Blaxploitation movies from the 1970s are not exactly great source material to cross-reference to the world of sports. However, one such flick contains scenes that are eerily transferable to sports — namely college football.
That movie is "The Mack," the 1973 blaxploitation masterpiece starring Max Julien, Richard Pryor and Roger E. Mosley — "T.C." from "Magnum, P.I."
At first glance, it seems to be a tad bit contrived that someone can draw parallels between college football and a 35-year-old movie where the protagonist was an ex-con who turned to the world’s oldest profession after he served a 5-year stint in the slammer.
Upon further review, and given the fact that America has reached the climax of the recruiting season, the similarities are striking. The following features scenarios from the actual movie, and a translation as it relates to the world of college football.
For more information on "The Mack," check out the Internet Movie Database web site (www.imdb.com), rent/buy a copy, or watch clips of it on YouTube.
Let’s take, for instance, the scene where John "Goldie" Mickens, played by Julien, and his mentor are having a conversation in a pool hall after Mickens returned to his old neighborhood. The mentor told Mickens that he was one of the best people on his staff and he hated to lose him. The mentor goes on to give Mickens some advice about setting out on his own and how to handle recruits.
The conversation Goldie had with his mentor can easily be transposed upon any college football coach, especially in a BCS conference. The mentor told Goldie that he has to go out and recruit the best talent, and if he does it right, the pockets of Mickens’ pants would appear to have the mumps because of the large sums of money he will be earning.
With that in mind, what has been one of the oldest sayings about a college football coach? Well, that would be that a coach is only as good as the talent he recruits. A coach has to recruit the talent that will help him achieve success frequently. The better the talent means the better chances of winning, which increases the chances of making more money in the future.
All coaches have to have a special type of personality that will win over recruits. Mickens possessed that, and a lot of your top recruiters — like the ironically-named Mack Brown, Pete Carroll, Les Miles and others — have that personality as well. Like Goldie, these men have to possess a supreme confidence in their abilities and their systems in order for potential recruits to buy into it.
As Mickens put it, coaches have to feel that they’re going to rewrite the record books and they will be the new kings of the block. They have to believe that they will get the best high school and juco talent available, get the facilities upgrades to entice them to come and mix it all up to produce a winning program.
Goldie tells one recruit that they can go all the way to the top while assuring said recruit that he would be a friend a father figure. Mickens also asks the recruit to believe in him and believe that everything he tells the recruit to do is in their mutual best interests.
Now does that sound like what a coach would tell a recruit, or what?
Mickens also holds a "weekend visit" with potential recruits, selling them on the benefits of joining his teams. One can easily picture a coach standing in front of a group of potential recruits telling them that his team is built like a family with everyone playing a major role in that family’s success. The rewards for helping the family will be great, including conference championships, playoff runs or a bowl game.
However, there’s a serious side to the college football game as well. The folks at the NCAA do not take too kindly to things like "lack of institutional control" and "improper benefits" while shrugging off any notion that student-athletes be paid. Just check out what one of Mickens’ rivals, Pretty Tony, said about his players getting paid.
"Wake up one morning with some money, they’re subject to go crazy," Tony said.
Most coaches feel the exact same way. Tony, and other coaches, understand the headaches a controversy with a player can do to their program — as well as their pay checks. Don’t believe it? Then go ask new Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt about the whole Mitch Mustain saga that hounded him during his last season at Arkansas. He would probably say, like Pretty Tony said in the movie, that he has lawyers and he makes too much money to take such nonsense.
Also, picture how the coaches are all fawning over Pennsylvania quarterback sensation Terrelle Pryor. All of these coaches are doing the best to make Pryor choose one of them — just like Goldie, Pretty Tony and others try to get their recruits to choose.
Whoever gets Pryor, or any other highly-coveted prepster or juco sensation, will probably tell their rival coaches that they understand the rules of the game and their prospect just chose them. Have some class or get into something a little bit messier — like the whole Phil Fulmer/Alabama/Albert Means fiasco.
Not that much difference between 1970s cinema fiction and real life, is there?