What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 104: “The Rockford Files – Drought at Indianhead River”

  • Today’s Movie: The Rockford Files – Drought at Indianhead River
  • Year of Release: 1976
  • Stars: James Garner, Noah Beery Jr., Joe Santos
  • Director: Lawrence Doheny

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 third 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 Seventh Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blog-A-Thon, which is being hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts. Thanks to his devising and hosting this event, I get another opportunity to write about my favorite television show ever**.

You can see all the contributions to this blog-a-thon here:

The Story:

If you’re not familiar with this series, it’s what the guys at one of favorite podcasts* would call an “Angel-Centered” episode. “Angel” Martin (played by Stuart Margolin) is an ex-con and general low-life, but he has a lasting friendship with Jim Rockford (played by James Garner) which has it’s roots from their days in prison together.

Rockford settling a gambling tab with his bookie David Marcon

The plot begins after Jim has lunch with another old friend and current bookie David Marcon (played by Vincent Baggetta). As they are parting, Jim asks David if he’s heard from Angel lately as Jim hasn’t. David makes a flip comment insinuating Angel is about to be killed. Jim takes this threat on Angel seriously because as a former bookie, I can tell you first-hand the relationship between a gambler and his bookie is nearly as sacrosanct as that between the penitent and the priest. Not to mention, David is mob-connected.

Jim tracks down Angel to warn him, only to discover he is now living well over any of his known means. Angel is in the midst of lavishly decorating a top-dollar “Penthouse” type apartment. He also tells Jim that he no longer goes by “Angel;” he is now addressed as “Angelo” or “Babe.” Jim immediately becomes suspicious as Angel usually lives in a one-room hole barely a notch above Skid Row, and now he’s having conversations about installing an elevator equipped with an aquarium.

“Call me ‘Angelo’ or ‘Babe'”

During his attempt to warn Angel – of which he is completely dismissive – Jim discovers the source of Angel’s new-found opulence. Somehow, Angel has become a part-owner of something called the Indianhead River Development Company. Naturally, this only raises Jim’s suspicions. Jim’s skepticism of the whole situation red-lines when David Marcon tells him not to reveal anything about their lunch conversation.

The reason why David issued this warning is his uncle Dominic Marcon (played by Robert Loggia) invites Jim to a game of golf during which he questions him about the conversation he had with David. Jim tells Dominic everything the and David discussed…with the glaring exception of anything involving Angel. Dominic seems not to believe Jim, and the golf outing begins to drip with some not-so-thinly-veiled threats, such as when Dominic tells Jim that “…people who hold out on me end up in the flower business…as a soil additive.”

“Los Angeles is full of water hazards, Jim. I knew a guy who drowned in the main tank at Sea World.”

In the popular parlance of today, Jim know knows “shit just got real.” Upon returning to Angel’s posh new pad to re-issue his earlier warning, Jim sees David Marcon being “escorted” out of the building by a pair of gorillas in mohair jackets. Later that night, Angel gets wise when he discovers that his life has been insured for an astonishing amount of money. Coupled with the fact that none of his new “friends” will ride in a car with him, Angel realizes Jim was telling him the truth about his impending death.

“Jimmy, when you got the wa-wa, you got the deal!”

The next day, Jim and Angel take a trip to investigate the land Angel supposedly owns. During the drive, Angel tells Jim the key to the deal is the Indianhead River Development Company’s land is bone-dry, and he has title to land with a plentiful source of water. Meanwhile, Jim’s Los Angeles Police Department buddy Sgt. Dennis Becker (played by Joe Santos) is called to the scene of a murder at Angel’s new residence.

As Jim and Angel are on their trek to the Indianhead property, Becker’s investigation of the murder uncovers an eyewitnesses who claims seeing a gold Pontiac Firebird with the California license plate OKG 853 peeling rubber away from the crime scene. As the check on the license plate comes back as Rockford’s, Becker says “I thought that plate sounded familiar.”

As a result, Becker starts the process which leads to arrest warrant being issued for Angel and Jim. Meanwhile, Angel and Jim discover the “water-rich” plot Angel supposedly owns is actually the “bone-dry” derelict property, and the real Indianhead lots surround a significant man-made reservoir.

While Jim is trying to sort out what is actually going on with Angel and this obviously-shady real estate deal, the both learn they are now prime suspects for the murder of the dead prostitute found in Angel’s new penthouse. Jim has a hunch the the two events are connected, but he has nothing solid on which to base that belief. The more Angel explains what has been going on, the more annoyed Jim becomes.

To get to the bottom of this mess, Jim decides to break into Indianhead’s office and get his hands on all the contracts involving Angel. Jim and Angel take the contracts to Jim’s lawyer (and seeming girlfriend) Beth Davenport (played by Gretchen Corbett). Together, they figure out Dominic’s Marcon’s angle. Angel is the “mark” in a plan to convert the straight income tax on the land development into inheritance tax, which is at a far lower rate.

