Now with summer behind us, the arrival of fall means weekends attending and watching plenty of football games. Whether they’re college, pro or high school, I’m all over them. I’m looking forward to attending a few games at the San Francisco 49ers new Levi’s Stadium.
On the college front, my husband Rickey is a former UC Davis player/alum and long-time season ticket holder. We don’t miss many Aggies games either.
And when it comes to football movies, few move me as much as the 1971 drama
"Brian's Song" starring Billy Dee Williams as Chicago Bears running back, Gale Sayers and James Caan as Brian Piccolo.
I interviewed Billy Dee Williams earlier this year about his brief appearance on “Dancing with the Stars.” We also talked about many of his movies. When I asked him what some of his favorites and most memorable roles were he said portraying Gale Sayers in “Brian’s Song” because it was “such an honest and beautiful, yet tragic story.”
I’ve been sold on "Brian's Song" since the first day I saw it. It is hands down my favorite football movie of all time. I can't count how many times I've seen it, but I never get tired watching it. You can usually catch “Brian’s Song” on TV this time of year. True football, movie fanatics already have it in their collection.
"Brian's Song" is loosely based on Sayers' autobiography, "I am Third" which chronicles his longstanding rivalry and friendship with his teammate, Brian Piccolo who died June 16, 1970 from cancer. Piccolo was just 26-years-old.
The true to life film originally aired in 1971 as a "movie of the week" on ABC television and garnered huge ratings. It won five Emmys, including "Best Dramatic Program.”
"Brian's Song," was written by Emmy Award winning screenwriter William Blinn, ("Fame," "Roots" and "Purple Rain"). It was later released in theaters. A remake of "Brian's Song" aired on ABC's "The Wonderful World of Disney in 2001. It starred Mekhi Phifer as Sayers and Sean Maher as Piccolo. Though good, it paled in comparison to the original.
Rumor has it that Nicholas Sparks (“Safe Haven” and “The Notebook”) and his production company is considering making another movie about Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo. It will have to be some kind of special to top “Brian’s Song.”
In the original movie Sayers (Williams) plays the reserved and talented running back that arrives at the Bears training camp and tries out for the same position as the brash and cocky Piccolo (Caan). Although both players make the team, Sayers starts and Piccolo has to play second string to him. Despite the tension this creates, over time the two men forge a remarkable friendship. It gets truly tested when a knee injury sidelines Sayers and Piccolo discovers he's dying.
While there are many great scenes in "Brian's Song," Williams' awards tribute speech honoring Piccolo is one of the most gut-wrenching and memorable. It gets me every single time.
Not only do Williams and Caan give outstanding performances, but the movie also features an impressive supporting cast that includes: Jack Warden who plays owner/coach George "Papa Bear" Halas, Bernie Casey and even some of the actual Chicago Bears football players like Jack Concannon, Ed O' Bradovich, Dick Butkus and Abe Gibron.
By the way, Abe Gibron’s son, Bill Gibron is a renowned movie critic/writer who has occasionally contributed reviews to N2Entertainment.net.
It wasn’t until this year when Bill (Gibron) posted some terrific football pics of his late, great dad on Facebook that I made the connection they were related.
In addition to playing for the Da Bears, Abe (Gibron) coached the team from 1970-74. With all the NFL career achievements and awards Abe Gibron racked up during his coaching and playing stints with teams such as the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, you could probably make a movie about him too.
However, after 43-years, "Brian's Song" still stands as one of the best football movies ever made.