I do not like football.
I’ve tried to like it, I really have. I tried to like it when I was in elementary school and everyone I knew was going apeshit because the Bengals were in the Super Bowl. During the big game, at a party at my uncle’s house, I sat in the corner with a book and my Walkman while my family watched the Bengals lose. All I really got out of the whole thing was knowing about the Ickey Shuffle.
I tried to like it in high school, attending our school’s football games almost every Friday night. I would follow the action for about ten minutes before I got bored and started walking around the stadium, gossiping with my friends and trying to find out who was smoking and making out under the bleachers.
I tried to like it in college when I dated a guy who was a huge Bengals fan, but after watching two games I couldn’t even be bothered to pretend to care. And I tried again a few years ago when a guy I liked wanted me to watch college football with him. I even let him explain the game to me, though I knew what was going on. When I eventually realized he was more interested in watching football than hanging out with me, I was officially done — football gets no more chances from me. Is that fair? Maybe not.
I don’t dislike football because I’m some stereotypical woman who isn’t into sports, though. I actually like a lot of sports — just not this one. I’ve never found it entertaining, and it’s never held my interest. Come to think of it, I feel that way about a lot of team sports, though I do enjoy a hockey game now and then. Truth be told, a big reason why I don’t enjoy most team sports is the fans: a lot of them are obnoxious as hell and take all the fun out of it. But I digress.
So if I don’t like football, why the hell am I writing about a football movie? Simple — Wildcats (1986) is pretty fucking funny and I’ve loved it since I was eight years old. And you know what? This isn’t even the only football movie I like. Anyone else remember Quarterback Princess (1983)?
Wildcats stars Goldie Hawn as Molly McGrath, the daughter of a football coach who really wants a team of her own. The coach of the varsity team at the prestigious Chicago high school where Molly heads up girls’ track doesn’t take her seriously when she asks to coach the JV football team — because she’s a woman, of course. To test her resolve, he informs her of an opportunity to coach the varsity team at Central, one of the toughest inner-city high schools in Chicago. Determined to prove that she can lead a football team as well as any man, she takes the job.
At first, Molly’s can-do spirit is dampened by the sexist attitude of her players. But she eventually wins them over and is able to whip the team into shape, getting them all the way to the city championships. In addition to dealing with the challenges of her new job, she also has to deal with her obnoxious ex-husband, who doesn’t approve of her new job or the company she keeps because of it, forcing her to battle him for custody of their two young daughters.
Had my dad not been cool as hell and let my brother and me watch Wildcats with him, I likely would’ve had to sneak around to watch this movie because of all the adult language and humor and the unnecessary Goldie Hawn boob shot. (Side note: I used to have a theory that if there are kids in a movie who are my age and they’re allowed to say “fuck,” then I should be allowed to watch the movie. That’s an eight-year-old’s logic for you.) We watched Wildcats whenever it was on cable, and you could often hear at least one person in my household singing the “U-G-L-Y” cheer.
I think the reason I loved this movie so much as a young girl was that I liked seeing a woman triumph in a traditionally male role. But even though Hawn’s character does gain the respect of her team, in spite of the fact that she has a vagina, Wildcats makes no other real attempts to be PC — there are still plenty of jokes that depend on a multitude of stereotypes (though that wasn’t uncommon back then). So if you like getting your panties in a twist about everything un-PC in entertainment, you should just move along.
Another thing I love about Wildcats is its cast. I decided to write about the film after catching it on cable around the holidays. I hadn’t seen it in many years, therefore I had many “I totally forgot he/she was in this movie!” moments: besides Hawn, the cast includes Swoosie Kurtz, Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Mykelti Williamson, Nipsey Russell, Robyn Lively, M. Emmet Walsh, James Keach, and Jan Hooks. Hell, LL Cool J even makes a cameo performing his “Football Rap.”
Speaking of music, let’s talk about the soundtrack. The songs featured in the film are, for the most part, synth-heavy, mid-’80s pop/R&B. And outside of “Football Rap” and T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday,” all of them were cowritten by James Newton Howard, who also composed the score. On the one hand, that gives the soundtrack a cohesiveness. On the other hand, it tends to make the songs sound too much alike.
The soundtrack isn’t bad, but I think it’s too “nice” at times. I mean, something about the Central High football team and the way they’re portrayed, jamming out to a song like Sidney Justin’s “Rock It” as it blares from a boom box, just seems strange to me. I would rather have heard more groundbreaking rap or hip-hop in Wildcats, but I can understand why it probably didn’t make the cut.
According to my research, the original soundtrack album is long out of print and never made it to CD. Of course that didn’t stop me — I have every song for you! Sadly, I couldn’t find an MP3 of “Football Rap,” so I included YouTube videos of the opening and closing credits, during which the song is performed; in the opening credits it’s LL’s version, and in the closing credits it’s sung by the football players and Hawn. Also not included here is the high school marching-band version of Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science,” which you might not notice in the film if you’re not paying attention.
Thanks for reading! I’m off to go watch figure skating.
Joe Cocker – We Stand Alone
Michael Jeffries – Razzle Dazzle
Sidney Justin – Rock It
Mavis Staples – Show Me How It Works
The Isley Brothers – Good Hands
Randy Crawford – Don’t Wanna Be Normal
T-Bone Walker – Stormy Monday
Brenda Russell – Penetration
Tata Vega – Love Lives Alone
James Ingram – Hard to Say
James Newton Howard – Molly’s Theme
LL Cool J, “Football Rap”
Cast of Wildcats, “Football Rap”