Wednesday, September 1, 2010

BRIAN'S SONG (1971) - win one for Pic, or Dick Butkus will get angry and bite you on the arm

Gale Sayers was like a ballet dancer that could move from pirouette to grand jete to a waltz in one continuous, fluid motion, without ever slowing down. He was extremely fast, quick, fluid, and nimble, but what made him one of a kind was his ability to accelerate to top speed seemingly in an instant. No other running back that ever lived could go from 0 to 60 in zero seconds (although Barry Sanders was awfully close), and no one else exemplified poetry in motion on the gridiron quite like the Kansas Comet.

"Give me eighteen inches of daylight. That's all I need."
-Gale Sayers

His vision was also impeccable, as he was seemingly able to see the entire field at all times, and operated like a surgeon, using holes and angles instead of a scalpel. Would be tacklers often flailed helplessly in his direction, like scared children attempting to corner a moth.

Gale won rookie of the year in 1965, setting NFL records for touchdowns and all purpose yards in a season. On one spectacular December afternoon, on a mud soaked field, Sayers scored a record tying six touchdowns against the 49ers. A horrible knee injury shortened his career, but he still managed to end up in the hall of fame when all was said and done. Gale Sayers was a comet, all right, one who lit up the night sky in one fluid motion, shining brightly for only a brief period; a once in a lifetime cosmic event.


Of course, to portray Gale Sayers on film, they get SLOW ASS BILLY DEE. Mr. Williams is a good actor, properly filling the shoes of Mr. Sayers in the emotional department, but doesn't even remotely convince during the sprinting scenes during practice. However, this extremely minor issue is really the only complaint I have against the film. I guess it's hard to look like a world class athlete when you spend your down time pounding cans of Colt .45 in your trailer.

Colt .45...IT WORKS EVERY TIME! So, if you drink enough Colt, you'll get drunk. That is one sophisticated ad slogan. You know, if you huff enough lighter fluid, you'll get high too. IT WORKS EVERY TIME!

I honestly forgot Fab 5 Freddy existed. Now that I think of it, what the fuck is the "5" in his name supposed to mean? I understand that Freddy is "fab", and he wants to notate so within his own name. You add in the "5", and I'm thinking that Freddy is supposed to be a member of Michigan's Fab Five, but he clearly wasn't. Maybe he's like the sixth member of the Fab Five, sort of Chris Webber's personal assistant. Who the hell knows.

This last commercial is easily the raddest of the bunch. I defy you not to watch it and run down to your corner liquor store and grab some Colt like a desperate lunatic.

"WHERE'S MY FUCKING .45? I'M PARTYING LIKE FUCKING LANDO OVER HERE! Oh wait, they called the cops. No, wait, I mean beer, not some kind of gun. Uh oh."

It's time to get the fuck outta dodge, Kansas Comet style. Those goddamn sexy Billy Dee commercials sure are effective.


"Ernest Hemingway once said that every true story ends in death. This is a true story."
-George Halas

Brian's Song is the story of rookie running backs Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo (James Caan), and the true friendship that develops across racial (and athletic) lines. Since that Hemingway asshole already spoiled everything, I'll point out that Brian develops cancer and eventually dies in the end, and this makes everyone sad, especially Gale and Brian's wife. And I mean EVERYONE. Every tough member of the Chicago Bears, every coach, and every single solitary human being that has ever watched the film. Yes, even lawyers. Everyone, that is, except Brian Piccolo. He maintains his upbeat attitude and sense of humor (and this dude is actually damn funny) despite the rampaging asshole that is terminal cancer.

Having partially grown up in Chicago, I saw this movie twice during my school days. It is a mandatory part of high school curriculum in Cook County, for some reason. I first saw it in gym class, and have seen it many times since, and it still gives me goose bumps. As a Bears fan, there is the authentic setting and the use of real players and coaches (look fast for Dick Butkus in the mess hall), as well as the Gale Sayers clips sprinkled throughout. However, it is the combination of this central relationship, combined with the superb Michel Legrand score, that gets me every time. Caan and Billy are both perfect foils and perfect teammates, the brash funny everyman and the quiet phenom.

"I'm gonna whip you Sayers, but you gotta be at your best, or it won't mean a thing."
-Brian Piccolo

Their relationship really builds to the next level when Gale injures his knee and Brian helps him to recover. Piccolo was buried behind Gale on the depth chart, as any mere mortal would be, but his injury opened the door for Piccolo. A lesser man might thank his lucky stars, but Piccolo is hell bent on nursing Gale back to health. They are in a competition, yes, but true competitors not only want to compete with the very best, but want to face them at their peak, and not while they are sunk in a valley. From true competitors, to true friends, to genuine non-homo man love.

In the canon of tearjerkers, there may be only one grand champion capable of turning even meathead males into blubbering schmucks. Yes...Every Which Way But Loose. But coming right behind in second place is, yes, Brian's Song. It's sort of the It's a Wonderful Life of the football season. It's also one of the most cancerific films ever made. It's positively cancertastic, I dare say. Remember, every time you cry at the end of Brian's Song, Pic scores a goal line touchdown in heaven on a two yard trap play. I swear he does.

"I Love Brian Piccolo, and I'd like all of you to love him too."
-Gale Sayers

P.S. This was written as part of the 1st Annual Bronko Nagurski Memorial Football Flick Fest over at My Floating Red Couch. Check it out here: link


  1. To HELL with cancer!

    A few points:
    1. Remember that commerical for McD's where the brother shows up to his apt and there are some fly bitches there and his homie sez, "Dood, you were supposed to get hors d'oerves" and dude sticks some toothpicks in to the QP's on a platter and serves like a dozen QPs to the fly honeys? I don't think I'd be interested in a girl mauing on a quarter pounder like that as it seems disgusting.

    This basic train of thought would also probably lead me away from a girl swiggin on a Colt 45 .... I don't care if its Lando's drank of choice. (and I love <3 Lando)

    2. Yeah, what the hell is up with Fab 5 Freddy?

    "As a young teenager in the 1970s Fab 5 Freddy was a member of the Brooklyn based graffiti group "The Fabulous 5." He got his name for consistent graffiti "bombing" of the number 5 train on the IRT." (wikipedia) huh, whaddya know?

    3. I usually have to know a girl for at least 6 months before I'll watch Brian's Song with her, for fear of a lack of masculinity. I mean, it doesn't get me like The 6th Man, but its right up there.

  2. @couch
    I do remember that commercial, and I'll just add that if you serve stacks and stacks of quarter pounders to a bunch of fly honeys, they will soon no longer be fly honeys. They will get fat and die, and there's nothing fly about that.

    Thanks for the info on Freddy. I only knew him from watching him on MTV back in the day, and always wondered about the "5", but not enough to hit up wikipedia.

    I have not seen 6th Man, but Katie from IMDB says "This is my favorite movie, i watch it all the time! it has a great plot and i never get sick of it i repeat all the lines and songs while i am watching it, its great. and when i found out it was going to be on tv for the first time i got extremely excited because i knew people would get to see how great of a movie it really is, its funny, touching, sad, and inspiring all in one, i still get tears in my eyes every time i watch it and laugh at all the same moments this movie is great, super, fantastic, and terrific and i recommend it to EVERYONE especially basketball" It's great, super, fantastic, AND terrific, all at once? How are the Wayans able to juggle so?