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Paper Lion Reviews

In 1966, George Plimpton wrote a series of articles for Sports Illustrated based on his firsthand experiences in the world of professional sports, including pitching in baseball's All-Star Game and fighting a few rounds with onetime middleweight champ Sugar Ray Robinson. Adapted from Plimpton's best-selling book of the same name, PAPER LION is the amusing, occasionally insightful depiction of another of the writer's forays into pro sports, his summer spent in the training camp of football's Detroit Lions. Although Alda (in his film debut as Plimpton) tries at first to pass himself off as a real free-agent quarterback, it becomes obvious almost immediately what he's up to, and some of the Lions resent it. But by enduring the grueling practice regimen and remaining a good sport in the face of hostility and harassment (some of which is very funny), he eventually earns the team's grudging respect and is taken under the wing of All-Pro tackle Alex Karras (playing himself). When the final minutes of an exhibition game with the St. Louis Cardinals roll around, No. 0 even gets an opportunity to lead the Lions' offense for three plays, losing 32 yards, fumbling, and knocking himself out against the goalpost. Although PAPER LION presents a slightly sanitized version of a pro football training camp, several real-life Lions appear in the film, including John Gordy, Mike Lucci, Pat Studstill, and Roger Brown. Karras, who proves to have an engaging film presence, went on to become an actor, appearing in several films (BLAZING SADDLES; VICTOR, VICTORIA; AGAINST ALL ODDS) and TV series. Vince Lombardi (who tells Alda the Packers want no part of his stunt), Sugar Ray Robinson, and Frank Gifford also appear as themselves.