This year’s Super Bowl — if it’s a good one — will feature 60 minutes of complex back-and-forth between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers: sneaks and feints and breaks from the pocket.
(Oh, and a Beyoncé concert.)
That sort of x’s-and-o’s talk also fills football-themed entertainment. And, sometimes, some of the great plays they pull off on-screen are actually, y’know, great. Here’s a round-up of some of the greatest — if either team, or its fans, need a refresher.
Remember the Titans: OK so this play, while pivotal, isn’t all that showy: It’s mostly a trick running maneuver. But the “fake 23 blast with a backside George reverse” does more than push the Titans into the end zone: it also collapses the film’s racial tension, making sure that all possible pairs of black/white characters are brought together to work toward a common goal. (Start at 0:50.)
Rudy: Rudy (Sean Astin), the smaller-than-he’d-like Fighting Irishman, does eventually get a big moment on the field. It’s fitting that it isn’t a spectacular reception or jaw-breaking block. Instead, Rudy succeeds with a nicely timed sack, a play which is doubly satisfying since the movie makes such a big deal about how Rudy is such a small guy (with such a big heart). (Start at 0:50.)
Jerry Maguire: Also known as the moment America fell in love with Cuba Gooding, Jr. After a season learning about humility, Gooding’s Rod Tidwell steps up as to clench the Cardinals’ “90 razor, X-out,” a play that has him run up the outside and leap into the air to catch the touchdown pass…before suffering a crunching double-tackle and then miraculously rebounding. As a moment, it’s an almost too-smooth string-puller — almost. (Start at 10:52.)
Varsity Blues: OK, so the character of Billy Bob did pass quickly into caricature (Not Another Teen Movie, anyone?), but he’s not that big of a joke in Varsity Blues. In one of the movie’s several breathless edge-of-the-game moments, he even catches the ball. That he does so on the back of what appears to be an illegal “lateral” pass should not discount the fact that he catches the ball and takes it all the way into the end zone beneath three — three — linemen.
Friday Night Lights: This one’s a heartbreaker: at the close of Peter Berg’s adaptation of H.G. Bissinger’s book (the Rosetta stone of the franchise), the Permian Panthers get right up to winning the championship — but no further. In the last big moment, the offensive line pushes up-field to the goal line before being swarmed by the defense. Every player gathers, on both sides, pushing forward and back. But it isn’t enough (as it so rarely is, with all things Friday Night Lights and tragically Texan).