFL.  During the first week, several players were injured during the opening scramble.  In the 2nd week, a power outage interrupted the broadcast of a game in Los Angeles.  With ratings in freefall, McMahon resorted to playing up the cheerleaders and sending Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura onto the field so that he could harass the coaches during the game.  Trying to do damage control, McMahon appeared on The Bob Costas Show and their hostile interview is one of the highlights of the documentary.  Even if the league ultimately failed, it is impossible not to admire McMahon’s determination to shake things up.

The XFL’s first season was also its last but, as This Was The XFL makes clear, its legacy is still evident today.  Miked-up players, the skycam, sideline interviews, all of these are the legacy of the XFL.  Even Jerry Jones, when interviewed, says that the XFL changed the way that NFL football is broadcast.

With this being Super Bowl weekend, take a moment to raise a toast to the memory of the XFL.


A Movie A Day #34: Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? (2009, directed by Mike Tollin)


A part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series, Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? tells the story of the United States Football League.  The USFL was not the first American football league to try to take on the NFL but, arguably, it was one of the most successful.  Playing a spring/summer schedule, the USFL lasted for three seasons, from 1983 to 1985.  During that time, the USFL introduced many rules that would later be adopted by the NFL, including the two-point conversion and the coach’s challenge.  Several future NFL superstars, like Herschel Walker and Steve Young, got their start in the USFL.

So, why is the USFL nearly forgotten today?  This documentary largely lays the blame at the feet of none other than Donald Trump.  Long before he was President or even a reality TV star, Trump wanted to own a football team.  When it became obvious that he wasn’t going to be able to buy an NFL team, Trump purchased the USFL’s New Jersey Generals.  Trump not only decided that the USFL needed to switch to a fall schedule and compete directly with the NFL but, under his direction, the USFL also filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL.  Ironically, the USFL won that lawsuit but were only awarded $3.75 in damages.  With the league’s financial resources depleted by the lawsuit, the USFL suspended the 1986 season and never came back.

For all the legitimate criticism that can be directed towards ESPN, the 30 for 30 documentaries have been consistently excellent.  While Small Potatoes features plenty of exciting game footage and interviews with former USFL players, it’s not surprising that the most interesting thing about it is listening to Trump revealingly discuss his time as a USFL team owner with the same mix of self-aggrandizement and defensive posturing that he uses to discuss the size of the crowd at his inauguration.  Unlike the majority of the players and former owners interviewed in Small Potatoes (including Burt Reynolds, who was one of the owners of the Tampa Bay Bandits), Trump still appears to take it personally that he was never taken seriously as the owner of a football team.

I did not know anything about the USFL before I watched Small Potatoes.  My only complaint is that I wish it had been longer.  The story of the USFL was too interesting to be confined to just one hour.

A Movie A Day #32: Number One (1969, directed by Tom Gries)

number-oneQuarterback Cat Catlan (Charlton Heston) used to be one of the greats.  For fifteen years, he has been a professional football player.  He probably should have retired after he led the New Orleans Saints to their first championship but, instead, the stubborn Cat kept playing.  Now, he is 40 years old and struggling to keep up with the younger players.  His coach (John Randolph) says that Cat has another two or three years left in him but the team doctor (G.D. Spradlin who, ten years later, played a coach in North Dallas Forty) says that one more strong hit could not only end Cat’s career but possibly his life as well.  Two of former Cat’s former teammates (Bruce Dern and Bobby Troup) offer to help Cat find a job off the field but Cat tells them the same thing that he tells his long-suffering wife (Jessica Walter).  He just has to win one more championship.

Number One is unique for being one of the first movies to ever take a look at the dark side of professional football.  At 40, Cat is facing an uncertain future.  His years of being a star have left him unprepared to deal with life in the real world.  He has no real friends and a wife who no longer needs him.  This would seem like a perfect role for Heston, who always excelled at playing misanthropes.  Heston is convincing when he’s arguing with his wife or refusing to sign an autograph but, surprisingly, he is thoroughly unconvincing whenever he’s on the field.  For all of his grunting and all the lines delivered through gritted teeth, Heston is simply not believable as a professional athlete, even one who is past his prime.  (When he played the 40 year-old Cat, Heston was 46 and looked like he was 56.)  Whenever Cat throws a football, he’s played by Heston in close-ups and very obviously replaced by real-life Saints quarterback Billy Kilmer for the long shots.  A football film is only as good and convincing as the football action and, on that front, Number One leaves much to be desired.

