Test Pilot: File #14, Playmakers

Test Pilot #14: Playmakers

Debut date: August 26, 2003

Series legacy: Controversial, “gritty” series that was unceremoniously canceled by ESPN — with help from the NFL

After a short hiatus, Test Pilot is back! Time for more historical pilot analysis – I know, contain your excitement. In case you have forgotten or are new to the site, here’s the general primer: In this bi-weekly feature, I will be joined by a rotating batch of guest writers in an analysis of, you guessed it, television pilots. In this space, we’re hoping to analyze pilot episodes in a number of ways in hopes of discussing its historical, cultural and industrial context. To get a well-rounded opinion, this feature will usually include two perspectives from individuals who have just watched the pilot, one coming from a writer with full knowledge of the series following the pilot develops, the other coming from a writer who is not as familiar with the series (although this isn’t always the case). I’m hoping that this can be a fun way to add some less time-sensitive material to the site, but also expand coverage back through history of the medium.

For the fourth quartet of Test Pilot files, we are dipping our collective toes back into the pool of a specific genre, just as we did near the end of 2010 with a solid look at the last twenty years of teen dramas. The reason this feature took a minor hiatus is because I was having trouble deciding on where to head next but I think the final choice ended up being a good one. OK, it is probably time that I stop setting this up as if it is some sort of reveal.

Over the next four entries, Test Pilot will be analyzing the sports genre. By that I mean we will be looking at scripted programming that heavily features sports, not news or documentary-style programming about sports. In our culture, there are very few things that are more popular than sports and the relationship between sports and television is well-defined in many ways. Televised sport events are some of the most popular and most-watched things on television, across sport and across television network. From the Super Bowl, to the Masters to the World Series to a random collegiate hockey game, there appears to be an audience for live sports in all corners of television. And of course, programming about sports dominates the dial just the same. Entire networks are dedicated to sports and sports reporting and all four of the major broadcast networks try to integrate as much sports coverage onto their schedules as possible. Most of us love sports and television only strokes that fire within society further.

But despite the overarching dedication to sport and televised sport, fan admiration does not appear to translate to the scripted television realm. Millions of people watch ESPN each day, all day and build their entire lives around televised sports, but the ratings for scripted dramas or comedies featuring sports and the general lack of production of series about sports suggests we like to keep our adoration of “scripted television” and “sports” separate. It seems so odd that two of the major pillars of our society can come together in one way (the televised game or coverage of sports) but not in the other (the fictional, scripted representation of sports). This especially true since sports films tend to do well, or at least moderate so, both with critics and at the box office. Not so on television. Try to Google things like “TV series about sports” or “Sports dramas” or something else similar and your results will come up mostly empty. Try to think about your five favorite series that involved sports. It is okay, I will wait. This is going to take a few minutes, at best. I LOVE sports and I LOVE television, and it took me a moderately long time.

Clearly, I’m being hyperbolic and facetious, but the simple fact of the matter is that although we love scripted television and we love sports – perhaps even more than television – very few creative people have figured out to make a series that combines both of these loves, at least in such a way that we will actually watch.

With this batch of Test Pilot files, we hope to come closer to an answer for why this has happened, not just recently, but for decades: Do the genres of “drama” and “sports” just fail to match, especially from an audience demographic perspective? What actually makes up a series “about” sports or one “featuring” sports? Does the difference matter? How important are the historical contexts? What are the most important identifiable conventions of the sports series?

Of course, there is surely more than one answer to these questions and hopefully by looking at multiple cases over the next few weeks will provide us a bevy of possible suggestions that paint a larger picture of scripted programming about or featuring sports. Some of our choices will be more directly about sports than others, but again, that sort of diversity in the selections will hopefully serve as compelling entry point into the genre. The last quartet focused so closely on one major subject (that being NBC), that it was really easy to sketch out context and make some historical sweeps, but I am unsure if that will be possible here. Well, it’s not impossible clearly, but the lack of major connections between each of the series chosen for this theme will make this more challenging to write, but hopefully better because of it in the end.

