Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Bomb At The Box-Office

When you hear/read about what happened to the Steelers the other night (i.e. a bomb threat phoned in to the Loew’s Theater in West Homestead where the team had gathered to a watch the highlight DVD of this Super Season past), it really makes ya stop and realize that the relationship between “Steelers” and “movie theaters” has always been a rocky one.
Follow along:

There was “Black Sunday” in ’77 … the movie which interspersed actual CBS footage from the Steelers-Cowboys/Super Bowl X tussle with the plot of Bruce Dern’s political statement.
Of course, when that blimp crashed-landed on the Orange Bowl Poly Turf, I’m pretty sure that those were actors wearing Steelers and Cowboys gear – and not actually Steelers and Cowboys – getting crushed by the airship.
Now that I think about it, maybe I should buy the “Black Sunday” DVD just to see which players were crushed (presumably to death).
NOTE: Yeah, I know that both of my readers out there are gonna say, “If Franco Harris had been piloting the blimp, it would’ve glided gently out of bounds, thus, causing injury to no one” – to which I would’ve said, “For another first down, so shut the F up!”

Yet, in the interest of public safety (as well as responsible movie-making), there should’ve been a disclaimer at the end of “Black Sunday” which read: “No actual Steelers were injured during the filming of this movie.” Wait … what about the Cowboys?
“F ‘em!”
And the horse they rode in on …

Y’see, the bigger picture of the motion-picture industry is that only a year after the release of “Black Sunday,” the Steelers were treated equally rudely during the filming of “Heaven Can Wait,” which, despite its oversights, was a fine movie.
As everybody knows by now, the Escort (Buck Henry) jumped the gun and took Rams QB Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty) to the Way Station somewhere between Earth and Heaven before Joe had actually died … so, Mr. Jordan (James Mason) was forced to oversee the insertion of Joe into the body of millionaire Leo Farnsworth until a suitable replacement could be found – which, as it turns out, was when Rams QB Tom Jarrett presumably died (I guess) sometime in the overtime period of the Super Bowl against the Steelers.
Joe, Jordan, Jarrett … that’s a lot of J’s, I’ve decided .
And that’s not counting the recently-retired Rams who had bit parts in the movie: Deacon Jones, Les Josephsen and Jack Snow.
NOTE: To this day, I believe there’s a Mr. Jordan who oversees the Almost-Dead QB Paradigm of every NFL team. One case-in-point example was the time when the Escort took Rams QB Trent Green to the Way Station when Trent had his knee shredded in preseason and then Mr. Jordan put Trent’s non-dead person into the body of a grocery bagger named Kurt Warner, who, subsequently, got the Rams to the Super Bowl … until Marc Bulger one day died (we guess), so Mr. Jordan put Trent Green into Marc Bulger’s body and, well … “now you know … the rest of the story … I’m Paul Harvey … Good Day!”

Look, if you think that the Escort/Mr. Jordan dynamic is pure fiction, then explain how when Rams QB Joe Namath died, he was put into the body of a Rhodes Scholar named Pat Haden – and then when Pat Haden died (actually, he might’ve only broken a finger on his throwing hand), he was put into the body of an inexperienced Vince Ferragamo to help the Rams get to the REAL Rams-Steelers Super Bowl one year after the CINEMA Rams-Steelers Super Bowl.
The thing is … you can’t explain the unexplainable.
Nobody can.

Of course, in the real Super Bowl, Ferragamo did not complete a short pass in OT which, after that receiver fumbled at midfield, Vince scooped up an turned into a walk-off, game-winning, sudden-death, 51-yard TD.
No … and that’s because the Steeler universe is ruled by forces darker than movie-time special effects, so when Ferragamo was marching the Rams downfield in a 24-19 ballgame … the NFL’s Darth Vader (Jack Lambert) made that drive-killing INT.
No Hollywood ending for you, Vinny.

Anyway, miscasting is one thing … but a total omission … well, that’s just wrong.
Take, for example, “The Deer Hunter” in 1978.
Sure … it won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director … and Chris Walken took home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
DeNiro, well … basically, he rocked as Mike Bronsky.
But, here’s what I never understood: The movie-going audience shared in the lives of these western-PA steelworkers and their lives before, during and after the Vietnam War … but, not once did these blue-collar boys, these red-blooded American soldiers ever mention the local pro football team.
There wasn’t a single scene with Mike (DeNiro) and Nicky (Walken) with their weapons posied as they waited to kill either a six-point buck or the Viet Cong ... and, as they waited, Mike turning to Nicky and saying, “Hey, didja see that game last week? Franco was runnin’ wild, Lambert was knockin’ the crap outta people … solid shit, man. The Browns are gonna have big, F-ing problems on Sunday, Nicky. BIG, F-ing problems, my man!”