The 1969 press photo displays Heston's throwing technique.

This 1969 press photo displays Heston’s throwing technique.

Two final notes: For the scene in which Cat is tackled by three Dallas Cowboys (all played by actual players), Heston requested that the players actually tackle him.  Heston ended up with three broken ribs.

Finally, Number One was made the cooperation of the New Orleans Saints and features several players in the cast.  When Number One was filmed, the Saints were still a relatively new expansion team.  Cat is described as having already led the Saints to a championship but it would actually be another 40 years before the Saints would finally make their first trip to the Super Bowl.

Song of the Day: We Are the Champions (by Queen)


I’ve used this song twice to celebrate my San Francisco Giants winning the World Series in 2010 and 2012 (so shocked they won 2014 that I forgot to post it) that I thought it only fair to use it for the New England Patriots. They are the new champions of the NFL after their thrilling win over the Seattle Seahawks.

It was a game that had our own pantsukudasai56 on the verge of losing it (and he probably did but in a good way and not the bad one I was predicting). The New England Patriots have become like a sort of second NFL team for me because of two people: Tom Brady (local boy made good) and Bill Belichik (the Dark Lord himself). Yes, two people who have their equal share of admirers and haters (probably more of the latter).

These two have now cemented their 4th NFL championship through the modern salary-cap era, adversity (concocted and self-inflicted) and heartbreaking losses. Yet, as much as people would hate on Belichik deep down most would dump their coach if it meant they would have him instead. The same goes for his apprentice in Tom Brady.

So, controversies aside, congratulations to the New England Patriots for winning Super Bowl XLIX.

We Are the Champions

I’ve paid my dues
Time after time
I’ve done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes I’ve made a few
I’ve had my shelves and kicked in my face
But I’ve come through

We are the champions my friend
And we’ll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers ‘cos We are the champions of the world

I’ve taken my bows
my curtain calls
You brought me fame and fortune
And everything that goes with it
I thank you all
But it’s been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise
I consider it a challenge before
All human race
And I ain’t gonna lose

We are the champions my friend
And we’ll keep in fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers ‘cos
We are the champions of the world
We are the champions my friend
And we’ll keep in fighting till the end
Ooh, we are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers ‘cos
We are the champions

The Super Bowl XLVIII ads kick off…

…and there hasn’t even been a commercial yet. Ok, I admit this might seem petty on the surface, but I’m pretty goddamn pissed off. Over the years, I’ve experienced Super Bowl advertisements degenerate from clever, creative entertainment to raunchy, sensationalist garbage, and I’ve accepted it. I’ve seen right-wing nut jobs fork over millions to air their political garbage–anyone recall Focus on the Family’s anti-abortion ad a few years ago?–and I’ve kept my mouth shut. But what I saw in the pre-game show today took tasteless to a new level. For those of you who missed it, Fox got the rights to the game this year, and they exploited their control of the content to interrupt pre-game coverage for a half hour of Fox News and Bill O’Reilly lambasting the president.

Think about that, and forget your opinion of Barrack Obama while you do it. We’re talking about the most televised event in the world, and its exclusive broadcaster this year has set aside tens of millions of dollars worth of content time to advertise for the extreme right wing of the Republican party. “Oh, Bill O’Reilly is relatively moderate, and they just plastered a Fox News logo over it; they didn’t bring up many sensitive issues.” Fuck that. If the KKK sponsored a Super Bowl ad for white hoodies you’d all be shitting bricks. And this isn’t a conventional ad–a business transaction–a hunk of advertisement paid for in full. This is coming directly from the network that ought to be responsible for monitoring advertisement content throughout the game. This isn’t a matter of turning a blind eye for a pay check; Fox shamelessly wants you to know that this program has been brought to you by good, god-fearing straight white people (and their wives).

I suppose they’re not going to lose any viewers over it. I’m still watching–albeit on mute now until the ball’s on the ground–and the money’s already on the books anyway. It was just more dope for the already brainwashed really, and a little salt in the wound for anyone who believes in social justice. But if the NFL accepts without further comment that an endorsement of Fox Sports means an endorsement of Fox News and everything that subsidiary stands for, it’s time we all called it a fun half-century and took up soccer or cricket or something.