For our second foray into the sports television, we’re going to tackle one of the more controversial series in the “genre”: ESPN’s Playmakers. This time, we actually have a veteran viewer of the series. Travis Vogan is that person. Travis is a former instructor/current friend of mine who is just finishing his PhD work at Indiana University this spring. He wrote his dissertation on NFL Films and teaches a very good class on sports in popular culture. Travis is the perfect person to have here to discuss Playmakers, and fortunately, he has seen the series multiple times. Travis, take it away:

These days ESPN is dabbling in high culture—relative to the context of sports television, that is.  It sponsors the Tribeca Sports Film Festival—an offshoot of the larger Tribeca Film Festival.  It purchases distribution rights for the more renowned sports documentaries released each year.  Most famously, it produces its own series of sports documentaries—30 for 30—made by award-winning filmmakers like Barry Levinson (The Natural, Diner) and Albert Maysles (Salesman, Grey Gardens).

Playmakers (2003), a tawdry short-lived melodrama not-so-loosely based on the National Football League, did little to enhance the channel’s prestige.  In fact, The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir claimed that the program marked a “new low” for a channel that is already often criticized for overhyping its coverage, making any story that even has the slight odor of scandal seem like a national crisis, and pandering to the sports world’s biggest stars (ignoring the sexual assault charges brought against Ben Roethlisberger in 2009, Lebron James’ “Decision,” etc.).

Playmakers is pretty terrible.  It boasts low production value, it’s highly predictable, and it is more emotionally overwrought than the least convincing soap operas.  But, like soap operas, there is something strangely satisfying about the formula they employ and the emotional weight of the intense worlds they create that make me want to continue watching.  This is sort of how Playmakers works.  It’s so ridiculous, poorly-acted, and unconvincing, that I ultimately wound up liking it quite a bit.  If my undying affection for Friday Night Lights has taught me anything, it’s that melodrama works.  I can care about anything—some kid’s job at the Alamo Freeze, a high school guidance counselor’s interoffice politics, anything—if it’s packaged right.  I don’t want to compare Playmakers to FNL, which would be mildly blasphemous, but it uses many of the same tropes and fits squarely within the genre of melodrama.

The first episode establishes both a tone and form that the program carries throughout the eleven episodes of its first and only season.

First of all—and consistent with the program as a whole—the intro song is both terrible and strangely addicting.  There’s a synthed out, tinny, and very generic sounding beat accompanied by an aggressive group of dudes reminiscent of Limp Bizkit bellowing “I AM!”  You can almost hear their “Affliction” T-shirts.  After the explosive incantation, the intro theme’s Fred Durst snarls “The incredible man, I only do things incredible can, because…(enter crew) I AM!”  Then they repeat it a few more times.  I wound up getting a phone call just after I popped in the DVD to watch the first episode.  It was about a 10-minute call, during which the “Playmakers Theme,” which is about 20 seconds in total, was playing on a loop.  I found myself rapping variations of the song for the rest of the day in an unsuccessful attempt to irritate my apparently very tolerant girlfriend—“I AM!  The incredible Trav, I hope the Blazers beat the Mavs, because…I AM!”  As far as I can tell, the song strives to strike a balance between being badass and self-affirming.  It’s mostly just dumb.  But it’s still stuck in my head, so I guess the joke’s on me.

The series is organized around exploring the scandalous underbelly of a professional football league through one of its franchises, The Cougars.  Although we never learn where the Cougars hail from they have light blue and gray uniforms that, combined with their big cat mascot, evoke the Carolina Panthers.   The first episode gives a rundown of the main characters, focusing in particular on the skeletons hiding—some more deftly than others—in their closets.  In doing this, it suggests that professional football is not just a game where meatheads beat the hell out of each other, it’s a big, dangerous, and unfair business marked by people who, for varying reasons, will do or are forced to do anything to succeed.

This is obvious and we don’t need a TV series to remind us.  But it’s the melodrama of Playmakers that makes his unoriginal premise compelling.  Seriously, it’s as if the writers and producers got together while developing ideas for the season and created a checklist of “Things that would be scandalous in the NFL.”  The season is a methodical process of checking items off the list.   Players freebasing in a crack house before a game?  Check.  Gay player?  Check?  PEDs?  Check.   I guess this is a spoiler, but it shouldn’t be.  Anyone who has watched more than 6 hours of television can surmise nearly everything that is going to happen throughout the season within about the first 15 minutes of this first episode.

The episode begins with Cougars middle linebacker Eric Olczyck (Jason Mathew Smith) in a hospital room visiting a guy who he probably paralyzed just weeks before.  It’s very Jason Street.  Olczyck, wracked by guilt, brings the guy DVDs and awkwardly talks about how he’s making progress.  The injured guy dismisses his encouragement and basically indicates that Olczyck should take his Matrix DVD and get the F out of his room.  Throughout the episode, Olczyck repeatedly has flashbacks of the hit that caused the injury, flashbacks that are causing him to question whether he wants to continue playing.  He’s even seeing a counselor who is helping him deal with the guilt and stress this event has caused.   Intermittently, with Olczyck and the rest of the players, there are dramatic voiceovers where he makes clear his anxieties.  Cheesy?  Um, yeah.  But they efficiently give us a sense of who this guy is and why his perspective matters.

Olczyck’s best friend on the team is aging running back Leon Taylor (Russell Hornsby).  Taylor is a pretty serious man; very sincere, deliberate, and intense.  By all accounts, he seems to be a class act.  He’s a family man who enjoyed a long career and was once the face of the Cougars franchise.  But, since suffering an injury, he’s just not the same old Leon he used to be.  While he worked very hard in the off-season to get back into shape, the team seems to have moved on.  They signed the talented but troubled Demetrius Harris, or, DH (Omar Gooding, who you may remember from his seminal work on Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper), to take his place.  Leon used to be the top dog but now all of that recognition, and the confidence that goes along with it, are slipping through his fingers.   These changes to his role and self-esteem are forcing him to compromise his values.  Mr. Wonderful , for instance, received a cortisone shot in his knee prior to a game; he damn near assaulted his coach when he discovered that his contract probably would not be renewed; and he admits—in a slow, brooding voiceover—that he’s been thinking about cheating on his wife.  Suffice it to say, Leon’s having a rough go of it.

DH, on the other hand, seems to be doing quite well.  DH, it seems, is a typical bad guy: cocky, deceitful, rude, superficial, etc.  He’s also a drug addict.  And he doesn’t even do the kinds of drugs you would expect a multi-millionaire to do.  Guy smokes crack.  Despite his position as a crackhead, he’s a really great running back and the new face of the franchise.  (Later in the season there are shots of billboards with Taylor’s mug being replaced with DH’s smiling face). This allows him to get away with about anything he wants.  For instance, the owner had video footage of DH snorting coke off a woman at a naked pool party.  In a flashback, accompanied by—you guessed it—a voiceover, the owner plays the tape for DH and tells him to clean up his act.  DH didn’t take this advice too seriously.

The big dramatic tension of the first episode is the question of whether DH will make it to the game on time and the consequences that his absence will have.  He’s picked up by his sidekick Kelvin “The Buffalo” James (Marcello Thedford), an insecure offensive lineman who does about anything DH says.  When Buffalo picks DH up he’s still sleeping with two naked women in his bed, in no real rush to get to the game.  He tosses them some cash and then speeds off with Buffalo.   To help build the tension, the episode uses a digital clock graphic a’la 24 that counts down to gametime.  DH and Buffalo are beyond late, and are made even more tardy when they are pulled over for speeding—75 in a 35.  DH unsurprisingly has some coke and order Buffalo to ground it into the upholstery.  Well, the cops catch wind of this and ask the two gents to step out of the car.  They’re basically screwed…until the cops—football fans, I assume—let them off the hook.  You would think that this close call might give DH something of a wake-up call.  Not the case.  Once he and Buffalo get to the stadium—with about 40 minutes until game time according to the digital Jack Bauer timepiece—DH decides that he’s got to get high.  Since the drugs he had are now spread around in the floor of his car he’s gotta go score somewhere else.  Against Buffalo’s urgings, DH bounces to a local crack shack to get a couple of stones.

As you might imagine, the team is a little worried the DH hasn’t showed up.  The coach, for one, is pissed.  He suspends Buffalo as soon as he enters the locker room—a move that makes the big fella reassess his association with his drug addled compatriot.  DH’s absence, however, opens up quite an opportunity for our morose pal Leon, who gets to start in his place.  While the coach indicates the Leon’s contract probably won’t be renewed, he promises the fading star plenty of carries so he can showcase his skills to interested teams.  Meanwhile, Olczyck, after having an intense conversation with his psychologist prior to the game, has decided he can’t play.  Coach is pretty pissed about this and gives the shrink an earful about how he was hired by the team (conflict of interest, you think?) to help Olczyck get back on the field not to keep him from it.  It also comes out that Olczyck’s anxieties from the injury he inflicted are tied to a traumatic event that happened to him in high school.  His dad was his high school coach—a real hard ass.  His brother was also on the team.  During two-a-days one summer his dad ran the team ragged, without water.  Olczyck’s brother dropped dead from heatstroke.  Understandably, Olczyck never forgave his dad for this misdeed.  More importantly, we discover that this dude has serious daddy issues.  After his brother died, he took his number and started playing at his position to remind his dad of what he did to their family.  He’s playing football to get back at his dad—by some weird logic.  And look what happened; while trying to hurt his dad he wound up nearly killing another person.  Now that’s melodrama, my friends.

But guess what happens about 20 minutes prior to kickoff?  DH slides in, high as a kite and ready to roll.  The coach is pissed and wants to suspend him, just like he suspended Buffalo.  Seems only fair, right?  But the owner powerplays the coach and DH starts the game.  That means Leon doesn’t play.  That also means that Buffalo gets to taste the bad end of the star treatment that will allow DH to do anything he pleases while people like him have to play by the rules.  That also means that coach’s authority—and the respect he gets from his players as a result of it—only goes so far.

Coach George (Tony Denison) has a relatively minor role in the first episode, but he eventually becomes my favorite character as the season wears on.   Coach is a handsome, macho workaholic.  He seems to like his players, but is forced to keep a distance from them in order to maintain his fragile authority.  On the other hand, he seems to hate the owner but has to work pretty closely with him to secure his job. Coach’s skeleton is that he is pissing blood and likely pretty sick.  The rumors of his illness are swirling around the locker room.  Taylor, who is bloody pissed at coach for not giving him more time, lets the rumor slip to the Cougars owner, who might use the information to influence his decision of whether or not to renew coach’s contract.  Aside from his mystery illness, Coach is pressured both by the owner above him and the players below him.  Players like DH know that coach’s power is flimsy at best and contingent on the owner’s stamp of approval, and they use this knowledge to get what they want.  Coach knows this too, and it stresses him out.  The series makes it pretty clear that there’s a link between his bloody pee and the stress that comes with his job.  Again, textbook melodrama.

So, at the end of the first episode we have a bunch of drama swirling about and the bad guy getting away with everything while the good guys unjustly suffer.  DH plays in the game all drugged out, Olczyck decides to further repress his issues and go kick some ass, coach is stressed, and Leon is depressed.  Plenty of stuff going on the sustain a ridiculously-heavy season of scandal and institutional power politics.

They key moment/lesson in the episode actually comes when DH and Buffalo are sitting outside of the car waiting to see if the cops that pulled them over are going to take them in—ending, or at least significantly damaging, their respective careers—or are going to let them off the hook.  In an internal monologue, DH reassures himself: “When you’re a playmaker, the rules don’t apply.”  He’s right, and the series seems to reiterate this awful truth continually and to milk the drama it generates.

But the most important thing about Playmakers, within the broader history of sports television, is that the National Football League actually constrained ESPN to cancel the program after this first season.  At the time Playmakers was airing, ESPN was  producing Sunday Night Football (1987-2006).  ESPN, like any smart media institution would do, was showing promos for Playmakers during these broadcasts.  The NFL—which is sometimes rightly derided as the “No Fun League”—thought this would compromise its image and sternly advised ESPN to cut it out.  Because the NFL is by far ESPN’s most powerful and valuable content provider, the company decided it shouldn’t toy with its relationship with the league for the sake of a mildly popular and not-so-good television melodrama.  This indicates something pretty significant about how the NFL can put heat on its broadcast partners—influencing what they do in a way that resembles how the Cougars owner treats Coach George.  Now, ESPN didn’t have to cancel Playmakers.  But if it didn’t it might have lost the NFL.  Coach didn’t have to play DH.  But if he didn’t he might have lost his job.  Looks like DH’s sagacious wisdom shares a lesson that illuminates how the series was cut: “When you’re a playmaker, the rules don’t apply.”

I sort of hate Playmakers, but I totally recommend it.  I told Cory that I would do a write-up on the first episode and wound up watching 5 of them—and I will likely finish the season.  This will be the third time I’ve gone through it.  The great thing about Playmakers, I think, is that it’s only one season.  It doesn’t strike me as the kind of series that could really go anywhere too interesting.  These self-contained eleven episodes hit all the high points—with an almost comic aggression and zealotry.  To borrow a sports metaphor, Playmakers—for better or worse…maybe worse—leaves it all on the field.  Totally enjoyable series and crucial to anyone interested in the history of ESPN.

