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An open letter to Hollywood on football movies

Dear Hollywood,

We're writing you today because we can't help but notice your attempts at producing movies about football have been extremely hit or miss with the American public.

We understand you run a challenging business, and it's not always easy to see what works and what doesn't. That's why we want to help you with some simple guidelines for creating a good football movie.

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Please read on if you want to remain -- or become -- rich and dangerously powerful. (Now we know you're paying attention.)

1. Give us an underdog protagonist

OK, so you've been pretty good about this one. "Rudy" wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining if you had cast an "uglied up" Brad Pitt to play Daniel Ruettiger instead of Sean Astin. In sports movies, it's OK for the leading man to be built like a human fire hydrant. Most of us view ourselves as underdogs in some way, so use that to your benefit. Exploit our humanity!

2. Take us inside

"Jerry Maguire" taught us two things: 1) The human head weighs eight pounds. 2) Sports movies are better when it feels like you're being taken behind the scenes in an authentic manner.

When Jerry Maguire went to the NFL draft with Rod Tidwell and Cush, it seemed like director Cameron Crowe had pulled back the curtain on a whole other world. It wasn't some L.A. phoney's idea of what the draft is like -- it looked like the real thing.

And on the subject of realism, we don't know how many steaks Crowe had to buy to get access to NFL licensing in "Maguire," but it was worth it. Real sports fans can easily get taken out of an otherwise good movie just because of a stupid uniform. We don't want to watch the Los Angeles Hammerheads play the Chicago Henchmen. If you have the budget, go all in.

3. Get the football scenes right

Listen up, directors. When a ball carrier is hit by a defender, very rarely does he do a triple somersault into a John Elway helicopter spin™. We know that's just Jackie Chan's stunt double in pads. Also, you can't spear a dude on a block from behind and not get flagged on a last-second touchdown run.

And one more thing: We look for things like how many players are on the sidelines and how the extras are reacting in the stands and what the scoreboard reads in the background. We're telling you: We can't help but notice this stuff.

Get it wrong and it's hard to stay invested.

4. Make the coach an inciting figure

We love it when a football movie gives us serious conflict between the star player and his coach. He can play a likeable and strong-willed Everyman (Denzel Washington as Herman Boone in "Remember The Titans"), the straight-up antagonist (Jon Voight as the deliciously evil Bud Kilmer in "Varsity Blues") or even the old guy who "doesn't understand that rap stuff" (the Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) and Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) dynamic in "Any Given Sunday.").

This is also known as The Coughlin Principle.

5. Put Wayne Fontes in the movie. Any movie.

This is more a personal request, but the former Detroit Lions coach appeared in "Jerry Maguire" and it grossed $270 million worldwide. There's a connection here.

6. Strike a balance

We understand you're trying to bring in as many demographics as possible, and a football movie provides you a golden opportunity if handled correctly. Of course, this is tricky business. You can't throw "Crank" and "The Notebook" into a blender, add some pigskin and expect magic.

You want to take a character -- an underdog preferably, remember? -- and watch him grow not just as a football player, but as a man. There shouldn't be too many football scenes, just as we don't want too many candlelight dinners. Like a screen pass into the flat, a little finesse can go a long way.

We hope this helps you as you move forward.


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