A large congratulations goes out to the film Undefeated for winning Best Documentary Feature at the 84th Annual Academy Awards. As The Vault Keeper pointed out on Sunday, it now joins a long list of Award Winning football films like 1996’s Jerry Maguire and 2009’s The Blind Side.
During this year’s awards telecast there were several montages consisting of Hollywood A-Listers describing the movies they love watching. Their stories got me thinking: What’s my favorite football movie? Which led to the sub-question: In order to be a great football film, do you need football to be the MacGuffin of your story? In my humble opinion, no. This is why my favorite Football Cinematic Scene is from the movie Point Break.
For anyone not familiar with the film, IMDB’s website sums it up simply by saying, “Point Break is about an FBI agent who goes undercover to catch a gang of bank robbers who may be surfers.” Truthfully, the film is much deeper than that. Point Break is really about an FBI agent that battles with the timeless struggle of good vs. evil and friend vs. enemy. And where does my favorite football scene come in to play? Like so. (Obligatory Spoiler Alert).
The protagonist of the film, Special Agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is a former quarterback for The Ohio State University who blew out his knee in the Rose Bowl his senior year. This horrific injury dashed his NFL dreams, so Utah moved promptly on to the next most logical career for any uber-athletic, poised under pressure, super competitor: being an undercover F-B-I agent. His first assignment was to infiltrate the local surfing community to get a lead on a group of bank robbers known as the Ex-Presidents. After unsuccessful initial attempts at breaking into the surf scene, Special Agent Johnny Utah finally gains one group’s admiration after a game of Beach Football. That’s right, just like in any great “football film”, football is used as the ultimate equalizer. Without that football game there is no way that Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) would have welcomed Utah into his ‘gang’, no matter how many halfpipe lessons Reeves took from surfer girl Lori Petty or how good he was at hanging ten by moonlight.
The game wasn’t just proof that Special Agent Johnny Utah was tough but also that he was ‘one of them’, someone who could be trusted. After gaining it, Utah uses that trust to infiltrate Bodhi’s world and uncover who the Ex-Presidents are. That game on the beach is crucial to the plot of the movie, and why I consider it my favorite football cinematic scene.
While I’m on the subject, if this film was real life, Special Agent Johnny Utah has to be one of the top 10 biggest draft misses of all time. All 28 teams passed on him because he needed two years of surgery? I guess I understand that, but someone couldn’t have taken a 7th round flier on the kid to wait to see if his knee fully healed? I’m sure he gladly would have sat behind a Phil Simms or Joe Montana and carried a clip board for a couple years. At worst, he’d rehab on IR and you’d have risked about as much money as teams do every year on Mr. Irrelevant. At best, they’d be getting a natural leader with tremendous balance and pin point accuracy that would learn from your current veteran. Heck, Tom Brady was a late round pick and has demonstrated that knee injuries needn’t end an elite passer’s career. I’m sure any team would have gladly waited two years to have a 5,000 yard passer. Plus Utah’s leg looked like it healed just fine while he chased Bodhi through what I assume to be downtown San Dimas (sure his injury acted up a bit after jumping from the plane, but yours would too if you landed without a parachute). Utah would have been the ultimate NFL quarterback: He could play hurt like Big Ben, make audibles like Peyton, had the clutchness of Eli and was obviously an unselfish teammate, as demonstrated on so many stakeouts with Gary Busey (“Hey Utah….gimme two!”).
Whether or not Point Break is a “good” movie is a whole other debate meant for another place and time. But as far as I’m concerned, Point Break has my favorite football scene, and therefore is my favorite football movie.