After watching a more “realistic” football movie last week, it made sense that I would watch another one and hoped it would be more enjoyable. In fact “North Dallas Forty” was somewhat reminiscent of “Any Given Sunday” except it was, you know, not trippy.
The movie focused on the North Dallas Bulls (clearly the Cowboys) in the 1970s, which this movie emits throughout. Whether it’s the way people dress, the party that they attend, or the locker rooms the players rest in, you can tell this movie is focused on the “Golden Era” of football.
Nick Nolte plays the lead character Phillip Elliott, a veteran receiver who while loved by his starting QB is easily hated by the coaches and seems to get in trouble with them constantly. Couple that with several injuries that have hobbled him and you feel a real sense of compassion for Phil.
And he isn’t a normal jock in that while he jokes around, Phil also looks for deeper things like love and is actually quite intelligent. You compare him to many of his teammates and Phil sticks out like a sore thumb.
Now what “North Dallas Forty” does exceedingly well is represent what it was like to be a football player. While I may never have played (at any level), this movie embodied all of the stories I have heard about playing in that era. You see players get cut from the team, injured and then shot up as well as coaches just looking out for themselves with forcing guys to play unsafely or even pitting them against each other.
In fact if you’re any kind of football fan, this movie may not be to your likening because of the way the sport is represented. And what’s interesting is as the week goes on in the story; the tone changes from more of a comedy towards a much darker and dramatic feel. When the Bulls play the Chicago Marauders on Monday Night, you really see the physical violence, with multiple players getting severely injured, as well as how the coaches can be so out of touch with what’s happening on the field.
The end of the game, and movie in fact, are quite surprising as after Elliott scores a touchdown, Dallas misses the extra point to tie the game and loses. And right when you think it’s over, the team completely stabs Phil in the back with a thorough investigation of the previous week and threatens him with a suspension. Ultimately the protagonist gives them the ultimate “screw you” and retires.
But the ending is a great analogy to the sport as careers end very quickly in football. Now, to be fair, the film does drag at points and the love story wasn’t that interesting but the overall message and tone really affected me. While things have changed since then, football players still face some of these problems but on the other hand, they know what they’re going into. If anything I think “North Dallas Forty” is most successful in generating complicated discussions over America’s most popular sport.
+ By Danny Reiter, Producer of the Dan Sileo Show