ATHENS GA - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Mark Richt of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates their 42-34 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium on November 27 2010 in Athens Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
When a down-on-his-luck former superstar takes on a talented up-and-comer, what's the most likely outcome? Maybe Hollywood can tell us.
When Georgia finally squares off against Boise State in the Georgia Dome this September, the Dawgs will be an underdog to the Broncos -- only a slight one, but still, it's a symbol of how the Georgia program has declined since the two teams' last meeting. In 2005, Georgia laid exactly the kind of five-touchdown hurtin' on Boise that an eventual SEC champion should've laid on a WAC squad. Today, they're an underdog to that now-MWC squad, and barely an hour's drive from Athens. Boise, meanwhile, is a regular BCS bowl invitee and has lost fewer games in five years under their current coach than the Dawgs did last season.
It's an uncomfortable position for Georgia fans to be in, but one they're probably familiar with if they've been to the movies. The fading-superstar-takes-on-up-and-coming-new-jack storyline has shaped hundreds of plot lines over the years, so if Bulldog Nation is finding itself in uncharted territory as the underdog, they've at least got plenty of reference points to turn to if they want a sneak peek at how this tale usually ends. Vegas has had its say, and the pundits will soon have theirs, but it's time to see what Hollywood thinks of the Dawgs' chances. (This post is rated R for language, violence, and overwrought Oliver Stone directing flourishes.)
"GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS" (1992)
Georgia is: Dave Moss (Ed Harris), a middle-aged real estate salesman who spends a lot of energy coming up with excuses about how it's everyone else's fault he's failing, but very little energy drumming up new business. Which, now that I think about it, means he'd make an even better stand-in for Georgia Tech.
Boise State is: Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), a successful, unscrupulous hotshot who'll say whatever he has to in order to close the sale. Which, now that I think about it, means he'd make an even better stand-in for Nick Saban.
How does it turn out?: Moss has a huge blowup with Roma and storms out of the office. A short time later it's revealed that he "masterminded" an office break-in to steal the premium sales leads. Meanwhile, it's implied that Roma emerges the victor of the office's cutthroat sales contest.
Football equivalent: Boise kicks Georgia's ass in a chippy, penalty-filled game and finishes the season with yet another BCS bid; meanwhile, numerous Georgia players get busted for selling game-worn jerseys to the Russian mafia and bring down debilitating NCAA sanctions on the program. Ugh. Mamet may have won a Pulitzer for this play -- and deservedly so -- but all things considered, this outcome kind of blows.
"ANY GIVEN SUNDAY" (1999)
Georgia is: Jack "Cap" Rooney (Dennis Quaid), a one-time superstar QB now in the twilight of his career with a Lady Macbeth wife and a growing dependence on painkillers.
Boise State is: "Steamin'" Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), a one-time third-stringer who grows cocky and arrogant after being thrust into the starting QB role.
How does it turn out?: Rooney begins the season as the starter but gets hurt and gives way to Beamen; Beamen barfs all over the field before his first couple games but leads his team to a playoff berth. Rooney tries to come back onto the field for the playoffs, but it's a smarter, humbled Beamen who quarterbacks the team to the conference championship, and follows his grizzled, embattled coach (Al Pacino) to a new team after the season ends.
Football equivalent: Boise wins and earns a conference title in its first year in the Mountain West, then earns an invite to the Big 12. Georgia loses despite a valiant effort and Aaron Murray tears an ACL (and gets yelled at by his girlfriend on the sideline for getting hurt). Both teams' trajectories are interrupted at random intervals by irritating thunderstorm and gladiator imagery. Nope, don't like this either.
"ROCKY BALBOA" (2006)
Georgia is: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a former heavyweight champion reduced to running a restaurant where he regales patrons with old stories of his career (kind of like we Georgia fans still reminisce about 1980). Inspired to return to the ring after an ESPN simulation shows him beating the current champ (kind of like ESPN convinced UGA to blow off Louisville and open their season with Boise in the Dome).
Boise State is: Mason "The Line" Dixon (Antonio Tarver), the current heavyweight champion of the world who's looking to answer criticisms that he's never fought a real contender (kind of like people dogging Boise for playing in a mediocre conference).
How does it turn out?: Knowing he can't keep up with Dixon in terms of athleticism, Rocky plans to win the fight through brute strength, and battles myriad personal demons to train his way back into shape. Dixon dominates the first round, but Rocky stages an inspiring comeback; with both fighters still standing at the end of the final round, Dixon is awarded the win on a split decision.
