August 9 - Brian's Song
Note from TheMirl.com: This is the newest installment of a regular series by Joel Blumberg reviewing
sports movies from all eras.
We are in an era of the Selfish Athlete. The Me-first Guy. And while football is
in the training camp mode. The Me-first attitude is true in just about every
Most athletes of today seem to have forgotten what it means to help your fellow
Most athletes of today should be ordered to see one of the great sports movies
ever mad and without a doubt the greatest football move.
“Brian’s Song” is about two football players - Gale Sayers who was black, and Brian Piccolo who was
white. They both played for the Chicago Bears
Sayers came out of Kansas as a first round draft pick, number four overall. The Kansas Comet was
the most heralded running back to come out of school in 1964.
Piccolo was a running back and undrafted by the Bears, even though he led the nation in rushing in
1964 playing for Wake Forest (and the draft was 20 rounds long).
Both rookies battled for the starting lineup. Sayers would eventually become the starter, and in the
ninth game of the season, he scored six touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers. He won the
Rookie Of The Year Award in 1965. Piccolo spent that season on the practice squad.
The following year, Piccolo made the team. He got into games when Sayers needed a rest, which
wasn’t often. He rushed three times for twelve yards.
Each year, Piccolo was on the bubble, but his spirit tilted the scale in his favor. In 1968, Sayers
suffered a major knee injury, an injury that many felt he would not recover from. But with help from
Piccolo (they had become friends and roommates), Sayers came back.
In 1969, though, Piccolo was diagnosed with terminal cancer. And this is
the story of “Brian’s Song”.
This film was made for TV. It runs only one hour and eleven minutes.
But in this framework is the story of these two men fueled by each other
in football, as in life. Two men who were there for each other - Piccolo
who helped Sayers live to fulfill his destiny, and Sayers who watched
Piccolo die with dignity.
As in real life, this film is a two man show. Billy Dee Williams as Sayers (Sayers wanted to play
himself in the film but the Bears were in training camp during the filming), James Caan as Piccolo.
While this story was from real life as well as Sayers’ own book, William Blinn’s screenplay won him a
Peabody award, one of many prizes won by this movie.
Combined with the acting and direction (Buzz Kulik), as well as Michele LeGrand’s beautiful score,
there is no surprise that “Brian’s Song” won the Golden Globe as Best Made-for-TV movie in 1972.
These Me-first players should take note that the title of the book this film was taken from is “I Am
One footnote...Avoid at all costs the remake. It is just another example of the inability to improve on
perfection for no reason at all.