4 Football 'True Story' Biopics That Were Full Of Crap
For some reason, people care like 2000% more about a football movie if you tell them it's based on real facts. We're convinced Adam Sandler's The Waterboy would have won at least a couple of Oscars if he'd just said it was inspired by an actual person and not just some dumb voice he came up with one day. That probably explains why Hollywood keeps taking real-life football stories and turning them into almost unrecognizable movies like ...
Kevin James' Feel-Good Comedy Home Team Downplays A Violent Scandal
In this recent Adam Sandler-produced movie, Kevin James plays New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who gets suspended from the NFL for a full year for "condoning" a bounty system where players got bonuses for injuring opponents on the field. Payton ends up using his free time to coach his 12-year-old son's football team -- hilarity, projectile puking, and Rob Schneider shenanigans ensue.
Of course, that projectile vomiting scene never happened, and Schneider's character is completely made up since Payton's ex-wife re-married years later to someone far less obnoxious (both were probably contractual obligations to get Sandler involved), but the gist of the story is true: Payton did coach his son's team during his little forced sabbatical. The problem is that the movie really downplays why he was there in the first place in favor of inspirational speeches and wacky characters.
When his son asks Payton if he "did it," he just says "it's complicated" and that he has to take responsibility for his team. That's about the extent of the soul-searching he does in this movie for trying to cover up a bounty system where his players were paid $1,000 for hitting opponents so hard that they got carted off and $1,500 if they got knocked out -- or twice that if they were in the playoffs. Knocking Brett Favre out of a game would get you a cool 10K. In fact, the whole reason the scandal came to light was that everyone noticed the Saints seemed to be going out of their way to hurt Favre during a 2009 game (he's the one with the big "4" on his jersey in this compilation video of Saints players hitting him).
When the NFL started looking into that, Payton's main concern wasn't stopping the bounties; it was "getting his ducks in a row" with the other coaches, so they told the same lies in the interviews. Then he continued ignoring the problem for two more years. Even with all the attention on them from the investigation, Payton's defensive coordinator Gregg Williams kept telling players to (as revealed in leaked locker room audio) "knock the f@#% out of" players, "get that motherf@#%er on the sidelines," "go lay that motherf@#%er down," specifically target a player with a history of concussions, and "f@#%in' take out that out outside ACL." Williams defended himself by saying that Payton instructed him to make the defense "nasty," so he was just doing his job.
But sure, let's give the guy a feel-good family movie to wash his image and even throw in a cutesy cameo for the real Payton where he's wearing a ridiculous wig!
In a just world, he would be made to wear that wig every day as a way to mark his crimes.
12 Mighty Orphans' Big Twist Is A Lie
Last year's 12 Mighty Orphans is inspired by the inspirational true story of Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson), a legendary football coach who drops everything to train and inspire some scrappy orphans during the Great Depression. Did we mention it's inspirational?
During a climactic moment, Russell reveals why he's trying so hard to reach these kids: he is secretly an orphan himself. This is a pretty baffling plot twist because, uh, no, he wasn't. It's as if the writers decided that the only reason anyone would give a crap about orphans is if they were also one.
And then there's the small fact that, in reality, not many of the teens in the team were actual orphans -- some even lived there with their widowed mothers. According to people who lived and played football at that home in the '30s, about 40 percent of the book the movie is based on is true. Author Jim Dent, who has been accused of making s**t up to sell books before and is currently in prison for repeated DWIs, turned a father figure into a sadistic monster, a regular kid in a vicious bully, and put profane language into the mouth of a doctor who never cursed. The man must be rolling in his gosh dang grave.
The movie took the exaggeration up a notch by involving real historical figures in a completely made-up plot to stop the orphans from playing, turning them into cartoon villains. It also fabricated the scene where President Roosevelt personally intervenes to let the orphans play Class A football and the one where the abusive dean, played by Seinfeld's Wayne Knight, gets arrested for violating child labor laws -- in reality, he drowned during a swimming expedition, and the kids cheered his death. Why would you leave the most cinematic moment out of the movie?! It would have been worth the R rating.
Remember The Titans Remembers The Titans All Wrong
Remember the Titans is the important tale of the real-life football coach who stepped into a newly integrated Virginia High School in 1971 and helped solve racism via tackles and such.
But wait, 1971? Weren't schools integrated years before that? Yep: by the time Coach Boone showed up, not only did that school already have plenty of Black students and players but so did every other one in the area -- the part where he says, "We are not like all the other schools in this conference, they're all white. They don't have to worry about race. We do," is totally made up.
In fact, most incidents of racial tension in the movie are completely imaginary. There were no protests outside the school, no incident where a restaurant refused to serve them, and no sinister conspiracy to make the Titans lose a game. Obviously, there was still racism because, well, there still is, but the movie practically turns the town into Nazi Germany. The one incident they didn't make up was the time someone threw something through the coach's window -- but it wasn't a brick, it was a toilet.
Hey, what about that fun scene where the Titans dance on the field to warm up?
Fake. The one where they run through Gettysburg at dawn and the coach gives a speech?
Fake. The one where Sunshine kisses Gerry on the lips?
Fake and the real Sunshine wants you to know that "my hair was never that long." Even the team's underdog status was made up: most of their 1971 games weren't even close and the final, which the movie dramatically depicts them winning at the literal last second, was a 27-0 blowout. Also, the upbeat "where are they now" montage at the end neglects to mention that Coach Boone didn't exactly retire: he was retired due to serious allegations of verbal and physical abuse.
But then again it would have been a little jarring to put that onscreen while "Ain't Not Mountain High Enough" plays.
The Biggest Moment In Rudy Was Sarcastic
Rudy is about a big-hearted kid who dreams of playing football for Notre Dame despite his comparatively Hobbit-like stature and decidedly un-football-player-esque constitution. The most famous moment in the movie is at the end when Rudy finally gets on the field, if only for a few seconds. When Rudy sacks the other team's quarterback, his teammates carry him off the field as the crowd chants his name, and the evil coach who spent the whole movie torturing him stews.
It's pure cinema magic. And by that, we mean it's BS. Rudy's slightly more famous teammate Joe Montana said in a 2010 interview that, first of all, no one was chanting Rudy's name and, more importantly, they only carried him off the field "playing around," not as some majestic moment. He later reiterated that "He got carried off by three of the biggest pranksters on the team" -- it was less of a "slow clap" moment and more of a "sarcastic clap when someone drops a glass" one.
Also, as Montana points out, back then, Notre Dame always made sure everyone got to step on the field at the last home game, so Rudy getting in wasn't that unusual. So no, the scene where all the players lay their jerseys on the coach's desk in protest so that he'll let Rudy play never happened -- and it never would have, because the real Coach Dan Devine was actually Rudy's biggest supporter. It was his idea to let him play. Devine says that he agreed to be portrayed as the movie's "heavy" because the screenwriter said it was the only way the story would work, and he wanted to help his friend Rudy get the movie made. He just didn't realize they'd straight-up turn him into a supervillain.
The only way Hollywood can make it up to Devine would be by giving him a grossly inaccurate biopic where Rudy is some sort of detestable jerk. What's Rob Schneider doing these days?
Thumbnail: Netflix, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution