On Thursday, the Steelers will play in their second preseason game of the 2021 season when they travel to Philadelphia to battle Jalen Hurts and the Eagles. While black and gold fanatics will be glued to the screen to discern between Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins, a sporting event of an even greater magnitude (shocking, I know) will be taking place: Major League Baseball’s inaugural Field of Dreams Game.
The contest, which involves the New York Yankees taking on the Chicago White Sox, will be played in Dyersville, Iowa adjacent to the original filming site of the 1989 classic Field of Dreams, one of the most renowned baseball—and sports—movies of all time.
The game is meaningful for umpteen reasons: only 8,000 fans will be in attendance (I’m lucky enough to be one of them!); it will be the first ever MLB matchup played in Iowa; and the teams will don retro uniforms that pay homage to those portrayed in the film.
The prominence and national—even international—attention bestowed upon of the Field of Dreams Game got me thinking: what would it look like if the NFL had a similar event?
To start, the showdown would have to take place in a special venue with a connection to a classic gridiron blockbuster. Other factors to consider are the ability to utilize any retro-fitted uniforms as well as the prevalence of wide-ranging lessons in the production; Field of Dreams resonates with so many by discussing the love of sports, the importance of family and achieving success by never giving up.
Without further ado, here are three proposals for an NFL commemorative motion picture-based event.
Honorable Mention: Rudy
Rudy is certainly a fun film that exemplifies how no one is too young to realize their dreams and make an impact; it’s a bonafide classic that will appear on almost any list of the best football movies of all time.
However, I left the 1993 hit off of my suggestions largely because it revolves around Notre Dame—a historic university instead of a quaint, lesser-known school.
Sure, this game could involve a tribute to Knute Rockne and other Irish legends. But playing an NFL game in Notre Dame Stadium with Touchdown Jesus onlooking and teams wearing blue and dome gold jerseys doesn’t really feel unique given that it happens almost every other Saturday in the fall.
Sorry, Rudy: you’re just not lucky enough to be on my list.
#3: The Blind Side
Among all pigskin-oriented movies, it’s a safe bet to claim that The Blind Side is the most heart-wrenching of them all.
During the production, Michael Oher—if you recognize that name, it’s not a coincidence: the movie is based on his true story—is adopted by the Tuohy family after a traumatic upbringing and is nurtured to earn a scholarship to play football at Ole Miss.
One of the challenges with creating a The Blind Side-inspired event would be that the film was shot in a number of schools in and around Atlanta, so there isn’t one sacred field, per se. It’s also worth noting that Oher actually attended Briarcrest High School outside of Memphis, a slight distinction from Wingate Christian High School that’s displayed during the motion picture. Further, the movie was released in 2009, so it hasn’t quite marinated to the degree of Field of Dreams.
In spite of the proposed game’s obstacles, watching two teams square off in an arena near the filming set would be a culminating moment for one of the most visceral movies in recent memory. Having Oher, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, Sandra Bullock and others in attendance would only ring in the moment even more.
#2: Remember the Titans
One would be hard-pressed to find a movie that better incorporates the tenets of brotherhood, grit and honor more than Remember the Titans.
Not only does the film detail the (largely) accurate story of T.C. Williams High School’s state-championship 1971 season, but the film incorporates racial undertones spanning players, coaches and administration that the team mitigates to achieve glory. Moreover, the movie is chock full of powerful moments such as the players visiting Gettysburg National Cemetery, success on the football field and a poignant ending.
After reading all of this, it would seem that the 2000 film would easily be atop the pantheon of potential NFL versions of the Field of Dreams Game. The only caveat: filming locations.
While the movie is set in Virginia, the vast majority of the feature was recorded in Georgia. The NFL could, however, host a game at Alexandria City High School, formerly named T.C. Williams High School.
If this event were to occur, the stars would be shining brightly with actors Denzel Washington, Will Patton and Ryan Gosling presumably in attendance. And of course, nothing could be complete without Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence acting as iconic character Sunshine.
#1: Friday Night Lights
Truthfully, H.G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights is my favorite book and was one of the watershed moments in my adoration of football: the work depicts the profound impact that the sport has in Odessa, Texas as it chronicles the journey of the star-studded Permian Panthers and the inseparable bond between players—and their community.
Just as the book receives tremendous acclaim, so too does the 2004 film adaptation, which accrued an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.
One key aspect as to why Friday Night Lights would hold similar meaning to Field of Dreams is that the movie was almost entirely shot in Permian’s football field as well as the surrounding region. In fact, few alterations would have to be made if the NFL wanted to host a game at Permian’s Ratliff Stadium, which holds over 19,000 fans.
While the tale does end on somewhat a somber note (no spoilers, I promise), what makes it so unique is the presence of richly developed characters like Boobie Miles, Brian Chavez, Mike Winchell and Gary Gaines, the latter of whom coached Permian from 1986-89 and 2009-12. Having such stars return to their old stomping grounds with professional teams wearing iconic black and white Panthers jerseys and a backdrop of the distinct Odessa oil fields is a sight that few football fans could resist—and is also one that evokes the magic of Field of Dreams.
One can only hope this game would be as perfect as this speech given by Gaines.