I recently watched The Program and it made me realize that never again will there be a good, serious, football movie.
In case you haven't seen The Program, it details a college football program starting with the head coach and then focuses on the players as they attempt to overcome their demons to reach a national title. It is the typical college football movie in the way that Varsity Blues is the typical high school football movie.
Watching this cheesy '90s (which didn't help) sports movie is what made me come to the realization that serious football movies can't be done.
Inevitably, the team must overcome something in order to come together, blah, blah, blah. In Varsity Blues, it was a sadistic head coach. In Remember the Titans, it was race. In The Program, it was living up to expectations and the actions taken by the characters to deal with those expectations.
In other words, they are all cheesy because the fundamental structure of a serious football movie is cheesy. In any movie where people are uniting to overcome something bad, it is impossible for it not to be cheesy.
This seems to be a uniquely football experience, though. I had this conversation with a couple of my friends and they pointed to serious sports movies such as Field of Dreams, and they are right. There are other sports movies with serious tones that can pull it off, just not football. It has something to do with the team nature of football.
More than any other sport football is a team game. Baseball, for instance, is a game of individual accomplishments, simply united by a uniform. Albert Pujols can hit a home run every at bat and the Cardinals will win.
Football isn't the same though. One guy cannot win a game on his own like he can in hockey or basketball. The all time greats in those two sports single handily won games. Name one football player who can say the same. Every QB has to throw to a WR. Every RB needs an OL.
I think this is why serious football movies don't work, and Hollywood should really stop trying.