So my most recent Sunday was chock full of excitement as the most interesting thing I did was catch “The Replacements” on TNT. To refresh your memory “The Replacements” “stars” (if you can call it that) Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, and some British Guy and tells the riveting story of a professional football team that tries to carry on despite all of its players going on strike. The roster is then filled with replacement players (or scabs as my good friends at Masons Local #109 would call them) and hilarity ensues.
As I watched the movies, I realized that pretty much every movie Hollywood makes about football is basically the same, and wondered if Kentucky’s upcoming football season could possibly follow this same path of cliches. As a result, I bring to you, “4th and Long”, a story about UK’s football team in 2006. Right away you will notice the title. In Hollywood football movies you want a title that is just a little clever, has something to do with football vernacular, and gets less clever and more annoying each time you hear it. I chose 4th and long because it is Richie’s 4th year and the odds of them having a successful season are long (unless you’re a Wildcat fan).
In order to have a good football movie, you need several character types that appear, almost without exception, in all of them.
1. Hollywood–You need a quarterback who has confidence problems and/or emotional issues. See Scott Bakula wondering if he will get his game back despite being 73 years old in “Necessary Roughness”, Joe Kane’s alcoholism in “The Program”, or Shane Falco’s inability to win a big game in “The Replacements” (Chris Simms is the real-life version of Shane Falco). This confidence problem stems from/is compounded by the lack of affection from the quarterback’s father during his youth.
1. UK Football–Andre Woodson fits the bill nicely here as someone with unquestionable talent, but a seeming lack of confidence or the ability to “get it”. Watching his internal demons through the eyes of the camera come to life would be quite a sight to behold.
2. Hollywood–A love interest is needed for our quarterback who is not quite what he is used to. The quarterback has always dated the head cheerleader his entire life, but this girl’s different. Usually not blonde (unfortunately), she has a different outlook on life and this attracts our hero. Despite difficulties in the middle of the movie, she ends up at the Big Game. Examples include Necessary Roughness, Varsity Blues, the Replacements, The Program, the Waterboy, etc.
2. UK Football–OK, so I don’t know who exactly this would be, but Mickie DeMoss might fit the bill. Granted she’s 30 years Woodson’s senior, but she would certainly be different than any girl Woodson has ever dated (I hope) and bring a certain touch of class to our quarterback’s otherwise sweaty and bloody world.
3. Hollywood–Every Hollywood football movie has a really fat lineman who is always of Pacific Islander descent (Samoan to those who aren’t as PC). This lineman is soft-spoken, but plays like an animal. You will sometimes find a very attractive girl attracted to this character due to his sensitivity and warmth. Necessary Roughness, the Replacements.
3. UK Football–Fatu Turituri.
4. Hollywood–The Kicker. Each movie must have a placekicker who is outside the bounds of convention for football. Be it Kathy Ireland in Necessary Roughness, Derek the black placekicker in the Waterboy, or the British Soccer Player that starred in Notting Hill and is in his underwear much too often in Replacements.
4. UK Football–Don’t know much about Lones Sieber, but he sounds foreign and, until UK can recruit a girl to kick field goals, he’ll have to do.
5. Hollywood–The Crazy Linebacker. Each movie has a linebacker who is borderline insane thanks to his intensity on the football field. This character will often hit one of his own players at some point in the movie, leave an opponent lying on the field as he celebrates over them, and induce laughter with his trash-talking antics while on the field. Examples include the Waterboy, Jon Favreau’s character in the Replacements, the Army guy in Necessary Roughness, and both Lattimer and Alvin Mack from the Program.
5. UK Football–Wesley Woodyard. The young man makes up for a lack of size by having the intensity and motor of Quentin Tarantino. He would do well in making us laugh with clever trash-talking tactics and new ways to celebrate punishing hits.
6. Hollywood. The receiver who can’t catch. Each football movie has to have a receiver who is unbelievably athletic, can jump out of the stadium, and can’t catch VD…well, you know the rest. Everyone hopes all season long that he will be able to capitlize on his athletic ability and just catch a ball for a big play. Examples: The Replacements, Little Giants, that movie with Robin Williams.
