Football movies and family: How the two come together

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Jackson Piercy
CONTRIBUTOR

Will Patton and Denzel Washington winning the big game in Remember the Titans. Photo courtesy of imdb.com

As the football season rolls on by, the gauntlet of the traditional football movies are dusted off the shelves and watched by the dads of America (and their families, whether they want to or not).

The fall season really brings to mind memories ranging from the cool Friday nights with rickety bleachers and marching bands, to the Sunday primetime slots of battles between teams named after birds and big cats. The Thanksgiving season and the relevance of the sport at this particular point in the year tend to coalesce in many more ways than just time frame, and it could be said that many of these similarities can appear in films about the sport of American-style gridiron football.

Of course, no family is perfect, and it’s almost ironic that the Thanksgiving season brings out stress or anguish in many families here in America. The football movie is no different. If there was a movie that was about a completely normal football team that won most of their games and went to the playoffs to lose in the first round with virtually no locker room issues, that movie wouldn’t be looked upon with much praise. The football movie is one about strife. Whether that’s the introduction of integration in schools in Remember the Titans, starting completely from scratch in We Are Marshall, or a league-wide strike in The Replacements.

Conflict is what makes a movie what it is. Without conflict, the movie is really just a documentary with actors. Stories of overcoming great odds to win are always at the heart of these particular films; films that show as much of that strife as they can, to build a tension that can sometimes never be paid off, á la Friday Night Lights.

Football movies are commonly stories about people of different backgrounds, different styles and different personalities coming together to win in a sport that requires teamwork. Obviously, since football rosters tend to be larger than most sports, the differences may come out in different ways and affect the people in the locker rooms differently. The hierarchy of people is fairly obvious (at least in the movies), as it tends to go from the coach to the quarterback to the flashy skill position players all the way down to the bench players. In these movies, these multitudes of people, no matter the strife, find a way to put the differences aside and play to achieve a goal.

The thing is, however, that people aren’t so simple as to just go with the program. People are stubborn. They want to do things their way, whether it’s right or not. Does it always work? Obviously not.

Oftentimes, these films make the coach out to be the “father” to the whole team. These movies aren’t terribly concerned with the family lives of the players. They are not the traditional family with the moms and the dads and the siblings and all that jazz. Most football movies are movies about families. They’re just the families that are formed on the field. Families that, for the most part, find a way to work things out virtually every time.

Does that mean that every family will find a way to work things out? Certainly not. Football teams have to find a way to make it work out. The message should not just be that families will make it work out, but more that they are capable of that feat. Does this mean that biological families can make it work? Of course, but that is no guarantee. Luckily, the audience isn’t always bound by the reins of the football team, nor the biological family. It’s not always the people one normally thinks to make it work that eventually do. Whether that’s a circle of friends, a band or even a football team.

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