About The Film
“Sports are more than entertainment.”
A former trumpet player with the Stanford marching band, Michael Anderson, said that during the first interview I conducted for this film. The cultural terrain suggested by “more than entertainment” is what I wanted to explore in The Play.
I also think The Play is the funniest thing ever.
Why are sports more than entertainment? It has something to do with history – especially the history of rivalries. Us and Them. Memory. It has something to do with specific qualities athletic competition yields: teamwork, grace under pressure, honor, competence, courage. There’s “the clock” - always creating tension (except in baseball, which is why baseball is so ethereally great). How about expectations, and subsequently, the undermining of expectations? There is a quality of storytelling replete with underdogs and favorites, heroes and goats and villains. Hovering over it all is the swift sword of Fate.
Fate is defined as “the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.” This is real. Sports fans know that a spirit level exists in the athletic crucible, where, dramatic, inexplicable, and even unimaginable things happen. Context frames these moments but the God of Fate unleashes them. Come on! This is why we watch!
In the grand pantheon of sports history, there aren’t that many moments that stand the test of decades: the "Immaculate Reception," "The Catch," "Flutie’s Hail Mary." Even in that rarefied company The Play stands out. Minus the band, no one had ever seen a football play like this before. Plus the band, The Play embodies comedy and tragedy in such exquisite proportions Fate must have spent eons designing it. Finally, due to the chaos spawned by the moment, the legitimacy of The Play continues to be debated down to this day. Magic! Humor! Ambiguity! It’s beyond sports - it’s mythology!
Yet, the essence of The Play is its mystery. The back story and personalities I've profiled in The Play are but scaffolding for viewers to leap from, and float timelessly within, this most sublime of sporting moments. As far as I’ve chased the “why” of this story I always succumb to the “what.” Because it never, ever, disappoints. The trombonist, Gary Tyrell, gets clobbered and it is funny every single time.
One more thing about Fate. A few years ago, at a cocktail party, I overheard two friends talking about The Play. I mentioned how I first saw it in a bar in Switzerland while on a collegiate walkabout. Where did you see it first? I asked them. “We were in the band!”.
And that’s where it began...