–TV

And now, it’s my turn! I’ve seen a number of Playmakers‘ episodes, but can barely remember which ones or really how many of them. Travis has done such a fantastic job of analyzing the episode and the series that I won’t be providing as much content here as I usually do, but I think that’s fine. There are still a few interesting angles to pursue and I hope I can do that.

It seems like Playmakers exemplifies some of the questions and issues we as a viewing public have with sports television series, which therefore makes it a nice file for our analysis. In the long-winded introduction of this quadrant of posts, I mention that it feels like there hasn’t been an easy or successful way to combine our society’s love for scripted television and sports. We can adore those things separately, but perhaps more so than any other two pillars of our society, they don’t mix. The more that I have thought about this over the past few weeks, I think I am getting closer to an answer as to why this is the case. For the most part, televised sports is so good and so entrenched into our culture’s fabric that any scripted version of the themes, cultural myths and storylines that “real” sports provides us just cannot match up. The televisuality of sports and the leagues, networks and whomever else’s ability to create narratives, produce heroes and villains and make every single game matter is supremely impressive. For decades, sports has become a space that our culture’s biggest hang ups, issues and processes are worked out, described and uncovered. It’s simple and cliche to say, but it’s very easy to buy into the fact that sports mean something, and without television, that’s less of a certainty.

With that comes the pedestal-ing of sports and its superstars. We love to build people up in this culture and perhaps more so than anyone or any profession, that kind of idolatry happens with athletes. There are politicians, businesspeople and normal folk doing “more important” things in the world every day, but there is certainly something to be said for the fact that nearly everyone in the world can recognize Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, just as they know what Nike’s Swoosh or Gatorade’s lightning bolt represent. While the rise of the internet and social media has certainly played a massive role in taking our heroic sports figures down a peg (hello, Brett Favre cell phone disaster, countless other Deadspin stories), I think we can all agree that we’d rather build someone up than tear them down. And when our heroes do something so terrible that we are forced to tear them down, it’s a shocking, debilitating and difficult process. If you’ve seen ESPN’s 30 For 30 documentary, June 17, 1994, you can easily recall the sheer amount of people who were absolutely convinced OJ Simpson could have never done ANYTHING wrong. So much so that they were willing to fill the Los Angeles freeways with signs and memorabilia in sport of his insane fleeing from the police. At this point, whether we’ve been trained by the media or it’s simply an inherent human quality, we just have to believe that those we put up on a pedestal are worthy of that rise.

Therein lies one of the problems with a dramatic television series about athletes, especially professional athletes. It is almost impossible to write a dramatic series about the topic without making characters look bad, having them make terrible decisions and more. And even if those characters do not represent or are not related to the “real” athletes we know, it is still difficult to swallow the knowledge of professional athletes taking steroids, point shaving, doing other drugs, etc. and unfortunately, those are the rote plots that a series like Playmakers was always going to have to work from. You could make an argument for the fact that we were more willing to accept those kinds of things in Friday Night Lights — most notably Smash’s steroid use — because the characters were misguided high school athletes and because the execution was so good nonetheless, but FNL‘s low ratings suggest that “success” might be too nice of a term to begin with. All of the melodramatic nonsense that powers the storylines of Playmakers from the very beginning could very easily be tough to take, and not just for the NFL, but for fans as well. There is most certainly something to be said for demystifying the cultural myths about sports and the heroic importance of athletes, but it’s a tough balance to strike. Unfortunately, Playmakers does not strike that balance.

Perhaps this series completely fails in its execution of that balance, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that it does not really matter how good the execution is, especially a full-bore one. Last entry, I spent a lot of time discussing the differences between a series about sports and a series featuring sports. In that analysis, I determined that something like The White Shadow is most certainly “about sports,” whereas One Tree Hill is most certainly a series that “features sports.” But if there was ever a series that was “about sports,” it’s Playmakers. If there’s a spectrum of series featuring/about sports, Playmakers exists as the literal end of the “about” side. There’s very little else to this series. The characters are fully defined by their positions and roles within the team and football environment and lack much personality to begin with. The narratives are completely driven by the team and the games, but do not create the space for discussions of race, gender, class, politics and social structures like Friday Night Lights or The White Shadow can. I think it’s most certainly an outlier in that case, but it’s still important to note how it both blows up and reinforces my distinctions to begin with. Last go-around, I think I made it fairly obvious that I prefer series that are “about sports” (at least as far as their sports-related stories go), but I mostly hate this. Again, this suggests that “too much” sports is, well, too much.

