The Superbowl is still more than a week away and there will be no playoff games on the tube this weekend. Going through football withdrawals? Then grab a beer, settle in the recliner and put in a football movie.
That’s just what I did the other weekend. My husband was busy cheering his Chargers to a win (a lot of good it did them) over my Colts (I couldn’t watch. So I snuggled on the couch in the other room with a couple football movies. But not just any football movies, but those based on real stories.
First up was Disney’s 2006-release Invincible, the story of Vince Papale, a South Philly bartender who secured his spot on the Philadelphia Eagles team in 1976 as a walk on. It was a great feel good story.
Mark Wahlberg portrayed Papale as such a down-to-earth regular guy that I could help put cheer for this unassuming man who lost his job teaching, whose cold-hearted wife left him taking everything and leaving only a mean-spirited note and who at 30 was well beyond the normal rookie age.
His own personal “rising from the ashes” was nothing compared to what his success did for the city. He became this symbol of hope for a city in despair. For those out of work or on strike, Papale was a sense of pride.
I’m too young to remember the 1976 Eagles, but I really enjoyed the movie.
This movie starts out with this huge tragedy that not only wipes out the sport program for this school, but also deeply impacts this college-based West Virginia town and it’s hard to get past the weight of that lost in the rest of the movie.
But when Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) arrives as the new head coach you can’t help but be hopefully for healing in light of his determination and enthusiasm for rebuilding the program. I don’t know if Lengyel was really that eccentric or if that’s just McConaughey’s portrayal, but you have to admit that his ‘think outside of the box’ attitude is endearing.
However, I had a harder time connecting to assistant coach Red Dawson. I’m not sure if his survivor’s guilt was hard to watch or if I didn’t like Mathew Fox’s acting in this role.
This movie does have some gut-wrenching moments so have a box of tissues handy.
If you could only watch one of the two movies, I’d recommend Invincible.
What’s your favorite football movie based on a true story?