In 2007, we are but jaded observers of sports on television. Graphics tell us everything we could possibly need to know at each juncture of a game, because God forbid we should have to wait for the next day’s newspaper. Multiple angles, frame-by-frame reviews of close calls, video-game simulations of how a team runs its base defense — these aren’t merely fancy accoutrements of the average sports broadcast; they are expected and, frankly, demanded by the viewer.
Forty years ago, such notions were foreign. The casual observer might have reacted to these ideas as Dr. Emmett Brown when Marty McFly told him that Ronald Reagan was President in 1985.
So in this Tex Maule-written highlight film entitled “The Spectacle of a Sport,” one phrase symbolizes all that could fascinate the viewer in 1967 — “super slow motion.”
The words are mentioned twice; the technique is used throughout the film, which completely veers from the chronology of the game to focus on themes — first the Kansas City Chiefs’ success and failure, then later the same for the Green Bay Packers. The historical significance is of weight here, not the relatively pedestrian game itself, and the film appropriately reflects this, even while laboring to keep the 30,000 empty seats at the Los Angeles Coliseum out of the frame. It was ultimately a futile effort; the one-third-empty Coliseum was impossible to shroud without culling extras from off the streets for crowd shots — which completely and obviously goes against the very concept of a documentary.
As a result, the traipses into the stands are never of wide shots, but always of individuals … fans who traveled from the Midwest, Danny Thomas, Kirk Douglas and some other celebrities, who, frankly, I can’t recognize, being born nine years after this game took place.
BEST NARRATION: “The big question which had troubled the football world for seven years was answered.” … “(Max) McGee fielded his first pass like Willie Mays, and went on from there.” … “On another day, in another year, it will surely be the turn of the AFL. But this spectacle of a sport belonged to Green Bay.”
Without the super-slow motion, this might have been a seven-minute highlight film. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But it might well have been trimmed in half. The soundtrack gives the piece a boost; the music sounds like it’s yanked from a Quinn Martin production, but it works.