Check out football documentaries at the library

Bowl season is upon us, and from Dec. 21 (Gildan New Mexico Bowl) through Jan. 6 (BCS National Championship), college football fanatics are going to enjoy a profusion of pigskin, passing, picks and punts.

Yes, indeed, 35 bowl games in a little over two weeks ... should be enough for any gridiron gourmet, right?

Not even close. If you’re looking to augment your football intake this bowl season, check out the following documentaries available at the West Linn Public Library.

“Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29”

On Nov. 23, 1968, perennial rivals Harvard and Yale (both undefeated for the first time since 1909) played one of the most memorable games in Ivy League history. Heavily favored to win, Yale led 29-13 with less than a minute to play. Harvard staged an incredible comeback, scoring 16 points in the final 42 seconds. The game may have ended in a tie, but (as the title suggests) the moral victory was definitely Harvard’s.

The film features plenty of color archival footage of the game, allowing viewers to relive the day’s excitement and drama. What makes the film so entertaining and memorable, however, are the interviews — conducted 40 years later — with the surviving players from both teams. While the players’ lives have, not unsurprisingly, followed different paths (academia, business, the arts, etc.), the film makes it clear that the 1968 Harvard-Yale game was a defining experience for all involved, one which affected the trajectories of their lives and remains with them to this day.

“Pony Excess” (part of ESPN Films’ “30 for 30, Volume 2” collection)

In the early 1980s, the Southern Methodist University Mustangs were one of college football’s most successful programs, running up win after win thanks to stellar players like Eric Dickerson and Craig James.

The program, however, had been built upon a foundation of recruiting violations, overzealous boosters and slush funds, all with the knowledge and approval of university staff. The NCAA handed down a series of sanctions against SMU, culminating with the infamous “death penalty,” which effectively canceled the Mustangs’ 1987 and 1988 seasons.

The film is an unflinching look at one of the biggest scandals in the history of college football and provides plenty of food for thought regarding the image and reality of “amateur” collegiate athletics.

“The Best That Never Was” (part of ESPN’s “30 for 30, Volume 2” collection)

By the end of his high school career, Philadelphia, Miss., running back Marcus Dupree had put up astonishing numbers (even breaking the national high school career touchdown record), and was being courted by nation’s top college football programs. Signing with powerhouse Oklahoma, Dupree seemed destined for fame and fortune.

Fate, however, had other plans. The documentary traces Dupree’s remarkable rise as well as the physical, personal and professional obstacles that prevented Dupree from achieving the success so many had expected.

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