Tag Archives: Football


4 Jan
By Tom Meek  |  December 23, 2015  |  12:11pm

I’ll grant this about Concussion, the docudrama exposing the deadly ills of repetitive blows to the head in the NFL—it’s not didactic or even self righteous, as one might suspect and be put off by. Instead, it’s reasonably smart, balanced and, despite a matter-of-fact approach, deeply human. It also brings a fresh and informative perspective to the medical issue, describing how the deteriorating downstream physiological effects of head banging were discovered and the NFL’s efforts to suppress those findings. And nestled deep inside all the corporate wrangling lies a compelling immigrant success story to boot.

We begin shortly after the new millennium with “Iron” Mike Webster (David Morse, excellent as the tortured lineman), a four-time Super Bowl Champion now disfigured, hearing voices and practically homeless living in his pickup truck. Even though he’s an adored legend of the city of Pittsburgh, no one seems to notice or care until he commits suicide and is rolled in on a gurney for an autopsy. The pathologist on duty, Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), happens to be from Nigeria, doesn’t have U.S. citizenship and by default is immune to the commercially spoon-fed love of America’s most watched sport and the machinery surrounding it. Against minor protests around the morgue (don’t defile our hero), Omalu gets down to his clinical task and initially finds Webster’s brain normal but his curiosity piqued by evidence of Webster’s deranged habits (pulling out his teeth and glueing them back in), he keeps digging, spending several thousands of of his own dollars for outside tests to arrive at the CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) diagnosis we’re all now too acutely aware of.

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Draft Day

12 Apr

‘Draft Day’: Football flick puts Costner back in play, falls short of his greatest


Here’s something new: Kevin Costner back in a sports movie. Okay, maybe not new, but this time it’s football and not baseball, and he’s traded his cleats for a front-office job. “Draft Day” is supposed to be a funny, quirky race against the clock-cum-romance like “Jerry Maguire,” but it’s not all that funny. Costner channels his signature assured nonchalance as Sonny Weaver Jr., general manager of the Cleveland Browns.

041214i Draft DayThe film starts off on the morning of the big, titular day with Sonny going back and forth with his girlfriend Ali (Jennifer Garner) about who he might pick. And of course she has some big news to tell him, but his phone keeps ringing. Cleveland has the No. 1 pick in the draft and everyone wants it because there’s a QB out there who’s the next Tom Brady – interesting timing because the team that’s after him the most, the Seattle Seahawks, have Russell Wilson and just won the Super Bowl. It’s kind of the same post-shoot conundrum that afflicted “Fever Pitch” when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years and the filmmakers had to scurry to stay with the times).

Sonny, who fired his beloved dad as head coach, seems to be a front office bonehead as he trades away the team’s next three No. 1 picks and appears to be on the verge of being shown the door by the team’s owner (Frank Langella), who’s just as concerned about flash and pomp as he is winning. It doesn’t help that Ali works for the Browns as well and they’re not out as a couple, even though everyone knows.  Continue reading


23 May
Published in the Huffington Post on 5/22/2013

Social networks are wonderful tools that can spark and foster friendships. They can also disable them too, especially when it comes to politics and ideology and two opposing egos get in too deep to acknowledge the commonality that joined them in life and the World Wide Web in the first place.

Such was the bitter lesson I learned in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting. I had made a post stating that the best place people could send contributions to benefit the victims and the town of Newtown was through the United Way of Western Connecticut. It was what the town’s website had expressed and there were reports that the gifts and the hodgepodge of contributions that were pouring in through other means were choking the relief efforts.

So my ‘friend,’ someone I had known for over a decade through work, countered with a post that Newtown was too wealthy and that he was going to make his charitable contributions elsewhere.   Continue reading

We Are Marshall

20 Mar

We are Marshall

More than a football film

By TOM MEEK  |  December 20, 2006

In 1970, a plane carrying the Marshall University football team crashed, killing all on board. Director McG (Charlie’s Angels) tenderly re-creates the rise from tragedy as the university head (David Strathairn), an injured player who missed the flight (Anthony Mackie), and an idealistic coach (Matthew McConaughey) rebuild the West Virginia team in short order. Their biggest obstacle is the school board, which thinks it’s too soon; the upshot is that the film deals more with the nature of grief than with moving the ball downfield. McConaughey combines flakiness with optimism, and Matthew Fox (Jack on Lost) delivers the details as Red Dawson, the remorseful team recruiter, who can’t get over his decision to surrender his seat on the plane to someone in a hurry.

Any Given Sunday

19 Mar

R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 12/23/1999,

Any Given Sunday

Oliver Stone’s football fantasy is in some ways a locker-room rendition of All About Eve. Dennis Quaid plays the loyal, aging quarterback, Jamie Foxx is his cocky understudy, and holding the team (the fictitious Miami Sharks, ostensibly fashioned after the NFL’s notorious bad boys, the Oakland Raiders) together is Al Pacino as the old-school coach. Shades of Pete Carroll: the team struggles to make the playoffs and the coach’s leadership is challenged, both on the sidelines by the flashy upstart QB and from above by the franchise’s brassy new owner (a wonderfully bitchy Cameron Diaz).

Stone, for all his frenetic edginess, does a decent job of forging credible relationships among the leads — though Quaid’s QB uncharacteristically steps outside his persona to fuel the plot trappings. Foxx demonstrates a surprising range, and Pacino brilliantly toggles between tenacious warrior and beleaguered once-was. The ensemble supporting cast boasts a who’s who of Hall of Famers including Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, and Johnny Unitas. Stone indulges too much of his nauseatingly grandiloquent editing style, which takes some of the zip off the gridiron action. But if Any Given Sunday isn’t quite in the same league asNorth Dallas Forty or The Longest Yard, it’s good pigskin entertainment. Be sure to stick around for the credits; that’s when the film goes into OT and delivers the kicker.

— Tom Meek

The Express

18 Mar

The Express

Football bio-pic offers a reflection on our not-so-proud past

By TOM MEEK  |  October 9, 2008


Ernie Davis may be the greatest running back never to play in the NFL. He was the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, in 1961, and though the color of his skin didn’t break new ground (Jackie Robinson had already suited up for the Dodgers, and Jim Brown preceded him at Syracuse), this bio-pic offers a stark reflection on our not-so-proud past. Gary Fleder, who’s known mostly for pre-fab work (Kiss the Girls and Runaway Jury), and his screenwriter, Charles Leavitt (working from Robert Gallagher’s book The Elmira Express), choose to recount the bittersweet rise to stardom not so much in the big moments (winning the 1959 national championship) as by focusing on Davis’s personal trials and triumphs before he became a household name and those he experienced later, after he was diagnosed with leukemia. It’s a smart call, showing Davis vulnerable as a stuttering youth in the face of bullies and then as a young man challenged by a childhood friend turned radical to use his blossoming star power for the greater African-American political cause.

The Pride of the Yankees and Brian’s Song were poignant depictions of promise, courage, and greatness cut short, and the actors threw their souls into their characterizations. The same holds true here. Rob Brown (Finding Forrester) portrays Davis as torn by optimism and anger. (A scene in which Davis and his black teammates are not allowed to attend the national-championship banquet in Dallas does more in that brief moment to bring to light past racial inequities than the whole of Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna.) And Dennis Quaid’s portrayal of ’Cuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder, a decent man sometimes forced to choose between virtue and victory, personifies the conflicted American conscience of the era.