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Gale Sayers' death is a reminder of how Brian's Song changed sports movies and male friendships

  • "There are some movies that change the world and then the world moves on," says Mary McNamara. "Maybe the change sticks, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, people eventually forget about the movie itself unless something occurs to remind them. The death of Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers on Wednesday reminds those of us old enough to remember of the wonder that was, and is, Brian’s Song. Honestly, if you want to know on which side of 50 someone is, just hum a few notes of the film’s plaintive theme song and watch the eyes. For those who have any memory of its airing in 1971 as an ABC Movie of the Week, or the many re-airings during the ‘70s or even the paperback novel version of the movie, the tears should be pretty much instantaneous." She adds: "The speech scene in Brian’s Song remains the most heartbreaking few minutes of any sports movie ever. The film, which aired just a year after Piccolo’s death, is a beautiful thing still. Yes, it is a 1971 TV movie, with all that implies, and there is a scene in which Piccolo uses the N-word as a means of forcing Sayers to train harder, which devolves into laughter in a way that seems hopelessly optimistic about the obsolescence of the term. But Brian’s Song also serves as a reminder that 'family entertainment' can deliver just as powerful a punch as any hard-R tale of gritty realism — and that social revolution comes in many forms, some of them quite unexpected."

    TOPICS: Brian's Song, Billy Dee Williams, Gale Sayers, Retro TV