Burt Reynolds in “The Longest Yard”

Burt Reynolds in “The Longest Yard”

By DNA Smith
Super Bowl Sunday. One hour of actual football. 17 hours of commercials. To get you in the gridiron mood, here are some classic football films:

“The Longest Yard” — No, not the awful Adam Sandler remake, but the original Burt Reynolds B-movie blockbuster. Reynolds stars as Paul Crewe, a disgraced pro quarterback sent to prison for stealing his girlfriend’s car. While in stir, the crooked warden (played with relish by Eddie Albert) makes Crewe an offer he can’t refuse: Coach the guards’ semi-pro team to victory or else. Crewe assembles a scrimmage team from the inmates (called The Mean Machine) to play the guards, and the result is a bone-crushing film finale you’ll never forget.

“Rudy” — Sean Astin stars as the titular Rudy, a working-class kid whose only dream is to play football for Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish. But poverty and his small size mean his chances of realizing this dream are slim to none. But through hard work and sheer guts, Li’l Rudy makes it to Notre Dame and a spot on the practice squad — and finally a shot at playing for a few seconds in the last game of Rudy’s college career.

“Go Tigers!” — This is one of my favorite documentaries. “Go Tigers!” is the true story of the 1999 season of the Washington High Tigers of Massillon, Ohio. This tiny town in the Buckeye State embraces high-school football with an almost religious zeal. Team supporters visit newborn babies in the hospital to scout prospects; promising players are held back in the eighth grade so that they’ll be bigger and stronger when they reach high school; and the local funeral parlor offers Tigers caskets. The team’s success even has an impact on the town’s taxes.

“Knute Rockne: All American” — Pat O’Brien stars as the legendary Notre Dame coach who changed the game forever with the invention of the forward pass. Co-starring is Ronald Reagan as George Gipp, the promising young halfback who dies of pneumonia and achieves immortality for the “win just one for the Gipper” line.

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