As Oklahoma heads balls-deep into football season, fans everywhere are catching the fever, prepping for the big game by stocking up on their teams’ knockoff merch at Wal-Mart, painstakingly painting their faces beloved team colors and coming up with new and interesting ways to comically denigrate via butcher-paper banners an almost-extinct race that once ruled this great land.
Me? I’m watching Possums for The Lost Ogle.
It’s easy to avoid the actual watching of football games in Oklahoma, but it’s damn near impossible to escape the culture. The mania. The obsession. And, of course, the constant rejection from friends and family who can’t relate to you because you got no idea what the heck is going on because you’re sitting in the corner reading Still Life With Woodpecker as Meat is Murder quietly queues up on the Discman.
If your experience was anything like mine, football night usually culminated in dad calling you an “embarrassment” as you sit in the bathtub debating whether or not to cut yourself again or jerk it to photos of P.J. Harvey in the latest issue of Spin.
And that’s probably what makes Possums not a good, but an honest football flick, a true-to-life Oklahoma story about the love and passion of this game, the kind of stories that are relived nightly in small-town bars by the former kings of the gridiron, taking in as many free glory day drinks as possible just to build up the gumption to head home and crawl in bed with the former high school homecoming queen slash current middle-aged shrew.
70s country crossover heartthrob—ask your mom if you don’t believe me—Mac “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” Davis, clad in a pair of the most bulbous Dockers known to man, is one of the few pathetic remnants left living in the real Oklahoma town of Nowata, where this was filmed on location, spending his days hanging around the front of his general store, talkin’ ‘bout high school football and, retreating to the announcer’s booth at night to talk ‘bout it some more. This guy is Mr. High School Football and he don’t care who knows it.
So, naturally, when he hears about the Mayor’s petition to shut down the school’s football program, he is so distraught that he literally BMs his pants and smears it on his face and walls and goes on a brutal counter-petition spree to little or no effect.
It seems the whole town reckons that the money can go to fund whatever other educational opportunities the less-athletic students might have in order to escape this soul-crushing burg of rural despair, granting them the mere glimmer of a hope that there’s more to life than this. But for Mac, it’s all about his wants and his needs and his constant desire to satiate this sociopathic drive to force everyone in this town love high school football as much as he does, community positives be damned.
Davis accomplishes this by hijacking a radio signal and creating a War of the World-type situation by broadcasting the play-by-play of a fictional Possums game. Instead of justifiably rioting and throwing bricks into shop windows all up and down Main Street, mass-hallucinations and placating insanity takes hold as the entire town of Nowata is immediately falling head-over-heels for the ruse, the lie inspiring the barren wasteland to come together as one and feel that sense of dead American pride if only for one more brief, orgasmic moment.
This town team spirit can only last so long, however: self-storage mogul Barry Switzer shows up as the coach of Plattville and, as according to the rules of faux-football, demands total retribution in the form of a real-life real-live one-last-game of sorts.
Cue the inspirationally swelling score and cameos from Bob Barry and Linda Cavanaugh as Davis puts a team together in a little over a week and, even though it comes down to the wire, spiritually wins the big game for the little town, as a cornpone-swilling Switzer throws his hat on the ground in slack-jawed disbelief and the town’s love (and funding) of the sport of kings is restored, new Saxon Algebra II books be damned.
Besides the perpetually overacting Switzer, this thing is loaded with stars: Andrew (Simon, King of the Witches) Prine, Cynthia (Arthur 2: On the Rocks) Sikes, Jay (The Boy Who Could Fly) Underwood and my former Classen SAS drama teacher, whom you may remember from my Twister review, in a one second wordless cameo as the Mayor’s wife, insuring her at least another five years of bragging rights to her Tiny Tots.
As the clock runs out, when it comes to high school football flicks, Possums ain’t no Friday Night Lights, but it definitely works as a Saturday afternoon waste of time, a nice little preamble before the big Bedlam battle starts, unless you’re me, of course—I’ll probably just be in bed all day listening to Disintegration and tearfully wondering why no one ever invites me to their game-day parties.
You can follow Louis Fowler on Twitter at @LouisFowler.