I would imagine that ESPN was intelligently aware of the failures of scripted dramas about and/or featuring sports when it decided to produce and air Playmakers in 2003. There’s a constant discussion about how series like Friday Night Lights don’t appeal enough to “sports fans” or “drama fans,” so it made sense for ESPN to try to cut out the second group and stick to appealing to the first — which was surely a group they thought aligned with their unscripted, news content and live sport events. Of course, that just brings us back to my first point: Sports fans probably don’t want to watch a scripted series about “unreal” athletes peeling back the curtain. They would rather just watch “real” sports and presumably, have their beliefs about their favorite or least favorite athletes affirmed. If you are someone who does not want to believe or know about PEDs in sports, you probably will not want to watch a series that covers that topic with an opportunistic zeal.

In that sense, maybe the all-out failure of something like Playmakers and the relative failures of things like Friday Night Lights or The White Shadow tells us something about the distinctions between series about and featuring sports. Perhaps while series featuring sports (at least in the ways that Shadow and FNL approached the subject) are more creatively successful, they’re less appealing to audiences. That split between “sports fans” and “drama fans” is a tough one to combine. Although the contexts are different in so many ways, perhaps the ability for something like One Tree Hill, which only loosely features sports, to last eight and probably nine seasons, tells us something. Whereas ESPN tried to use Playmakers to grab only the “sports fans” side of the equation, One Tree Hill mostly went for the “drama fans” side, and for better or for worse, has succeeded much easier. We know that sports fans like televisual content other than just “sports,” I’m a living example of that process. But there’s something inherently off-putting to sports fans about sports in dramatic television and cases like Playmakers make it hard to disagree with them.

Playmakers is important to analyze because it serves as a nice reflection of our culture’s fascination and obsession with sports. Even if the not-so-invisible hand of the National Football League would have reared its head back in 2003, the audience response probably would have. ESPN has yet to try another weekly scripted series based on a professional sports league since the cancellation of Playmakers, and if I were a betting man, I’d bet the World Wide Leader probably never will. They took their chance, but our culture does not want something like Playmakers. We might like to talk trash about the players our on favorite team’s rival squad and laugh at the stupidity of things that pop up on Deadspin or The Big Lead, but that’s all part of the sports culture. All those things are “real,” in that we like to think we know who these athletes are as people and that our hatred of them is justified based on what they do both on the field and off of it. But no matter what, the prevailing wisdom is that all those things are completely real and legitimate. Scripted television is, well, not real. It is from the outside, an intruder into the real world of sports, where society’s issues are worked out in-game, where heroes rise and villains fall. We can never know the characters of Playmakers like we know Peyton Manning, LeBron James, Sammy Sosa or Michael Vick and we can subsequently never build them back up after they make stupid off-the-field decisions. Those characters cannot redeem themselves in the ways that Tiger did at Augusta earlier this month, or in the ways that Michael Vick did during the 2010 NFL season.

Of course, all of sports is just as constructed as scripted television. The games are most certainly real, the injuries are real and the wins are real. But the stories, the heroes and the villains and the “meaning,” it’s all constructed by the media — mostly television. Peyton Manning’s a fantastic quarterback and he’d be one without television. But he wouldn’t be the sport’s most visible individual with a specific backstory and persona without it. Same goes for any and all athlete of the major professional sports. We care when it’s revealed that Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire took PEDs during the 1998 Home Run Chase because these are people we think we know and legitimately care about. That is not necessarily true, because if we knew them, we would have known they were taking PEDs. But we knew Sammy and Big Mac because the media drew the picture and colored it in. But scripted television, especially poorly-executed television that solely relies on a character’s profession to develop a personality, can never touch “reality” in that respect — even if one is as unreal as the other. Thus, the failure of Playmakers is not just about PEDs, terrible plotlines or the NFL’s ability to work ESPN like a puppet. It is about us and our heroes and our superstars — however real they may or may not be.

–CB

Conclusions on legacy: Unintentionally enjoyable, but mostly terrible; rightfully canceled.

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