What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is not on my list of essential films, largely because it’s not a movie at all. It’s an episode from the second season of my favorite television show ever.
NOTE: This installment of Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies is being done as part of something called The James Garner Blog-A-Thon, which is being hosted by RealWeegieMidget Reviews. We’ve participated in so many of each others events we’ve graduated to co-hosting them together…including a very interesting one which will be announced later this spring!
You can see all the contributions to this blog-a-thon here:
Larry “King” Sturdivant (played by Rob Reiner) is the quarterback for the Southern Illinois Warriors, which he describes in his own words as a “second-rate team in a third-rate league.” In other words, he’s a minor-league jock who nobody has ever heard of, but he wants to live the life of a big-leaguer. More accurately, Sturdivant is a worm who accidentally recorded a conversation about some some mob business. When you couple that with the fact Sturdivant is a guy living over his means, and he already is in deep with the IRS over back-taxes, it doesn’t take the super-computer as NASA to figure out there’s a black-mail plot in the works.
Being a first-rate low-life, Sturdivant tries to take the heat off himself by telling the mobsters that private investigator Jim Rockford (played by James Garner) has the tapes. Except Rockford has never heard of Sturdivant, and has no idea that there is more than one professional killer now gunning for him. Since these tapes are evidence for some heavy-duty organized crime, the federal government is also after him.
Rockford tracks down Sturdivant, and discovers what this is all about. The team’s manager was plotting to replace Sturdivant with a quarterback from the Canadian Football League, and Sturdivant bugged a restaurant the manager owned in an attempt to get some dirt on him. What Sturdivant didn’t know was the manager was 100% mobbed up, and he inadvertently got evidence that would cause some people to face some serious prison time.
Things get even better when Rockford takes Sturdivant to visit the team manager and get his neck off the block, but they find him dead, Naturally, Sturdivant fingers Rockford for the killing, but once they are both in police custody, Sturdivant’s story starts to unravel. Along the way, there’s a couple of plot twists and a cameo by Hall-of-Famer Dick Butkus.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
Much like Larry “King” Sturdivant, Art Schlichter was a quarterback who got in over his head by getting involved in criminal activity. Two things you never want to do with organized crime is to try to blackmail them like Sturdivant did…or ending up owing them a ton of money like Schlichter.
Art Schilchter was drafted by the Baltimore (now Indianapolis Colts) in 1982 after his college days at Ohio State University. Being the fourth overall pick, all those in the know thought he was going to be a “franchise” quarterback; the kind of guy you can build a winning team around. Believe me, in 1982 the Colts sorely needed that.
The problem was they didn’t know that besides being a “big-time” quarterback, Schlichter was also a major-league gambler. It took him no time at all to blow through his $350,000 signing bonus. When the NFL Player’s Union went on strike in mid-season 1982, Schlichter had nothing but time on his hands, so his gambling problem spiraled out of control. By the end of the strike, he racked up almost three-quarters of a million dollars in gambling debt.
This presented two major problems. Not only was Schlichter up to his eyeballs in debt to guys who aren’t averse to breaking his legs, the National Football League has explicit rules forbidding it’s players from engaging in any form of gambling. In order to put the “squeeze” on Schlichter, the bookies to whom he was in debt threatened to expose him if he did not pay his debts.
In an attempt to get out from under the mess he created, in 1983 Schlichter went to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and ratted on his bookies for illegal gambling. Once he got all his bookies arrested on federal charges, Schlichter doubled-down on his worminess by then going to NFL to plea for help, the idea being that the bookies who held his gambling debts would force him to throw games to keep them from telling the Colts about his gambling problem.
NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle wasn’t buying what Schlichter was selling and suspended him indefinitely. While he was re-instated for the 1984 season, he admitted later than he continued gambling throughout his suspension. In 1985, the Indianapolis Colts released Schlichter after five games because they heard rumors he was gambling again. What came out was Schlichter was gambling on golf. One day to cover a loss, Schlichter wrote a check to a golfing partner for $2,000. Apparently, Schlichter’s money woes were already known, as this guy called the Colts to see if the check was any good, because Schlichter asked him not to cash the check until after the season started. This caused the Colts do do a little digging, and after a bit, they had heard enough and sent Schlichter packing.
This effectively ended his career in the NFL. While he signed with the Buffalo Bills in the spring of 1986, once they acquired future Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly, Schlichter’s services were no longer needed. He sat out the 1986 season after no other team expressed interest.
Things got worse in January 1987 when Schlichter was arrested in New York City for his involvement in a multi-million dollar sports betting operation. He pled guilty on several gambling charges and was sentenced to probation. Even though the Cincinnati Bengals were interested in signing Schlichter as a back-up, Commissioner Rozelle effectively black-balled Schlichter from the league. That same year, he filed for bankruptcy.
All tolled, Schlichter’s NFL career consisted of 13 total games strewn across three seasons. But since then, he has been in out of of jail on various charges, usually involving gambling or some sort of theft or fraud to support his gambling problem. He’s currently serving a 10-year sentence on federal charges of wire fraud, bank fraud, and filing a false tax return. He is scheduled for a release date in August of 2020.
In other words, “King Sturdivant” got away with it. Art Schlichter didn’t.
The Moral of The Story:
Don’t do the crime if you’re not ready to do the time.
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