On this day in 1999, “Any Given Sunday” was released in U.S. movie theaters. Director Oliver Stone’s take on professional football did not work in a lot of areas, but did feature the greatest speech ever captured in a sports movie.
When I heard that Stone would be making a film about football with Al Pacino playing the head coach and Dennis Quaid playing the aging quarterback, I got excited. However, in its near three-hour running time, it exposed nothing new about pro football and the plot about a team and immature quarterback overcoming their dysfunction to win the big game was bit clichéd. The film did have its bright moments, but as the late Roger Ebert wrote in his review, “if some studio executive came along and made Stone cut his movie down to two hours, I have the strangest feeling it wouldn’t lose much of substance and might even play better.” I have to agree.
All that being said, Pacino’s speech before the opening playoff is the greatest pre-game speech in movie history. You can have “Win one for the Gipper.” I’ll take “Piece by inches” any day.