It seemed appropriate that the pilot for a new show on high school football came after an airing of the iconic “Hoop Dreams.” After all, it was that award-winning, Chicago-based documentary that seemed to start it all in 1994.
Since “Hoop Dreams” there have been a few other documentaries that have focused on high school sports, and I still can’t forget watching a Massillon football player vomit on camera after doing a beer bong on “Go Tigers!,” a 2001 doc on Ohio’s No. 1 prep football team.
In the spirit of the fictional “Friday Night Lights” and the reality MTV series, “Two-A-Days,” cable TV’s Current aired the first episode of “4th and Forever” last week. The second episode and future shows are scheduled to air Thursdays at 8 p.m. You can catch repeats of the pilot,” Welcome to Long Beach, Baby,” if you know how to use the Search button on your remote control. I didn’t even know I had Current, a new cable channel co-founded by Al Gore. Yep, that Al Gore. One of the network’s promos touted future airings of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” So that’s Current TV.
“Two-A-Days” featured Hoover High School from Alabama. “4th and Forever” focuses on Long Beach Poly, the perennial prep football power of Southern California. I have actually seen a few Poly games on ESPN. The JackRabbits are regulars on ESPN’s High School Game of the Week during the fall. The show claims Poly has sent 50 players to the NFL.
The pilot picks up after Poly went 6-6 in 2009, its worst season in 15 years. “4th and Forever” chronicles the 2010 season with the all-too-familiar backdrop of gangs, crime, broken families and pressures to win from coaches and family members.
I wondered why Poly coach Raul Lara was willing to let cameras follow his team after going 6-6? There is a lot on the line for the veteran coach, who reminds me of Barrington’s Joe Sanchez.
The debut focused on Lara solving a quarterback battle between a pair of juniors, the talented Chaiyse Hales and the coach’s son, Emmanuel. Some other players include the academic-minded defensive lineman, who sells knives on the side to help support his unemployed parents; the injury-prone running back with a father in jail and a young son at home; and the diminutive captain and cornerback trying to establish his role on the team.
In light of the recent Ohio State scandal, it’s interesting to see the pressure these players must feel when their mother demands success on the playing field in order to get out of Long Beach. For so many of these kids, fathers are out of the picture.