Friday, August 28, 2009


Six years ago, I took a summer course at Rutgers called Sports in American Culture. Mostly everyone in the class was there to make up lost credits (myself included, though they were to be transferred), but it wasn't the worst place to be. The purpose of the course was to examine how the games and their participants - players, coaches, executives, media and fans - can be mythologized or villified though popular entertainment.

Once, the professor would spoke on the etmology of the word 'fan'; reminding us the term is short of fanatic. We proceeded to squirm through the interaction between  Travis Bickle... err, Robert De Niro and Cutter, John Cutter!... Wesley Snipes in "The Fan".

If it sounds like a summer class with the intention of just watching movies and talking smack all day, can't say I blame you. Yet, there were constructive conversations and assignments that brought appreciation for movies like "Eight Men Out" (far more honest than the handlers of Charles Comiskey's legacy would have liked) and cynicism for "Field of Dreams" (still a top-notch flick, but James Earl Jones' role was equally ironic and great).

The most important takeaway of the course was that the movies that have the greatest resonance among sports fans are not viewed from the prism of the press box. In fact, it is possible for someone to absolutely despise "Ali" and love "The Great White Hope" because (s)he is wise enough to determine whose perspective is being shown.

I thought of this when I caught this trailer yesterday via The Fifth Down:

It wouldn't be a surprise that most NFL fans, let alone New York Giants fans, are unaware of "Big Fan", starring a comedian taking a serious turn in Patton Oswalt. In fact, being that there were a handful of comments on the blog (I'd take caution with what appears on its YouTube page), there has been little buzz among the masses about the movie that opened today in select theaters.

For those who have seen Robert Siegel's "The Wrestler", you can imagine that his latest endeavor - first as director - is less about the sport itself and more about the life of the film's subjects. From the trailer alone, you'd conclude that a) you might know a person just like Oswalt's character, b) the character Quantrell Bishop would become the posterboy of the Personal Conduct policy if the beating happened in real life and c) even in an fictionalized story, the Giants are viewed in some strange negative light these days.

Yet, I want to know your thoughts on "Big Fan" based on this snippet. Regardless of your interest in the NFL, this film seems to be talking about the dangerous line a few fans are willing to toe between enthusiastic and obsessed.

JUST ADDED: Reviews from a mixed bag:, E! Online (which may not have been the ideal audience), Philly Inquirer and the NYT

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