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Since the Super Bowl is tomorrow I thought I’d try to find a quote that tied filmmaking and football together. Mission accomplished from not only a former college football player but one who has a film up for seven Oscars this year— including Best Picture.

“A lot of the things I’ve learned, I learned from playing football. You gotta lead a group of people against sometimes insurmountable odds. Every week, you’ve got to prepare for an opponent. You watch game tape. You prep. You get all your players up. But you get out there, you never know what to expect. I’m 31 years old … this is a high-intensity job. You’re responsible for a lot of money. You’re responsible for a lot of people’s livelihoods, and more importantly, you’re responsible for the audience’s dreams and expectations. There’s no way I’d be able to do this job if I hadn’t had the experience I have from playing organized sports. I’d be a different person.”
Writer/Director Ryan Coogler (Black Panther)
The Undefeated article by Kelley L. Carter 

Related post:

Screenwriting & the Super Bowl

Scott W. Smith

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Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light…
Casey at the Bat poem by Ernest Thayer

A little glimpse into the drama of college football, and the humbling power of sports.

A year ago at this time, UCF head coach Scott Frost was past the halfway mark on the way to leading his team to a 13-0 record and a win in the Peach Bowl.  It was quite a reversal from the team he took over—the one that finished the 2015 season 0-12. It was the worst season in the school’s history.

Frost was offered the head coaching job at his alma mater the University of Nebraska.  The hope being that Frost could bring that school back to its former glory when it won national championships—like the one they did when Frost was a quarterback in 1997. That team finished 13-0 and number 1 in the Coaches’ Poll.

So the hope at the beginning of this season was that Frost would work his magic and get Nebraska back on track. That’s still the hope, but it’s going to take a little time. This year the team is 0-6.

To put that into a broader perspective, that is the worst start Nebraska has ever had in their 129-year history. That’s 1890 for those keeping score. Not the kind of record books Nebraska was aiming for at the beginning of the season.

But Frost won as a player, he won big as a coach at UCF, and he’ll win again at Nebraska. It may only be a game or two this year, but you have to start somewhere. He’s got a great freshman QB and in three years he’ll have a team full of his recruits and I expect they’ll be back in the top 20 again.

Sports—and movies—are replete with dramatic reversals. Everyone loves a comeback story.

“If you’re not willing to look at who you are, you’re not willing to fix who you are. . . . We’re going to look back on these days with a little bit of a smile.”
Scott Frost (after his team was 0-5)

10/21/18 Update: That didn’t take long . . . about five hours after I wrote this post, Nebraska beat Minnesota 58-28. They looked so good they might win 3 or 4 games this year. There is joy in Nebraska once again.

Related posts:

Screenwriting from Nebraska
Writing Quote #56 Willia Cather 
Screenwriting Quote #195 (Bob Nelson)
‘Nebraska’ Take 4—The Nebraska Mafia in L.A.)

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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BenHill1_7044

Many know of Gainesville, Florida simple because it’s the home to the Florida Gators football team. Lesser known is the name at the top of the University of Florida football stadium that reads Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.* Griffin was a former UF  who became an orange grove baron in Frostproof, Fla. with an estate worth an estimated hundreds of millions when he died in 1990. He and his family have been significant donors to the school over the years.

Years ago I once produced a video for his extended family and came across footage of an old interview with Griffin that’s always been one of my favorites. Since he started with just 10-acres of oranges he was asked what was the secret of his immense financial success. He smiled and said, “Now I don’t know if I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded, it’s just that my successes have outshone my failures.”

I imagine any honest biography would echo that thought. And may it be true of us as well.

In the bottom left corner of the photo I took yesterday are three top Gator players (Danny Wuerffel, Steve Spurrier, and Tim Tebow) who each had their share of successes and failures, but are best known for being Heisman Trophy quarterbacks who also were on national championship teams as a player or coach at Florida.

BenHill1_7041

*The full name of football stadium is now “Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.” But that’s a mouthful so many just call it by its nickname—”The Swamp.”

Scott W. Smith

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“The former Buffalo Bills QB [Jim Kelly] has endured more pain, grief and disappointment than many nations, and it’s only getting worse.”
Rick Reilly
ESPN March 4, 2014

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Andy Defresne in The Shawshank Redemption

Jim Kelly and his daughter at the hospital

Jim Kelly and his daughter at the hospital

Jim Kelly changed my life.

