SportsProf

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

World Premiere: For Love and Honor

I was privileged to have been invited to the world premier screening of this documentary, which was shown to a distinguished group of Ivy football alums on Thursday night at the Yale Club in New York City. It was a great night, so much so that even with laptop briefcase slung over my shoulder, I walked from Penn Station to 50 Vanderbilt Avenue, right near Grand Central Station.

Several hundred people were in attendance, and they watched a wonderful documentary that is worthy of showing on public television, ESPN and HBO. Erik Greenberg Anjou and Mark Bernstein made this film, and it features, among others, Calvin Hill (Yale), Dan Jiggetts (Harvard), Charles Ravenel (Harvard), Chuck Bednarik (Penn), Stas Maliszewski (Princeton) and GE's CEO, Jeff Immelt (who played line for Dartmouth). Their stories and observations are compelling, and, across the board, this is a first-rate documentary.

Among my observations:

1. Chuck Bednarik, perhaps the best player in Ivy history and the last two-way player in the NFL, was hilarious with his feisty comments about his approach on the field. Remember, Bednarik is in his early eighties today, but he still looks like if he flew across the field and hit you he could hurt you.

2. Jiggetts's story about his background is great, and his comment about Ivy rivalries and Harvard's being number one was hilarious.

3. Maliszewski's observation about the difference between taking exams at Princeton versus playing football is perhaps the best in the film. The difference -- in your exam, if you're prepared, no one is grabbing your pencil or trying to tear up your exam book. On the field, your opponent is also trying to do his best, and he's trying to disrupt what you're trying to do. To Maliszewski, who emigrated to the United States as a boy from Belarus and who turned down a scholarship from Notre Dame, this is what made football more like real life.

4. Harvard alum Charles Ravenel, Class of 1961, was generally a hoot.

5. Brian Dennehy, who captained Columbia's team in 1960, narrates the film.

6. One of the most impressive appearances came from Matt Sodl, who captained Columbia and who never played in a winning game while at Columbia. Sodl had 19 tackles in his last game, which Columbia lost in the last seconds because they missed a field goal. His intensity during that time (which we see because a CBS film crew followed Columbia for a time during its losing streak) was amazing, and his reflections about 20 years later made for great documentary viewing.

7. Calvin Hill still looks like he wants to get out there and play Harvard in an overtime session to finally decide the 1968 29-29 tie (Harvard scored 16 points in the final two minutes to tie the game) that had the Harvard Crimson proclaim the next morning -- Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29.

8. All current Ivy coaches save Columbia's Norries Wilson, who for some reason didn't want to appear in the film, impress in the film. Your sons would be in good hands with any of them.

All in all, a triumph in the documentary film world. Kudos to Eric Greenberg Anjou and Mark Bernstein for their outstanding work.

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