A fine football film that’s not really about football

(From syracusenewtinmes.com)

(From syracusenewtinmes.com)

The football teams at De Lasalle High School in Northern California won a ridiculous 151 games in a row in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

And yet in the film “When the Game Stands Tall,” you get to see only the win 151 and then two losses in a row.

That’s because it’s not really a movie about football film.

But it’s a very good film that happens to have football as a theme.

Jim Caviezel is excellent as coach Bob Ladouceur, the man who led the Spartans to all those victories in a row. Michael Chiklis is pretty darn good as his top assistant, and Laura Dern is cool as a wife that wants him to get the most out of all of his life, too.

This true life story is compelling because it’s about a man who seems to have become a better coach after the streak is gone, and he teaches the next round of players that the team is the most important thing, not to mention personal values that will carry past the playing field into life.

All the young actors are believable, too.

By the way, I actually do like the football scenes. Very realistic.

Now let’s bring on the season.

If you’d like to read my weekly film review blog on the Syracuse New Times site, click the link below.


When you were in high school, did you think it was more important for your school teams to be successful or have players on it that were good classmates? Were the players on your school teams good classmates or intolerable? What’s your favorite football movie?

35 thoughts on “A fine football film that’s not really about football

  1. I liked Jim Caviezel in the show, “Person of Interest,” and that older movie, “Frequency,” where I think Dennis Quaid plays his father. It is about radio waves being able to get sidetracked and go back in time….Did you ever see this one? It is good, where he ends up saving his mother from being hurt, somehow…Anyway, the football movie sounds excellent and so glad you gave it a positive review. I love true stories and still need to see “Draft Day,” just for the fun Cleveland references… I am behind a bit in movie-watching!


    • You will love ‘Draft Day’ because of Cleveland reference, Robin. This one you will like because Jim does such a great job with the lead. You can watch them when they come to DVD. Thanks, my friend.


  2. Ah, now that’s a sport-themed film I wouldn’t mind — football without much football. πŸ˜‰ I gotta stick with The Blind Side, Mark. I don’t really have many “have seen” football films in my arsenal. πŸ˜€


  3. That sounds like a good movie Mark. Personally I think that dealing with faiure (with some winning of course) is a strong life lesson. When you don’t fail, you get complacent and don’t learn anything. I’ve seen people who have been talented in other areas, that were orders of magntude above everyone else, be it sports, academics or even trades. It is seldom good for their personality – they become uppity and arrogant and uncaring of those who struggle. There is the odd one who is fantastic who accepts their gift with grace. They will ineviably spend more time helping others than normal – but that is a rarity.

    My favorite football film is “The Longest Yard.” – truly eye opening and heartfelt in my opinion.

    My High School teams were quite good – probably because we were the largest – 1200 kids – in the city and hence the coaches had a wider range of skills to choose from. I was always more academically inclined but found that the students were prettty spilt into academics and jocks. There were a few exceptions who circulated in both groups but they were rare. Sometimes it was really a physical choice that made the dacision. I had one friend who was both brilliant in the classroom and amazing on the field. He suffered an injury that kept him from exercising or playing sports for a month or so. He had built such a muscle mass that when he suddenly stopped exercising it wasn’t long before his muscles started to cramp and it was very very hard on him. He would literally be crying from the pain and had to be hospitalized and sedated while they worked on the problem. He eventually cut back on the sports to be sure that his academics weren’t sacrificed by hospital stays.

    All that to say that I believe that, as in most things in life, a balance is important. There have been countless examples of teams that have generated a winning season at the expense of academics. In college football this has become a major stain on the sport.It would be good if a better balance were achievable but, honestly the way we look up to sports figures, I doubt that will happen any time soon in the system.


    • Balance in life, sweeping balance, is a marvelous thing when you see it, Paul. It makes for a happy camper, I think.

      I would have been proud of your friend who cut back on the sports to keep up the academic end for which he also excelled.

      And, alas, sports will always be a goal for many because of the financial windfall that is waved in front of all on TV for those that make it to the top. And at the bottom, it’s offered to everybody.


  4. Thanks for the review, Mark! Jim Caviezel is one of my faves and our family watches a disproportionate number of sports movies so I bet I’ll be watching this soon πŸ™‚ Growing up in NE Pennsylvania, high school was all about football for better and worse. Our team was lackluster but had a history of glory upon whose shirt tails we road. The players were a tight knit group and I was friends with some of the kinder ones. Two years ago I was back home and they invited me to a get-together they have every year. I was honestly surprised and touched by their long-term fraternity. Good for them. As for my favorite football movie, I choose Brian’s Song because it was the first one I ever saw and I still love James Caan to this day πŸ™‚


      • It truly was a privilege. Not only was the clam bake delish and the beer cold, I could see that some of the guys had done well for themselves, while others were truly struggling. It was sweet to see them care for each other.

        Now the Brian’s theme song is floating through my mind… Bwa Bwaa Bwabwa Bwa Bwaaaaaa πŸ˜‰


  5. Am I correct that that film had religious overtones? I think I read that in the weekly grosses report. If that’s true, Caviezel might be digging himself into a bit of a rut. I think he was Christ in that Mel Gibson torture porn film.


  6. I don’t have a favorite football movie but I am still in love with the TV series, Friday Night Lights. And at the time I was in school, the football players were all pretty nice guys and diverse, too. It was OK for a player to be on the football team and in band or choir. Go figure.


  7. Not a movie, but I love, love, love Friday Night Lights. I also really liked that football film with Mark Wahlberg as a regular guy who gets a chance to play pro football. (The title is lost somewhere in my mind right now.)


    • There is a big following for the TV show “Friday Night Lights,” which, by the the way, you might want to Netflix because it was a movie first, in 2004, and a pretty good one. The Wahlberg movie, he was playing a Philadephia Eagle, it’s escaping my mind, too, so don’t feel bad about that!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. this sounds like a good one, mark, i enjoy my sports movies as you know. i honestly think the good classmate factors meant more to me, but i know it was a mix and the winning meant more to many. my fav football film – ‘the longest yard’ )


    • I went for the good classmates, Beth, but winning was important, too, so I guess I should say a mix!

      “The Longest Yard” was really good, the original, of course. I remember I was squirming one day when I heard Eddie Albert interviewed on the radio and they said they couldn’t believe it was 25 or 30 years or whatever since the original and he laughed and said no, it was just a few years ago. Senior moment truly.


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