Let’s suppose “best director” Michael Cimino opted not to clutter the dialogue with Steelers talk (as if four sentences would provide mind-boggling complexity) … couldn’t he have tossed the Pirates into the conversation.
Mike: “Didja see the game last night? Stargell took two out … TWO!”
Nicky: “That was something. I think Candelaria’s going to be the ace of the staff. Mark my words.”
NOTE: DeNiro could not have said that Stargell “went yard” because ESPN and Karl Ravech hadn’t been invented yet …

Nobody is suggesting that when the guys showed up for work at the mill that one of 'em shoulda been wearing a black #47 BLOUNT jersey, but … maybe someone shoulda suggested it.

NOTE: We remember that when Chris Walken phoned from 'Nam to talk to his young bride (Meryl Streep), he told the operator that he wanted to place a call to Clairton, PA. I always hoped that he would get through and ask, "Hey, Babe ... whose career did my boy Jack Ham end with one of his punishing tackles? Just once, I'd like to draw a bead on Ho Chi Minh and drop that jerk-off with a textbook, Jack Ham tackle."

Perhaps one of these days, Hollywood will get its (stuff) together and make a movie about the Steelers that’s on par with that Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore/Red Sox movie from a year or so ago … y’know, the one which none of us can remember the name of because none of us went and saw it.
In the meantime, the Steelers learned a valuable lesson about mingling with “we, the civilians."
It’s what prompts bomb-threat hoaxes.
You can’t tell me that one of the Steelers doesn’t have a mansion somewhere in Fox Chapel or McKees Rocks or Turtle Creek or Squirrel Hill where there’s a home theater (with real theater seating for 50) and a 380-inch, hi-def screen.

I mean, I saw the KDKA report and it looked as though the Steelers were sitting in the Loew’s Theater seats … and it looked like the riff-raff was seated with them.
Dammit, Cowher … your team is royalty.
Start acting like it.
Save the “mingling” and “mixing with the commoners” for when you make visits to the hospital.
For when we need our heartstrings pulled.

The amusing part of the KDKA story was a woman who was at the event – and she told the KDKA viewing audience that she got The Bus’ autograph.
“Mr. Bettis, will you sign this rookie card?” is what she said.
If that was me, I’d’ve kept Jerome honest and made him sign something, before I fled the scene while yelling, “Thanks, Bam!”
Either that, or while he’s scribbling, say something smart-alecky like: “If you can use one hand to hold the card and the other hand to hold the pen, why can’t you use two hands to carry the football at the Colts’ 2-yard line?”

Anyway, thanks again, Bam!

Bottom line: These team “functions” can get dangerous. It takes me back to June ’97 when I was high on the fumes of Hockeytown winning its first Stanley Cup in 42 years – and how the euphoria hit the skids less than a week after sweeping the series against the Flyers when that limousine carrying Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Fetisov and Sergei Mnetsakanov crashed into the tree because the driver smoked too much weed.
The Vladi-nator was left paralyzed for life at the height of his NHL career.
“For life,” by the way, is a very long time.

The paralyzation put a damper on the Red Wings’ summer of carting the Cup all over the world in celebration. Nevertheless, it was quite amazing how a team who’d lost one of its most-valuable components embarked on a mission to win another Cup … only this time, it was gonna be for Vladi.
And I’ll be damned if they didn’t do it.
Mrs. PF7 scored tickets for us for Game 3 of that Cup final … and when the Red Wings war wagon completed the four-game sweep of the Caps two nights later, captain Steve Yzerman had a mini conflict when he stepped forward to raise the Cup.

The story goes that Yzerman was going to hand it off to goalie Chris Osgood because Ozzie had allowed two odd goals (shot from the blue line) in the playoffs and he was taking some abuse from the fans and the media (not from his teammates, though).

Anyway, as Eye-zee sought out Ozzie, he noticed that Vladi had been brought out onto the ice in his wheelchair. Hence, Capt. Steve placed the big trophy gently in Vladi’s lap.
To a lot of Americans, this was a poignant Detroit sports story on a far greater emotional plane than “Let’s Forget About That Fumble At The Colts 2-Yard Line … The Bus Is Coming Home!”

It boils down to this: The Steelers ’05 Highlight Reel is only going to have real meaning in my life if there’s a prologue by backup center Chukky Okobi.
Oh … and if someone splices in “The Lost Ending To ‘Black Sunday’ ” wherein Mean Joe is seen grabbing the blimp, steering it away from the Orange Bowl and hurling it back to North Korea from whence it came, whereupon it explodes on impact.

And everyone inside the Loew’s Theater lived happily ever after.
The end …

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