Most people don’t know it, but the NFL is a comparatively recent thing. Back in the ‘30s, pro football was a joke. Teams would form, play for a while in tiny stadiums, go broke, disband. College football was huge, as it still is today, but once you graduated, there was nowhere to go. The NFL, and the NBA, had not yet invented the system that allowed them to use colleges as unpaid farm teams, costing them not a dime, and outrageously exploiting the athletes.
This isn’t about that, not really, though you can see the beginnings of the racket. The game used to be played mostly for fun, for the love of the game. There weren’t many rules. You could make up some pretty outrageous plays. This movie captures the years when all that went away, and the star college athletes took over, sending all those muddy-spattered old bulls back to the barn.
I guess there are a lot of great actors who long to be directors. Sometimes it works out, like Clint Eastwood. But I think most of the time they would be better off staying in front of the camera. George Clooney has it both ways here, directing and acting, and he may be one of the exceptions. He has a small list of films he has helmed, but they’re mostly good, like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and The Ides of March. This one, and his recent outing, The Monuments Men, are a bit old-fashioned, but that’s not a problem for me. The story is rather routine, but I had a reasonably good time.