6. UK Football–John Logan. ‘Nuff said.
7. Hollywood. The coach that is either very respectable but hasn’t won big, or is washed up. This coach does things the right way and instills discipline in his team. He also finds a way to motivate them to become champions after seasons of dismal performance. Examples: The Replacements, Necessary Roughness, the Waterboy, Little Giants.
7. Rich Brooks. Brooks can play both of the roles as it is debatable as to whether he has ever won big, and many would consider that at his age (206 years old) and less-than-stellar three seasons on the job at UK, he is washed up. We are hearing that discipline has improved under Richie’s watch, and the talk/confidence coming out of the UK camp is as positive as it has been in years.
Now that we have our cast of characters, there are several plot devices that must be used.
1. “The team starts out as a loser and all hope seems lost”. This could very happen as UK starts off with a highly ranked Loouhvull team.
2. “Something happens to bring the team together”. In the movies this generally happens after a bar fight, but let’s hope that Cats find a more “Remember the Titans” way of finding togetherness. I can see Aaron Miller singing “Ain’t too Proud to Beg” as we speak.
3. “The team starts putting together a small winning streak”. This part of the movie is compressed into a 7-minute montage showing great plays superimposed with scoreboards and/or newpaper headlines touting the team’s newfound success.
4. “The Big Game” The team does well enough to garner some sort of post-season or are playing for something meaningful in their last game.
5. “Crazy things happen in the Big Game, they are down at halftime, but come back to win.” In the following paragraph, I will use all the Big Game cliches by using the UK players’ names. Things are going terribly in the first half, but the score is, inexplicably, only 16-0. A spark ignites in the locker room at halftime and the Cats play like (USC) Trojans in the second half. Andre Woodson finds his confidence and starts playing like Willie Joe Namath, Lones Sieber makes a big-time kick to get the team on the board, the loyal Samoan lineman (Fatu Turirturi) comes up with a huge block out of nowhere when it appears that Woodson is about the be sacked, and Woodson managed to find John Logan who finally makes an unbelievable grab and then we laugh at his reaction as Logan refuses to give the ball back to the ref because it is so dear to him. Down 16-10 with no timeouts, time winding down, and the opponent with possession, Coach Brooks rallies his defense and implores them to make something happen–“Get me the ball!”. Wesley Woodyard, playing like a maniac, manages to break through the line, in slow-motion no less, and cause a fumble during the exchange between the opposing quarterback handing it off and the tailback receiving. Woodyard recovers the fumble and brings it over to Coach Brooks where Woodyard announces, “I told you I was gonna get this back for you!” In the huddle, Woodson, flush with confidence boasts to his team that there is no stopping them and they WILL win this game. On his own 40 yard line and with less than 6 seconds on the clock, Woodson drops back as flashback replay in his mind about his departed father who would take him to the park and play football with him play in his head. As he is being tackled by two defenders, he lets one fly. We see a close-up of the ball in slow-mo then cut away to Logan running his route and looking up at the ball. He has a step on the cornerback, but the throw is a little short. He manages to tip the ball out of the corner’s hands and the ball falls into his chest as he hits the ground. However, the camera angles shows only Logan laying on his side until he rolls over, shows the ball to the ref, a touchdown is declared, and the Commomwealth Faithful go wild (I know you don’t play Bowls in home stadiums, but in these movies, artistic license rules). The obligatory celebration scene has both Woodson and Logan on their teammates shoulders and Coach Brooks with a wry smile on his face. In the aftermath, Woodson picks Mickie DeMoss out of the crowd and asks if she will give him another chance. Reluctant at first, DeMoss ultimately plants a big one on Woodson, and the credits roll as “Hearts on Fire” plays over them.
OK, so that’s how the season will probably go.
Feel free to add your own cliches, but be sure to add the UK football equivalent.