Football equivalent: After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, Georgia's much-maligned defense rises up to bring the Dawgs back into the game; Boise finally prevails after three overtimes, each featuring its own montage, but Mark Richt inscribes his name in football lore with a postgame speech at midfield about how "If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change." (OK, wait, wrong "Rocky" movie.)
"THE GODFATHER" (1972)
Georgia is: Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), elderly head of one of the most powerful Mafia families in New York, but one that's in danger of losing power and influence to aggressive challengers who want to expand into other criminal enterprises.
Boise State is: Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo (Al Lettieri), a ruthless capo seeking protection for the Tattaglia family's heroin trade.
How does it turn out?: When his budding heroin business is spurned by Corleone, Sollozzo orders an (ultimately unsuccessful) hit on the don; Corleone's youngest son, Michael, exacts his revenge by assassinating Sollozzo in an Italian restaurant. Michael takes over the family business and, after some initial troubles, has the dons of all four of the other Mafia families murdered, but Vito dies of a heart attack in his tomato garden.
Football equivalent: Georgia trails 21-3 at halftime and Aaron Murray is knocked out of the game with a concussion, but third-string QB Christian LeMay leads the Bulldogs to a shocking comeback and blowout victories over South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia Tech. Georgia is then annihilated by Alabama in the SEC title game. Well, we're getting warmer, at least.
"ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY" (2004)
Georgia is: Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), the dim but hyperconfident San Diego news anchor who, as of 1975, stands astride the world of local television broadcasting like a colossus. Women want him, men want to be him. Actually, some men want him, too.
Boise State is: Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who comes to Burgundy's station hoping to break through the glass ceiling for female broadcasters -- in the process running circles around Burgundy in terms of dedication and work ethic. Not that this has any parallels to Georgia's recent slide in motivation and conditioning or anything.
How does it turn out?: Burgundy and Corningstone embark on a torrid love affair that fizzles as Burgundy's status as the alpha-dog on-air personality is gradually usurped. When a prank by Corningstone goads Burgundy into instructing his viewers to "Go [expletive] yourself, San Diego" live on camera, he becomes a pariah both in the newsroom and throughout the viewing area, but redeems himself by rescuing his ex-lover from the Kodiak bear enclosure at the San Diego Zoo. They reconcile and later become co-anchors on a top cable news program.
Football equivalent: I'll level with you here -- while Georgia's and Boise State's respective circumstances mirror the setup of this film, the resulting plot progression has little bearing on anything that could happen to the two teams in real life, unless Mark Richt plans on telling Chris Petersen about his collection of leather-bound books and wooing him with a jazz flute solo. But it's fun to imagine Richt dropping an F-bomb in his halftime interview with Erin Andrews. And I like to think that Georgia's coaches' meetings resemble the interaction between Burgundy and his fellow reporters. "That was a great offensive game plan, Bobo. Compelling and rich."
"JERRY MAGUIRE" (1996)
Georgia is: Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise), former sports superagent brought low after writing a controversial mission statement suggesting agents should be more honest and make less money. Which, when you think about it, sounds like exactly the kind of thing Mark Richt would do.
Boise State is: Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr), a rival agent who fires Maguire and succeeds in boosting most of his high-profile clients.
How does it turn out?: Maguire survives a spiritual crisis, while his only remaining client, mouthy wide receiver Rod Tidwell, survives a potentially serious injury to make a winning touchdown catch for the Arizona Cardinals and earn a multimillion-dollar contract. Maguire returns home to reconcile with his former secretary, now wife, whom he neglected as he tried to rebuild his career.
Football equivalent: Mark Richt spurns his wife and kids as he delves deep into planning for the Boise State game, only to fall behind by two touchdowns early. But Marlon Brown makes an incredible last-minute touchdown catch that enables Georgia to win by two, and as his victorious team carries Mark Richt off the field, he spots his wife standing by the Gatorade table. Richt gives an impassioned speech saying that he regrets ignoring Katharyn and wants her back in his life, and she says "You had me at hello," and everyone lives happily ever after, the end.
Conclusion: With the Georgia allegory ending up dead, unemployed or in jail in two-thirds of the above outcomes, it's clear Hollywood doesn't think much of Georgia's chances in this game. Perhaps the growing cinematic culture of India can provide us with more upbeat, inspiring answers, which is why we'll be posting a second part to this investigation, "Georgia Vs. Boise State Part II: A Bollywood Journey," in the coming weeks. Because if history is taught us anything, it's that sequels are always as good as, if not better than, the originals.