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The Inside Track

Hot Corner

December 18, 2002|Larry Stewart

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, heard, observed, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here. One exception: No products will be endorsed.


What: "Second String"

Where: TNT, tonight, 8 and 10

In this fictional two-hour movie, the Buffalo Bills, coming off a great season, are playing the San Diego Chargers in the first round of the playoffs. Buffalo Coach Dichter, played by Jon Voight, decides he needs a strong-armed fourth-string quarterback for the regulars to beat up on in practice.

The Bills' general manager signs Dan Heller, who was a star at Notre Dame but a failure in the NFL, where he played for Dichter. Heller, played by Gil Bellows ("Ally McBeal"), is a struggling insurance salesman.

The Bills' starting offense, all three quarterbacks and the team's kicker are taken out to dinner, eat some bad oysters and get a rare form of food poisoning that sidelines them for a month.

Heller is suddenly the starting quarterback, surrounded by second stringers, hence the title. You can see where this is going. Yes, the story is corny and unrealistic. And the script, originally written by Tom Flynn when the Rams were still in Los Angeles, remains a little outdated.

Doug Flutie, the real Doug Flutie, is the Bills' starting quarterback.

However, the movie is entertaining, much in the same way "Bad News Bears" and the original "Rocky" were entertaining. People love underdogs. And there are enough plot twists in "Second String" to make it somewhat unpredictable.

Voight, who played Howard Cosell in the "Ali" movie, was a guest last week on Charles Barkley's "Listen Up" program on TNT. Voight was asked what attracted him to "Second String."

"The movie is fun," he said. "It's a story about a guy who was a hard-headed coach who was out of line and had to face one of his athletes telling him he was no good, and had to go through that and change."

Voight was referring to a halftime scene in which Coach Dichter and Heller unload on each other. It's a turning point in the movie, which is well acted, well written and, as Voight says, just plain fun.

-- Larry Stewart

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