February 05, 2012

Punting on Pigskin Pictures

Sorry, but Knute Rockne All American isn't exactly Breaking Away.

Earlier this evening, I charged myself with thinking of great football-themed films that, if viewed prior to tonight's Super Bowl, would provide an excellent context to the Big Game while encapsulating the beauty of the sport itself.

Strangely, the only movie I could think of that best represents the gridiron was a Marx Brothers send-up, the hoary but still hilarious Horse Feathers.

Something's wrong with this motion picture, right?

Perhaps not. Football, for some reason, doesn't translate to the big screen like baseball does--in part, I believe, because the Heroes of Winter haven't dug their cleats into the lexicon of American lore as much as the Boys of Summer. Yet I think there's another factor: a strange inability of the game itself to register as much with viewers in terms of suspense as other sports.

Football fans, please feel free to swear at me in protest. I realize movies like North Dallas Forty and The Longest Yard, to a certain extent, inform our perspective of the game. But I don't think they're an inextricable part of our cinematic fabric the way The Pride of the Yankees is. Heck, I was a lot more concerned about the results of the tennis match in Strangers on a Train than I was during any scene in Robert Aldrich's Yard.

It may be just a coincidence that football hasn't spurred a cinematic masterpiece the way baseball has. I'm wondering, though, whether there's something on the green diamond that trumps the snowy gridiron innately on the silver screen. Or maybe it's the idea of "outs" rather than a clock that makes things more cinematic--that a limited number of lives is somehow more critical than a limited amount of time.

I don't think they're the same thing. On film, there's a difference. It's odd in a way, because to many a casual viewer, baseball can be static, while football is almost constantly in motion. One would think football would leave baseball in cinematic stardust.

As evidenced by films such as The Natural, however, there are a lot more sparks in the ninth inning than the fourth quarter.


No comments:

Post a Comment