just got the feeling that the universe had shifted somehow, that something
portentous, significant, weird was taking place.”
–Tom Peacock, Yale tackle
Rafferty’s “football documentary” is like a great detective story, in which we
know the identity of the perpetrator, but the fascination lies in watching how
the detective uncovers that identity. In this case, the film’s title tells us
what the final score was, but we wonder how Harvard came out from way behind
(29-13) in the final 42 seconds of the game to catch up with Yale. And what the
hell does the use of “beats” mean when the final numbers signify a tie?
help us understand how this game unfolded and why it was considered a victory
for Harvard, veteran documentary filmmaker Kevin Rafferty (THE ATOMIC CAFÉ and
BLOOD IN THE FACE) intersperses exciting footage of the actual game with
interviews with players from both teams, including actor Tommy Lee Jones.
addition to the traditional rivalry between Harvard and Yale, the game took place
on 23 November 1968, a year of enormous crisis and change in America: Martin
Luther King and Robert Kennedy had both been assassinated earlier in the year,
the urban rebellion was well underway, the war in Vietnam raged with resultant
campus and street protests, and Nixon had just been elected President. In the
best American tradition, the games had to go on even if the empire was on the
brink of chaos.
Yet, the football
players – Yale “elites” and Harvard “working class” – could not help but take
the mood of the times onto the field. Pat Conway (Harvard) had just returned
from military service in Vietnam the preceding year, when he was fighting for
his life, not for a football. But for a few hours football reigned supreme and
something miraculous happened, something which allowed participants and viewers
alike to be lifted out of the darkness enshrouding the world. It was the 1960s
after all and magical realism reigned supreme on the streets, in the minds,
and, now we realize, on the gridiron. I was totally drawn into this film, and
I’m not even a football fan. If someone could guarantee me that one out of
three games can be this exciting, then I promise to convert. – Chale Nafus
USA, 2008, distributed
by Kino International, DVCam, color, 105 min.