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North Dallas Forty

While channel surfing on TV recently, I came across the movie North Dallas Forty. How appropriate. Shortly after the Seahawks game, North Dallas Forty came to mind and I was reminded how life sometimes imitates art. For those of you not familiar with the book/movie, it was written by Peter Gent who was a WR for the Cowboys in the late 60's. The book, and the movie that was based on it, caused quite a sensation as they revealed the dirty under-belly of the NFL. Sex, drugs (illegal and prescribed) and the way the league and the teams use up players and spit them out were some of the major themes. The head coach was straight out of Tom Landry central casting, QB Seth Maxwell had more than a passing resemblance to Don Meredith, and WR Phil Elliot was obviously Peter Gent, as he battled to fit his rebellious and independent spirit into the heavily regimented North Dallas Bulls football team. The book's ending is dark, complete with murders and loss. The movie's ending wasn't as grim on the life-level, but it was a disaster for the fictional Dallas Cowboys, the North Dallas Bulls, in the final game of the season. It is here where life imitated art.

The setting is a game against the Chicago Marauders, and North Dallas has to win or the season is over. Late in the game, North Dallas is driving for a TD to tie it up; they need seven points to extend the season and are running out of time. On the last play of the game, they score a TD and all they need is the extra point for a tie. Enter backup QB Art Hartman, the goody-goody young replacement for the aging Seth Maxwell/Don Meredith character. Hartman resembled in some respects a young Roger Staubach, and his job is to be the holder on extra-points. On a wet field on the road, North Dallas attempts the extra-point, but Hartman bobbles the snap, the kick is never made, and they lose the game and the season is over. After the game, there's a shot of Hartman slumped against his locker in tears.

Of course the parallels aren't perfect, but the outcome is eerily similar. Instead of the young backup QB holding the ball for and extra-point, we had a young backup QB who had been elevated to the starting position holding the ball on a FG attempt. Both snaps were bobbled, and both mistakes cost the team its final shot at victory. Both situations involved an inconsolable QB sobbing in the locker room after the game.

Just for extra emphasis, guess what number the fictional QB Art Hartman wore in the movie? If you said #9, you have been paying attention.

BTW, if you haven't seen the movie or read the book, I highly recommend it, especially for Dallas Cowboys fans. You'll easily recognize the similarity to the Cowboys of the late 60's/early 70's. The book is a riot to read and the movie is one of the best football movies of all time. The dialogue, the acting and the way it captures the inner-workings of a football team are well worth it.

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