Monday, June 26, 2006

stillers on film

you already know what it is.

Much hoo-hawing and ballyhooing has been and will be done about whether or not the NBA or the NFL or any other professional sport is rigged, but the evidence that a Hollywood production company is making a documentary-style sports sequel out of the 2007 Steelers looks conclusive.

There could have been a whole movie made about the '06 Steelers, no doubt. Actually, it would have been so cliche that no studio would buy it. Our coach, the iconic Bill Cowher, has the longest running coaching position in football. The big names on our team were an Aryan golden boy, a scrappy underdog who overcame great odds to get where he is today, and Troy Polamalu, a friendly but two-dimension minority*. Our city is a down-trodden blue collar place with an unbreakable spirit. We even lost a beloved, possibly drunk, rambling announcer last year, taking with him his many catch phrases. And I won't even speak on the almost inane perfection of Bettis's retirement. There were even intriguing sub-plots, with Polamalu and Carson Palmer being old roommates and Kimo von Oelhoffen an ex-Bengal, among many others.

But all things considered, cliches are cliches for a reason and bad sports movies aim to do very little other than polish and edit the average Cinderella story into something marketable. In the real world, Cinderellas often become dynasties, or at least formidable opponents for years ahead. That story is real boring and continuously contending for the championship while maintaining newfound respect does not fill your neighborhood Loews. To maintain interest, the sports sequel becomes a perfect and unlikely storm of collapse.

Bettis' retirement is the first piece in the puzzle. It's no surprise to see the veteran retire. It's what he's supposed to do once he's gotten that ring/trophy/t-shirt that he's been fighting for his entire career. With his folksy blue-collar charm added to the NBC broadcast team and an inevitable open invitation to every battle in the wide world of pro bowling, it would seem The Bus's days on the gridiron are over**.

Roethlisberger's accident is where the real fun starts. In one illegal left turn, our young hero suddenly endangered the hopes and dreams of an entire city. It would be just tragic if he had died, or had suffered injuries detrimental to football. Ben's injuries, the most serious of which is a broken jaw (cue "Through the Wire" recovery montage), are not expected to keep him off the field. The accident did, however, raise questions about his maturity and his decision-making, which will affect his play. Jump-cuts between Ben in the pocket and the accident (or, better yet, Ben actively deciding he doesn't need a helmet to ride to practice) cause him to throw a costly interception. The press jumps on him, especially Joe Pantoliano, starring as a nosey and antagonistic reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. To make matters worse, his irresponsible crash also reveals a wild side which betrays his Christ-loving morals; will he succomb to temptation in the form of Evangeline Lily***?

Now add to the equation the recent legal troubles of Santonio Holmes, this year's first-round draft pick. Grabbed to replace Plaxico Burress and give the Steelers a legitimate deep threat they so desperately need, Holmes looked like a perfect fit. Drafting him was the easy part; Holmes's rough upbringing and disregard for authority prove a formidible challenge for Coach Cowher. Things get off to a bad start, as Santonio annoys the Coach by showing up late for practice and bumping Project Pat**** in the weight room. His legal troubles don't help, even though Holmes swears he was only trying to protect his son from Meagan Good, his hateful baby mama.

I really think I'm on to something, and I bet it wouldn't take too much detective work to trace a line from Martha Fleishman to some deep pockets in California. Just sayin. Oddly enough, the '05 season looked pretty D2-ish. I'm not sure how the powers that be could improve on the mid-season injuries, football atrocities and stomach-turning loss to Cincinnati at which point all seemed lost. To say nothing of the wild card 6th seed run to the superbowl. I guess we'll see.


*no dispespect to That Samoan Dude, but he drives a Kia, sends all his money back home to his family, and only gets mad when he's on the field. Totally scripted.
**they're not, and when a heart attack puts Coach Cowher up in ICU, The Bus has to step in to lead the team to victory. Duh.
***of course not, even when tempted by a whipped cream bikini in a nod to the groundbreaking Varsity Blues.
****produced by Academy Award Winners Juicy J and DJ Paul.