The fact is a movie about hard-nosed football players shouldn't wring tears from viewers. But this one is an exception. It's the 1971 made-for-TV classic about the on and off-field relationship between NFL great Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and his workmanlike running mate Brian Piccolo (James Caan). The first half zeroes in on how the shy black Sayers and the loquacious white Piccolo became more than teammates---they became best friends. Then Pic gets cancer and the second half is about a five-or-six hankie heartbreaker, with the serious watershed moment occurring during Williams' beautifully wrought "I Love Brian Piccolo" speech. Caan and Williams are a perfect balance, with Pic teaching Sayers to lighten up and loosen up, and Sayers bringing out the athletic best in his pal. And do I have to say anything about Michel Legrand's grandly solemn theme song?
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