I first watched Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire (1996) because I assumed it was a football movie. Or at least a movie about a sports agent. And I was right. Jerry Maguire is a movie about a football agent trying to figure out his life after a breakdown.
Is there a love story at the heart of the film? Yes. Is there a story of a man coming to terms with what really matters in life? Absolutely. But the film uses the world of professional football to tell that story.
Would you say Bull Durham (1988) is not a baseball movie because it has a love story at its heart? Would you say Remember the Titans (2000) is not a football movie because it uses football to tell a story of overcoming prejudice? Absolutely not.
So, Jerry Maguire is absolutely a football movie. We could argue about what the actual climax of the film is, but I would contend it’s when Rod Tidwell (possibly the most memorable football player ever portrayed on camera) catches the touchdown pass and is knocked unconscious. From there, the film crescendos towards a reunion with Renee Zellweger. But it is this moment that is so vital. It’s this moment that finds Tom Cruise running after the life he desires as fast as he can. This moment in a football game changes his life.
Which bring us to Rod Tidwell. If for no other reason, Jerry Maguire should be considered a football movie because Rod Tidwell is the most iconic football player ever portrayed on screen (maybe Willie Beamen has a case). Cuba Gooding Jr. even won an Oscar for the performance and subsequently gave an acceptance speech that may have accidentally killed his career as a serious actor. But that’s a conversation for a different day.
Look, if I can’t convince you that Jerry Maguire is a football movie, maybe the American Film Institute, one of the greatest authorities on American cinema, can. They listed Jerry Maguire as their 10th greatest American Sports Film of all time.
So if you’re gonna come at me, you’re also gonna come at the American Film Institute. I like my chances.
Oh, and in case you haven’t already guessed, I think Jerry Maguire is a better movie than Remember the Titans. Once again, come at me.