- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2002

Sports author John Feinstein, asked recently if he had seen ESPN's film adaptation of his book, "A Season on the Brink," called the 90-minute film "a joke … a cartoon."
Actually, Feinstein who had nothing to do with the movie is too kind. Cartoons frequently are funny, but there's nothing amusing about the TV version of "Brink," which premieres tonight on both ESPN and ESPN2. This sick flick is so abysmal that it might rival "The Babe Ruth Story" of 1948 as the worst sports movie ever made. Basketball analyst Billy Packer described it in an interview as "a piece of garbage … one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen."
Give ESPN credit for one thing, though. The film makes the real Bobby Knight, who is shown ranting and raving in various interviews during the last four minutes of the film, appear practically likeable compared to his portrayal by Brian Dennehy.
Dennehy is a fine actor, and we can only wonder why he accepted this dismal role. Assuming he didn't need the money, perhaps he hates Knight so much that he wishes to further besmirch the coach's already negative image. If so, mission accomplished.
ESPN says it is running tonight's film with a strong parental advisory and that the version shown on ESPN2 will be edited, meaning cleaned up. Considering Dennehy's language in the unexpurgated film, viewers who turn to ESPN2 might see a silent movie.
Anyone who follows college basketball knows that Knight, a brilliant coach now in his first season at Texas Tech after being fired by Indiana, is about as diplomatic as a Mack truck. But as presented by Dennehy and scriptwriter David W. Rintels, he uses the "f-word" the way most people use, say, "hello." Not to mention the "p-word" and assorted other indelicacies. One fairly mild sample: "Lombardi, Auerbach, Patton and Truman were uncomprising p-, too. Nice is for losers."
Or how about this? Knight/Dennehy attempts to turn guard Steve Alford into a team leader by observing, "I don't think you could lead a whore into bed." Even when the language isn't filthy, it's often remarkably tasteless.
At one point, he uses the "f-word" five times in five seconds, which certainly should be a world record.
Feinstein's masterful 1987 account, still the best-selling nonreference sports book of all time, followed Knight and his Indiana Hoosiers through the 1985-86 season, one year before Knight won his third national championship. The writer was granted unprecedented access to Knight's inner circle and found much to admire, as well as to regret, about the fiery coach's demeanor.
Needless to say, Knight did not appreciate Feinstein's candor when the book came out. In a news conference, he referred to Feinstein as both a whore and a pimp.
Feinstein responded with perhaps the second-best sports quote of all time: "I wish he'd make up his mind so I'd know how to dress."
(The best sports quote of all time came a decade earlier. Asked after a game what he thought of his winless expansion team's execution, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John McKay replied, "I'm all in favor of it."
But back to the General, as Knight is known in some quarters. One problem with the film is Dennehy's physical appearance. He is 63, 18 years older than Knight at the time covered by the film, and weighs perhaps 100 pounds more. If ESPN were making a movie about Knight today, Dennehy would be an appropriate choice. As it is, he's about as miscast as Rosie O'Donnell would be playing Jackie Kennedy.
Basically, the film has one plot line: Knight screams at his players like an insane man, then shows his heart-of-gold side by saying or doing something nice. That's it. There are no subplots, and Dennehy dominates the movie so much that he might as well be doing a one-man show.
Although the basketball scenes aren't bad, the film is replete with ridiculous vignettes. For instance, Knight tells player Daryl Thomas, after humiliating him repeatedly in front of his teammates, "I hate to get on you like that. Don't try [hard] for me, try for yourself."
Thomas: "I really will try."
Knight: "I know you will, son."
And this: Changing his mind about Alford, Knight tells him, "I couldn't care more for you if you were my own son."
Alford: "I can't tell you how much that means to me, Coach."
In a word, barf.
Enough said about a film that should be an embarrassment to everyone involved. The cable network is flacking it as "the first original motion picture from ESPN." I shudder to think what the next one might be.


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