Pete Gent played football for the Dallas Cowboys in the late '60s and had a rather undistinguished career. His most notable achievement in Texas was the writing of "North Dallas Forty." I enjoyed the film, even though I think it is generally a caricature of professional football in its current state of the art. Nonetheless, it is close enough to the experiences of those of us who play the game to give it a sometimes-humorous, sometimes-frightening validity.
The book/film is an insider's story of professional football as he saw it during the time of his employment, and he thinly disguises the name of the team and the identities of some of his teammates. In spite of this, the team (Cowboys) and major characters are easily identified by their roles.
It's the story of a young man's search for reality and understanding. Unfortunately, not between himself and his lady but rather between himself and the head coach of the North Dallas Bulls, obvious winner of the Tom Landry lookalike contest.
The organization against which he is struggling epitomizes the worst of pro-sports villains: a myriad of computers and faceless administrative personnel that control not only a business but a livelihood in which young men bleed and grown men cry.
There are scenes of drug-taking by athletes, and there is the usual stereotype of the articulate quarterbacks, receivers and running backs contrasted against monosyllable linemen. There is brutality, and there are needles for every occasion: B-12 shots for business meetings and the more ominous painkillers for those who can/can't "tell the difference between pain and injury."
Our hero, Phil Elliott, finds and falls in love with a lady who, like most ladies close to men in this profession, can't seem to understand why, beyond the money, a man would subject himself to constant pain, sometimes humiliation, and never-ending fear of failure associated with pro football.
Those of us who play football love it for a reason beyond reason, and no matter how smug we try to be about our concerns, when the time comes to quit almost all of us have to be dragged out.
"North Dallas Forty" is a good film. Most of what you see is close to what happens, or at least did happen when Pete Gent played. Today, for the most part, drugs are not used by professional football players. And those drugs prescribed by doctors are tightly controlled and never frivolously administered.
The training rooms and trainers are extremely professional. And no, unfortunately, we don't drink beer in the whirlpool.
Football is a tough, sometimes brutal, sport that won't change. The fans who live in a world of fresh-faced announcers and snappy instant replays are not really experiencing the sport. That's just television. Unfortunately for me, the film never did answer the question: Is there life after being cut? $00;1500000922: