A shot from the wackiest scene in the wacky movie I watched in place of the Super Bowl. Photo by Barry Chin, courtesy of the Boston Globe.
Monday. February 2, 2015. Like the rest of you true blue Americans, I was watching the Super Bowl yesterday, paying attention to the football more than to the commercials and enjoying the game for its own beauty and excitement and not just because my team, the good guys, led by the best quarterback there ever was, the best there ever will be, had stormed back, scoring two touchdowns to take the lead with minutes left to play, when all of a sudden some technician at NBC tripped a switch and the Super Bowl was replaced on my TV by a wacky movie about the Super Bowl.
It was as improbable as all Hollywood sports movie’s tend to be. In it, the team wearing white jerseys and silver helmets like the real life Patriots, led by a dashing and handsome but aging quarterback (played by Chris Evans, I think. Maybe it was Chris Pine. Bradley Cooper was originally offered the part but had to turn it down to star in whatever movie’s going to give him his fourth straight Oscar nomination, and have I mentioned he should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor this year for Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy?), who we’re meant to believe is the best quarterback there ever was, the best there ever will be, but who’s playing under a cloud of suspicion because supposedly before the conference championship game two weeks before he arranged to have the game balls deflated so he and his receivers could get better grips---although it would mean the opposing team’s quarterback and receivers would get better grips too---has stormed back after being behind most of the second half. The bad guys, wearing navy blue like the real life Seattle Seahawks, led by a young quarterback (played by Chadwick Boseman) who may someday be the second best quarterback there ever was (From the way the TV announcers gush, there doesn’t appear to have been a Joe Montana in the movie’s universe), starting deep in their own territory, line up to make a desperate last attempt to drive for a touchdown. They move the ball upfield, but eat precious time off the clock. With a minute and six seconds remaining, the young quarterback, who hasn’t been throwing well all game, although the few times he has thrown well, he’s thrown to devastating effect---two touchdown passes to a guy who never catches touchdown passes---hauls back and lets one fly.
By the way, and I guess this was dealt with earlier in the movie, the bad guys are supposedly only in the Super Bowl because they won their conference championship thanks to a fake field goal attempt, an improbably recovered onside kick, and a dramatic touchdown pass in overtime.
Like that could happen.
It’s a beautiful pass and it looks like it’s going to be right on the money. His very tall receiver leaps for it but the not very tall rookie defender times his own move perfectly and bats the ball away. That should end it. But the ball has gone straight up in the air. It hangs there, defying time and gravity---some excellent cgi work here. The players juggle for it, then it comes straight down. The receiver, flat on his back, having fallen in his attempt to reel in the ball, looks up to see the ball floating down onto his chest. He reaches up, hugs it in…pass completed.
Now they’re on the five yard line. First and goal. Next play, the quarterback hands off to his star running back, whom the screenwriter couldn’t think of a better nickname for than “The Beast,” and he muscles it to the one. That’s it, we’re meant to think. Game over. The quarterback will hand it off to the Beast again and he’ll bulldoze his way into the end zone. They’ll kick off, the good guys won’t have time to get off more than one play before the clock runs out, and the bad guys will win by three points, their second Super Bowl victory in a row. But then…
The bad guys’ head coach, played by Kevin Costner with his hair whitened, calls for a pass, a play that makes absolutely no sense according to the TV announcers when they see it unfold. It’s a short pass straight over the middle. The receiver appears to be wide open, the good guys having been expecting the Beast to get the ball again, and there it is!
One of the good guys steps in out of nowhere. It’s the rookie defender who was beaten by trick photography on the pass two plays before. The ball comes right to him. He tucks it in! Interception! The first in the rookie’s pro career! The good guys have the ball with twenty seconds left. If this was real life, the game would be over. Tom Brady would take the snap, kneel down, and the Patriots would simply run out the clock. Hooray! But this is the movies. You know something wacky has to happen first. And it does.
A fight breaks out.
One of the bad guys loses it and takes a swing at one of the good guys---big tight end the cliché-happy screenwriter’s given the very old fashioned football player name of Gronkowski, like they’re still playing in leather helmets---and the scene turns chaotic with everybody pushing, punching, pulling and probably cursing at each other and calling each other names in funny one-liners punctuated by not really shocking anymore expletives that I didn’t hear because I guess I had the sound turned down too low. Anyway, I expected the credits to roll there, over images of the major characters caught in freeze-frame with titles telling us where they are now, but, again, it’s the movies, it’s Hollywood, they can’t leave it alone.
Suddenly things turn all sentimental and mushy.
Interspersed with shots of his teammates and coaches hugging, high-fiving, and slapping each other on the back, we get to see the rookie defender (Michael B. Jordan) looking distraught, practically on the verge of tears, as if instead of winning the game with that interception he’d lost it on that wacky play where he’d knocked the ball away but the receiver caught it anyway. He’s corralled for an interview as he tries to make his way off the field and he can hardly put two words together, he’s so overwhelmed by emotion, and just about all he says that makes any sense is when he gives thanks to God just for letting him be there, because, I forgot to mention, he shouldn’t have been. Not only is he too small to be a defensive back in the NFL, he was undrafted. He made the team by sheer pluck and grit and dumb luck!
And now the movie’s over at last. The technician at NBC woke up---or his boss burst into the booth and woke him up to fire him---and the switch was flipped back. We were back in Phoenix but the game was over. Amazingly, it ended with the real life Patriots winning by the same score as their movie counterparts, 28-24. I wish I could have seen it.
Apparently it was one wacky game.
Post-game analysis with Steve Kuusisto: Like me, Steve was rooting for the good guys. But unlike me he did it with a true fan’s knowledge and affection. The Patriots are his team from way back. But he also actually dislikes the Seahawks and is no admirer of their head coach Pete Carroll. And he doesn’t think Carroll made a bad decision there at the end. Steve says Marshawn Lynch is not as effective in the red zone as his legend has it and, with the Patriots waiting for him, he would likely have gotten stuffed before he could cross the line of scrimmage. A pass play, Steve insists, was the right call. It wasn’t Carroll’s fault Malcolm Butler was suddenly the star of a real life wacky football movie.
I didn’t ignore all the commercials. Best one I saw was the Brady Bunch Snickers ad. It was good to begin with---Danny Trejo was Marcia to a T---but bringing in Buscemi as Jan at the end was genius.I skipped the halftime show though. Katy Perry is bad for me in about fifteen different ways.