Gridiron greats for the Gator Nation


Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 10:32 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 10:32 a.m.

Four days from now, our beloved Florida Gators will be playing the No. 1 ranked Ohio State in the NCAA Football National Championship game. The big question is — what to do in the meantime? How to pass the days waiting for the big game?

I’ve got two words for you: Football Movies.

“Invincible” is the latest pigskin epic to hit DVD and video. It is the best kind of sports movie — the kind where a regular Joe overcomes all odds to achieve his dreams. Or, in movie critic shorthand, it’s a “Rudy movie.”

Mark Wahlberg stars as Vince Papale, a bartender in Philadelphia who is a stalwart fan of Eagles football. Having suffered a few personal setbacks, Papale decides to show up for an open tryout for the Eagles. . . and somehow, he makes the cut. Although he isn’t the fastest or the strongest, Papale’s heart and passion for the game not only put him on the team, but inspires the entire city.

The story may sound corny and unbelievable, but in fact “Invincible” is based on a true story. Papale was a real man, and years after his moment in the sun he is still considered a local hero in Philly.

“Invincible” is a solid, enjoyable football flick. The acting is good, the story is inspiring, and most importantly, the football scenes are good. If you’ve ever seen a sports movie, “Invincible” isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, but if you enjoy sports movies, this is definitely one to check out.

And if you want to know why Wahlberg looks so impressive in the smash-and-tackle football scenes, the answer is easy — his football stunt double is UF’s own Travis McGriff.

“Invincible” is the best “Rudy movie” since “Rudy,” but it still ain’t “Rudy.”

“Rudy” for the uninitiated, is the ultimate underdog sports story. Also based on a true story, it involves a kid who dreams of playing ball for Notre Dame. But he’s got even more roadblocks in his path than Vince Papale — Rudy has average grades, average athletic skills, and he’s way, way too small to play college football.

None of these things stand in his way for long, because Rudy (played excellently by Sean “the Fat Hobbit” Astin) has the drive of 10 men, and refuses to let anyone dissuade him from his seemingly unreachable goal.

“Rudy” doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It is content to be an underdog story that yanks on your heartstrings — but that said, this is the single best underdog sports movie of all time. It’s so good that it almost makes a person want to become a Notre Dame fan. . . not quite, but almost. And if you can watch the grand finale of this film and not be moved then you are not a real football fan; in fact, you’re probably a robot.

There are other types of football movies besides Rudy Movies.

“Remember the Titans” equates football and race relations, showing the level playing field of the game can bring people together regardless of differences. “Friday Night Lights” is a gritty drama that shows how serious high school football can be. And “Varsity Blues” shows us what would happen if “Dawson’s Creek” was not populated with wimps.

“North Dallas Forty” is a ribald but hilarious look at the locker room antics of a pro ball club. “Any Given Sunday” is a football epic from Oliver Stone, and although it's interesting, it’s less of a football movie and more of an Oliver Stone movie. “The Longest Yard” is a great movie about prison football — the Burt Reynolds one, not the Adam Sandler version.

“The Waterboy” is an Adam Sandler football flick that is funny. And if you look closely at the West Mississippi linebackers, you might even catch a glimpse of former Gator player and local TV star James Bates Jr.

I would be remiss in not mentioning “Drumline” which isn’t about football, per se, but about the marching bands that play at halftime. It’s easy to say it’s the best movie ever about halftime shows, because I can’t think of any other movies about halftime shows.

“Superroni” is a movie about flag football. You may think that flag football doesn’t count as real football . . . and you’d be right. But this little movie was born in the heart of the Gator Nation, filmed in Florida, and features appearances by a handful of Gator grads, athletes, and former Jacksonville Jaguar stars.

“Superroni: Flag Football’s Underdogs” is a low budget comedy done in the mock-documentary style. It focuses on a flag football team preparing for the biggest game of their lives, playing for the flag championship against Rocky Top . . . despite having never won a game.

Many of the cast and crew for the film are UF grads. Tony Boselli, Kevin Hardy, Dexter Jackson, Chris Luzar, and other athletes with ties to North Florida all contribute cameos.

In the spirit of low budget indie filmmaking, “Superroni” is a great first effort from a production team that with a little polish and a few bucks could follow in the footsteps of Broken Lizard. And not only is the movie funny, but it’s also family friendly, with no swearing or nudity (ordinarily, this is a bad thing, but in this case it works). While the film isn’t available at Blockbuster or Hollywood just yet, you can check it out at www.SRmovie.com.

The funniest moment goes to an athlete named Bill Dorsey, who was the defensive captain for the Gators in the 1960s, who plays a flag football coach called The Destroyer. As he recounts a tragic tackle he made as a kid, he says “I didn’t mean the hurt the guy . . . I just meant to destroy him. That’s all.”

Which is exactly how I and many other Gator fans feel about the Ohio State game — we don’t want the Gators to hurt them, just to destroy them. That’s all.

High praise and caustic rebukes to Rewindcolumn@hotmail.com

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