' ' Cinema Romantico: Top 5 Football Players Turned Actors

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Top 5 Football Players Turned Actors

Ah, Super Bowl Sunday (Note: The Packers will win. Why? Simple. They have an ex Nebraska Cornhusker and the Steelers don't. Game over.), a day to match the spectacle itself. Chili, cold cuts, afternoon drinking, football and, of course, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band playing at halftime.Whoops! That was already 2 years ago! My apologies, loyal readers, but I still haven't got over that one. Nevertheless....

The list of ex football players that have taken a stab at acting is long and distinguished. They retire from the gridiron and have nothing to occupy their time aside from perhaps restaurants in their names and a bit of broadcasting and so they turn to movies, perhaps thinking, "Hey, if Dr. J can do it, why not me?" Of course, not all pigskin pioneers' acting turns are created equal.  In Cinema Romantico's expert view, these five supercede the rest. Let me know if you disagree.

5. John Matuszak. You would think the late, former #1 draft pick and two-time Super Bowl winner with the Oakland Raiders (where he claimed to enjoy breakfasts of vodka and valium) would make this list on the strength of his turn as Sloth in 1984's "The Goonies." You would be wrong. He makes this list on the strength of his turn as Killjoy in 1984's "Ice Pirates."

You're right!  That IS John Matuszak with a trash-eating robot!
4. Jim Brown.  He was a badass on the gridiron - both with The Cuse and with The Cleve - and he's been a badass on the movie screen.  He did the dirty work in "The Dirty Dozen" and helped take down the diabolical gold chain trade in "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" and I'm quite partial to his work as the parole officer Spivey assigned to watch over Denzel Washington in Spike Lee's imperfect but underrated "He Got Game" but we all know Brown's definitive work was as ex boxing champ Byron Williams in Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks!" who at the end somehow makes it across a martian ridden landscape on foot from Vegas to D.C.......all while wearing a Sphinx costume.  Let's see you do that, Emmitt Smith.    

3. Mike Ditka.  Now I know in Jesse Dylan's 2005 "Kicking & Screaming" the Hall of Fame tight end Ditka is just playing himself but this is no one scene cameo, people.  This is a full-fledged and key supporting turn as Will Ferrell's wimpish Phil Weston turns to his next-door neighbor - Ditka - for help in coaching his son's pitiful soccer team.  And while you might think this is just a family friendly comedy it is actually the story of the rise and fall of a facist dictator set in the world of kids' soccer with Ditka playing, essentially, the Dino Grandi to Ferrell's Benito Mussolini.

2. O.J. Simpson. Yes, yes, yes, we all know about Juice's post-NFL, uh, exploits but much like the Pro Football Hall Of Fame's mission is simply "To honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to professional football" our mission today is simply to honor ex football players who have made outstanding contributions to the cinema. And even if O.J. Simpson's disarming blandness in "The Towering Inferno" puts you off, well, you can't deny that his reaction shot to the late Leslie Nielsen in "The Naked Gun 2 1/2" saying of professional boxing "Well, all I know is never bet on the white guy" isn't pure acting genius. Congrats on making the Top 5, O.J. But you're still a jackass.

1. Carl Weathers. A linebacker at San Diego State University and briefly with the Oakland Raiders of the NFL and the superpower that was the British Columbia Lions of the CFL (Cosmo Kramer's preferred football league) in the 70's, the esteemed Mr. Weathers is essentially an acting legend. Kinda. Most know him as Apollo Creed and many know him as the buff Dutch running afoul of Schwarzenegger in "Predator" and some know him as Happy Gilmore's mentor, Chubbs, and still a few more fondly recall him as Sgt. Jericho "Action" Jackson, a guy so freaking cool a sequel couldn't handle him. Yet despite that "hall of fame" worthy resume there is one role in the Weathers Canon that towers over the rest. I'm talking, of course, about the short-lived but brilliant-beyond-words Fox TV show "Arrested Development", featuring Carl Weathers in a few episodes as....Carl Weathers, a mooching cheapskate who becomes David Cross's Tobias's "acting coach", a guy who "buy(s) all (his) cars at police auction."  But I would be remiss in not mentioning the single greatest football player turned actor scene of all time, the scene my friend Daryl and I have quoted - with various modifications - at least 458 times in the last 5 years:

-"Perhaps my wife is right. I don't know if I'm cut out to be a DeNiro or a Regis or a Pinkett-Smith, or a what-have-you."
-"Tobias, dreams are worth fighting for. Now, do you want to be a fighter? Or do you want to be a doctor?"
-"You're right, Carl Weathers! I should just march into that restaurant where my wife works and-"
-"Woah, woah, woah! Your wife works in a restaurant? Do they get shift meals or just pay half price on select menu items?"
-"I don't know."
-" Well, let's go find out, man."

"There's still plenty of meat on that bone."


Wretched Genius said...

No love for Lawrence Taylor in Oliver Stone's much-maligned, grossly underrated Any Given Sunday, a movie that also happened to feature a fine performance from Jim Brown?

Castor said...

Would love to see more of Carl Weathers, he was the only redeeming aspect of The Expendables!

Rory Larry said...

How could you omit Howe Long and his action packed performance in Firestorm.

Nick Prigge said...

Wretched Genius: I am not a fan of Lawrence Taylor's acting. Not unironically or ironically. Though you're right that I should have mentioned that movie in conjunction with Jim Brown.

Castor: I had no idea Carl Weathers was in The Expendables! That almost makes me want to netflix it. Almost.

Rory: Howie Long was actually the original #5 on this list until I remembered Ice Pirates. I should have made it 5(A) just for the flowing tome I wrote about how he lended more than usual gravitas to a typical smoke-jumpers-battle-bank-robbers movie.

Derek Armstrong said...

You didn't really like Kicking and Screaming, did you? Baumbach's, yes; Dylan's, uh uh.

I don't remember Carl Weathers in The Expendables.

Nick Prigge said...

Oh God, no. Well, except for the part where Will Ferrell gets banned from the coffee shop. That made me laugh, if only because I too am addicted to coffee.

david said...

Ice Pirates is the most underrated movie of all time.

Nick Prigge said...

I'm pretty sure Ice Pirates is appropriately rated. It's just underseen.