Football season is here. On the field — and TV.
Game Time: Tackling the Past is the latest installment of Procter & Gamble and Walmart’s popular partnership to bring family-friendly movies to prime-time (non-cable) television. It airs Saturday, Sept. 3, at 8/7 central on NBC. (The last movie, Who Is Simon Miller?, aired on Aug. 6 and outdrew Harry Potter in the same 8pm time slot by 3.31 million viewers; that’s a 28% higher audience, according to the Nielsen ratings.)
This faith-and-football movie forgoes a win-the-big-game-by-all-costs-or-with-unbelievable-plays mentality. It’s about winning the game with effort and honesty, something like Blessed Mother Teresa said: “God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.”
Pro football star Jake Walker (Ryan McPartlin) is a-love-thyself-and-forget-thy-neighbor kind of guy.
When he’s asked why he never married, he answers honestly: He’s so immersed in his career. He is so focused because he needs only one more season to break an all-time record for a sure spot in the Hall of Fame.
But when his father, who was also his high-school football coach, suffers a major heart attack, Jake has to leave training camp to return to his small hometown after years away pursuing his dream.
Back home, he has to come face-to-face with who he is and what really matters. In a flashback, he’s reminded of his father’s refusal to let him into their high-school team’s celebration: “The only team you’re part of is your own — Team Jake,” chides his father.
His brother Dean (Josh Braaten) tells him: “Nothing changed, big brother. It’s still all about you.” Dean confronts him in a spirit of Christian honesty. He loves his brother and doesn’t want to see him on the road much traveled.
Dad Frank has the same perspective. He comes across as a loving father with real principles and virtues; he wants to teach his sons and every player he’s coached to be the best people they can be. Veteran actor Beau Bridges plays Frank with believability and quiet strength — a good depiction of fatherhood. Frank isn’t uncomfortable to sit down at the family meal and first lead a blessing; he unashamedly prays to God.
Jake’s mother Anna also teaches by example as she tries to get Jake to understand his ways and see his father’s love. In an email during a media screening, actress Catherine Hicks said she liked this role because she was a mediator between husband and son.
When Jake reconnects with Sarah, his high-school sweetheart who has a young son who predictably admires Jake, he sees what he has missed — something his brother Dean has with his wife and family. (Although it’s strongly suggested but not treated in detail, parents should be alert to a divorce in Sarah’s past.)
Then the news comes that Jake’s contract isn’t being renewed — but another team wants him to play for them. That means there’s a chance to break his record. But is it more important than mending fences and being a team player when his brother asks him to help coach the local school team?
“It’s not how talented you are,” his dad says, echoing Mother Teresa. “It’s how you use the gifts you’re given.”
How does Game Time: Tackling the Past turn out? Watch this weekend.
Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.