Brian’s Song (1971)

For those die-hard football fans out there who love history probably remember who Gale Sayers was. A star football player during his era, this guy won several rewards, was a Chicago Bears legend, as well as an NFL Hall of Famer. Brian’s Song is based on his friendship with Brian Piccolo. Together they were the NFL’s first interracial roommates, who battled night in and night out for the same position.

This story is about Brian’s battle with cancer and Gale’s attempts to do everything he could for his fallen friend. I know so much about this story because I read the book when I was a teenager and watched this 1971 movie shortly thereafter. Fast forward about two decades and I gave this movie a second chance. Sadly I didn’t feel the same as I once did.

I felt the movie lacked the emotional punch it was meant to land. The story felt pretty basic: football, illness, hospital visits, death. The runtime is very short so there isn’t a whole lot of room to dig deep into the characters, their relationships, or the lack of knowledge about cancer in 1969. Back then people got sick, they took some tests, results were given, and people planned for the worse. Obvious advancements in healthcare technologies today would change the direction and outcome of this particular story, but back then it was pretty cut and dry.


There was no real reason to cry or even get upset at the events as they unfolded because if you didn’t know who these people were, they would just be two ordinary football players. If your intent is to watch this movie and see some hard-hitting football footage, let me tell you now that you should watch something else. This film is more dialogue and hospital screen time than anything else. I feel bad for saying all this because this is truly an inspiring story, just watching this version of the movie in 2018, lacked everything I’ve come to know and expect from would be tear jerkers. They remade this film back in 2001. I may have to track it down sometime and see if that version of the story is any better. 3/10

2 thoughts on “Brian’s Song (1971)

    1. You know something, I saw this a long time ago and was moved so I read the book. Looking back I thought hey, what a great movie. Watched it again this past year and it is flat out terrible. How storytelling and acting have changed since then.

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