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Friday, August 22, 2014

Ready for Kickoff

Written by Jon Williams

The month of August is winding down, and the kids are back to school or getting ready to do so very soon. While this can bring on emotions ranging from excitement to angst for the students in question, it also heralds the return of the popular community institution that is high school football. The traditional Friday night game has long been a source of fascination in both fiction and non-fiction, evidenced by the film When the Game Stands Tall, opening in theaters today. It tells the story of the De La Salle Spartans, a high school team in California that maintained an incredible 151-game winning streak from 1992 through 2003. It’s just the latest in a long line of stories to explore both the romance and the dark side of the game and the young men who play it.

Of course, the gold standard for high school football-related media is the Friday Night Lights juggernaut. The 1990 book by Buzz Bissinger was turned into a 2004 film exploring the 1988 season of the Permian Panthers of Odessa, Texas, dealing with the pressures of a highly touted team making a run at a championship in a state where football is king. The success of that movie then spawned a critically acclaimed TV series focusing on Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) taking over as head coach in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, and the trials and tribulations of his players and family. The show ran for five seasons, ending in 2011, and while there were persistent rumors of it coming back to the big screen, it now appears that won’t happen.

Still, there are a number of other film portrayals of high school football. One is the 1983 movie All the Right Moves, which features Tom Cruise as a star player seeking a scholarship and Craig T. Nelson as his coach (Nelson, of course, would go on to earn an Emmy Award playing a college football coach as the star of the ABC series Coach). In 1999, Varsity Blues introduced young stars James Van Der Beek, Paul Walker, and Scott Caan as players with a tumultuous relationship with their overbearing coach (Jon Voight). 2000’s Remember the Titans, like Friday Night Lights (the movie), depicts a true story, this one of a 1971 Virginia team dealing with racial tensions. Denzel Washington won accolades for his portrayal of the team’s coach, Herman Boone.

And if you prefer even more realism, there are a number of documentaries that take a look at various teams as they wilt or bloom under the lights. One of them is 2011’s Undefeated, which looks at a traditionally bad team in an underprivileged Memphis area when a new coach takes over, determined to take the team—and its players—to new heights. A staple in the genre is Go Tigers!, following the 1999 team in the football-crazy town of Massillon, Ohio.

This is just a small sampling of football movies, and doesn’t even get into the number of audiobooks (both fiction and non-fiction) that are available. For more, come search or browse on our website, and make sure your patrons have everything they need to whet their appetites for the coming season.

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