Remember the Tissues

Football movies (and TV shows) will make you cry. It’s physics.

Gabrielle Costa

January 29, 2014 | Sweat | February 2014

There’s a certain swelling of the heart that is specific to football movies. It’s a reaction exclusive to seeing teammates bonding and miraculous, last-minute touchdowns. I have a doctorate in football movies so I can tell you that this phenomenon is caused by a release of happy chemicals (it’s a technical term) in the brain, which build up throughout the movie as a result of watching teenage boys throw footballs. Or maybe they’re caused by the gruff, secretly cares-too-much coach yelling at his team because he knows it will motivate them and make them stronger. Some things are meant to remain a mystery.

No one can deny that they cry during Remember the Titans every single time. It’s a law of physics. Trust me, ask your dad. He’ll probably wax poetic about Denzel Washington and start tearing up.  But why do football movies and crying seem to go hand in hand? Why do football movies have the ability to not only break our hearts, but out of the ashes build them over again, stronger than before? Is it written into our DNA as Americans, along with a desire to protect eagles and a constant craving for apple pie? If so, then why don’t baseball movies tend to have the same effect? (Sure, they’re great, but Tom Hanks was right. There really isn’t any crying in baseball… movies.)


I hate to be one of those people who claim that technology, for all its infinite, glorious benefits, has ruined human interaction – and I’m not going to be. But in this world where we can connect with others and still be physically alone, maybe being part of something bigger than ourselves fills a void we never knew we had. Football games can’t be won by a single player; even the star player on the team can’t score a single touchdown alone.  Football, more than any other sport, is reliant on trust, teamwork, and perseverance, which make victory all the more sweet. As the great motivational speaker Landry Clarke once said, “We’re a lot stronger together than we’re ever gonna be alone.” (Hint: That’s your cue to start crying, because, you know, LANDRY.)

When Tami Taylor told Coach that he was “a molder of men” two things happened: a) I cried like a motherfucking Kardashian, and b) I realized that football wasn’t about the game itself, but about the people playing it. Friday Night Lights is not the only place where this holds true. It’s a guaranteed theme of any football movie you can find, from Remember the Titans to The Blind Side. It’s a universally relatable experience – taking one’s inner life and personal attributes and funneling them into a more constructive skill – that can lead to personal triumph, or in the case of these movies, a winning game, a college scholarship, and even a career.

There’s nothing more satisfying than being introduced to a character with all potential and no prospects, a character who has completely given in to whatever hand they’ve been dealt, and then watching them turn their life around and change their entire way of thinking through football.

It’s not because playing football magically makes your life better because it makes you popular or can lead to a career; it’s a goal to achieve, a set of skills to be mastered, a discipline to be followed.

Football, at least according to the movies, is about heart. Sure, developing the skills is important – there’s actually a reason football coaches force players to run up and down bleachers – but at the end of the movie, if those kids don’t believe in themselves and each other and put their hearts into it, they’re not going to win. And for us kiddies watching at home, it only feels fair that we put our hearts into it as well. Because as that final pass is soaring through the air for a last minute, saving grace touchdown, if your eyes aren’t glued to the ball, if your hopes aren’t pinned to the pigskin, then who cares if they score? Who cares if the team that has formed in front of you over the past 90 minutes (or 20 episodes) wins? Who cares about this movie? Why are you watching it? Who invited you?

It’s not a myth but a fact – football movies will make you cry. They’ll touch your heart in places you didn’t know you had, and you know, I’m not going to lie, it might get a little creepy. But it’s football and Real Southern Values (probably) and boys with nice arms (definitely), so make yourself a bowl of chili and get to it.

Gabrielle Costa

Gabrielle attends the University of Chicago, where she studies Character Development (for real). She hates the phrase “guilty pleasure,” but loves “chick flick.” Her dream is to tell stories about the people she isn’t and to never grow out of her 90s teen angst phase (which she entered relatively late, at the age of 18). She can be found tweeting on one of six Twitter accounts at any given time.

1 Comment

  1. Taylor

    February 3, 2014

    Leave a Reply

    I’m not crying. There’s just a tornado in my eye.

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