The Real ‘Longest Yard’ Football Game Was a Bloodbath
If you’re enjoying the NFL playoffs but secretly wish that your favorite team was A) comprised of more former Saturday Night Live cast members; B) coached by Burt Reynolds; and C) battling against a squad of racist jerks who look like 1990s pro wrestlers, you can always watch The Longest Yard, the Adam Sandler-starring remake of the 1970s sports movie classic. It’s basically The Shawshank Redemption, but with more scenes in which Terry Crews does the robot.
The Longest Yard is all about a football game played between the inmates of a prison, led by Sandler’s disgraced former quarterback, and the guards who routinely mistreat them. In the end (spoilers for this and, to be honest, pretty much every other sports movie), the convicts triumphantly win the game by just one point. Sandler even shakes hands with the head guard, who congratulates him on a job well done.
Yeeeah, that’s not exactly how it went down in real life…
Technically, 1974’s The Longest Yard, featuring Reynolds in the lead role, was a wholly original story (although it seemingly took inspiration from a real-life soccer game played against Nazis during World War II). But as Sports Illustrated reported back in 1988, there was a real game played between prisoners and guards; it's just that it happened after the movie was made.
Once filming was completed at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville for three months back in 1973, the Longest Yard production “left behind the bleachers it had built” for the film, along with “all the football equipment used for the movie.” Not ones to let a bunch of free athletic gear go to waste, the prison organized their own game by having the inmates don the “Mean Machine” jerseys worn in the movie to take on “a team of Georgia State Troopers.”
But reportedly, things “quickly got out of hand.” (We’re assuming the reporting was done by Ron Burgundy.) The inmates’ coach claimed that the arrogant troopers “couldn’t play a lick” but were still “cussing us and saying what they were going to do to us.” So the prisoners decided: “Screw ‘em. Let's kill ‘em!” The game didn‘t even last four quarters, as it was called at halftime, with the prisoners up 66-0. The convicts were thus prevented from scoring an extra field goal and robbing future generations of a nice box score we could all enjoy.
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