Indirectly—and I’ll explain in a minute—but now that he’s facing surgery tomorrow for an aggressive form of cancer I wanted you to keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Kelly’s not a screenwriter, but once said he’d written the script for his life that included coaching his son Hunter one day. But Hunter was born with a genetic disorder and died in 2005 when he was 8-years-old. Jim and his wife Jill founded Hunter’s Hope Foundation in honor of their son.  In times like that I’m always reminded of the words of Roy Hobbs in The Natural, “My life didn’t turn out the way I expected.”

To one degree or another that’s true of every person who’s ever lived on this planet. I think that’s why stories dealing with struggle are so universal. Our culture celebrates power and strength, but it seems to be in moments of weakness where real and lasting impact takes place.

“His ability to lose, and lose big, and yet handle it, is so impressive to me. This has all made him an even better person than before, more patient even. It’s made him want to help even more people than before.”
Jill Kelly on her husband Jim who had part of his jaw removed last year due to cancer

For those of you who don’t follow football, Kelly is a member of the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame and from 1986 to 1996 was the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.

My path crossed Kelly’s in August of 1981 at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. I was a first year football walk-on and Kelly was the starting QB. I was so low on the totem pole that as practices first started I didn’t even have a “U” on my helmet. That’s the truth. But I did have “Smith” written on tape across top front of my helmet, and perhaps the only conversation I ever had with Kelly was when he said, “Hey, Smitty” and he threw me the ball to warm his arm up before practice.

For Kelly who would later be the only QB to take a team to the Super Bowl four years in a row, that moment probably doesn’t make his highlight memory reel. But if you’re a first year walk-on and you’re catching a football from the starting QB you don’t forget that moment. But that’s not how Kelly changed my life.

In high school I was an all-conference football player but lacked size, grades, and about anything else that would make a college offer me a scholarship. But I still had this desire to play major college football. I went to a community college for a year to improve my GPA and also worked at a small newspaper as a sports writer and photographer. So as I looked for a college that had a good passing program (and a solid film school) I landed on Miami as the perfect fit.

Because Miami has won more national championships in football than any other school in the last 30 years, people forget before Kelly led the Hurricanes to a Peach Bowl victory after the 1980 season—Miami hadn’t even won a bowl game since 1966. I liked the direction head coach Howard Schnellenberger was taking the team and dreamed about catching passes from Kelly who was fresh off being the offensive MVP in that Peach Bowl.

So to a certain extent I lived that dream on a very, very micro level. I often joke that I had a the shortest career of any player who ever wore a Hurricane uniform in a game. I dressed out for exactly one JV football game playing exactly zero downs—and then dislocated my shoulder in practice, had surgery, and walked-off. (Didn’t even make the team picture that was taken later in the season.) About the only other thing Kelly and I have in common is we both had shoulder surgery done by the team physician Dr. Kalback.

But if it hadn’t been for Kelly I don’t think I would have chosen the University of Miami. So that’s indirectly how he changed the course of my life. With playing football out of my system I decided to head to California to finish film school, met my wife, etc. etc, etc.

So if you’ve enjoyed any aspect of this blog over the years–know that Jim Kelly played a part in all of this. There’s a wake behind great leaders where they have a positive impact that they are totally unaware of.

Please keep he and his family in your thoughts and prayers because he’s one of the good guys. And consider donating to Hunter’s Hope as they seek to alleviate the pain children are suffering from Krabbe Disease.

P.S. When Kelly was first drafted by the Buffalo Bills he says he actually cried, because he did not want to play in a cold weather climate. And before he joined the Bills, he played in the USFL in the Astrodome for the Houston Gamblers. But as the USFL folded he reluctantly joined the Bills. Lesson there is sometimes when we go to the places we don’t want to go magical things can happen.

Related Posts:
Screenwriting Quote #19 (Kurt Warner)
Screenwriting and the Super Bowl
Screenwriitng Quote #29 (William Blinn) Screenwriter of Brian’s Song about Gale Sayers

Update 4/8/14: Doctors decided they could treat Kelly this time with radiation and so this week he begin radiation treatment five days a week for the next seven weeks for his skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma).

Scott W. Smith

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