Jim, Angel, and Beth figuring out Dominic Marcon’s scheme.

To do this, Marcon’s intention was to put everything in Angel’s name, then kill him to collect the life insurance money and inherit the real estate holdings. But once David Marcon tipped Jim to Angel’s impending death, the plan began to unravel. As a result, Dominic Marcon had the prostitute killed so Angel and Jim could be framed for the killing, thus eliminating the possibility they spill the beans on his tax-evasion scheme.

Now, Jim realizes the only way out of this situation is A) to stash Angel somewhere where the cops AND the Mob can’t get to him and B) to make a deal with Dominic Marcon. For part A, Beth and Jim have Angel committed to a sanitarium. For pat B, Jim makes a deal with Dominic Marcon which involves a payoff, Angel being out from under all the shenanigans, and a letter which incriminates both Jim and Dominic so Jim can’t blackmail Dominic…and Dominic can’t kill Jim.

Checking Angel into the sanitarium.

Dominic agrees to Jim’s terms, but then orders David to kill Jim before the deal takes effect. Anticipating this, Jim arranges to break Angel out of the sanitarium at the same time David arrives with some hired guns, knowing this escape attempt will bring in the police. As is wont with many of Jim’s plans, the end gets closer than he may have liked, but Dennis and the LAPD arrive in time and arrest David and his henchmen.

The Hidden Sports Analogy:

Angel Martin nearly got himself killed pretending he was a real estate mogul. Two decades ago, a “regular joe” from Droylsden, Manchester, UK created quite a stir by somehow managing to appear in a Manchester United team photo before an away UEFA Champions League at Bayern Munich Power walked onto the pitch in full-kit and simply strolled into position in the photo. Other players noticed he was an impostor, yet he managed to remain in place for the team photo.

After Power’s prank, the British press launched an intensive effort to identify the phony footballer. The tabloids beseeched their readers to reveal who he really was. Finally, a men’s magazine called Front blew the whistle to BBC Sport. Apparently, Power gained access to the stadium by pretending to be with a television crew, and after the stunt, simply melted into the crowd and hid in plain sight.

But the outing of his identity didn’t stop Power’s pranks. When the England cricket team hosted Australia at Headingley later in 2001, Power strolled onto the field in full regalia as a batsman. Moments after entering the field, he removed his helmet and was immediately recognized.

Power wasn’t done. In 2002, he celebrated on the podium at the British F1 Grand Prix before the actual winner winner Michael Schumacher arrived. Also that year, Power with a partner managed his way on to Centre Court at Wimbledon and played a few volleys before the real scheduled match.

But Power’s pièce de résistance came in 2003; it was an ambitious piss-letting of Liverpool fans when he and a group of cohorts managed to get on the pitch at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ahead of a match against their rivals from Merseyside. Along with his co-conspirators, Power fooled Manchester United’s security staff into believing his “team” were actually part of an official pre-match sponsorship group. The ruse was so complete that while they were all wearing very official looking Man U gear Power’s group was actually stopped by club employees for a photograph.

Eventually, Power and his men made their way to the Scoreboard End of the ground. At this point, one of them donned a wig suggestive of the flowing golden locks of Man U’s Uruguayan uber-scorer Diego Forlán. Another peeled off his Man U top to reveal a Liverpool kit of goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.

Brace yourself, my fellow Liverpool supporters…you know what’s coming.

In Man U’s previous match with Liverpool earlier that season at Anfield, the Polish national keeper was playing his club football Merseyside. In that match, Dudek bungled a header which rolled helplessly between his legs, but it allowed Forlán to give it a gentle tap into the back of the net for one of the great “howlers” in the history of Anfield (the first of a brace for Forlán that day).

Power and his “team” re-enacted Dudek’s clanger…after which they ran to the corner flag in front of the part of the Old Trafford stands reserved for the Liverpool supporters…whom they taunted mercilessly.

The problem was the security staff at Old Trafford did not see this as a harmless prank; events like the riot at Heysel in 1985 and the Hillsborough disaster 4 years later were still in recent-enough memory for Manchester United to take Power’s actions as a serious breech. As such, Power and his cohorts were arrested by Manchester police, nearly ended up serving some jail time, and were banned for life from Old Trafford.

The Moral of The Story:

Pretending to be something you’re not…even when it’s funny…never ends well.

*Two Hundred a Day is a podcast by Nathan D. Paoletta and Epidiah Ravachol. They explore the intensely weird and interesting world of the 70s TV detective show The Rockford Files. Half celebration and half analysis, They break down episodes of the show and then analyze how and why they work as great pieces of narrative and character-building. Twitter @TwoHundredPod or https://twohundredaday.fireside.fm/

**This is the third episode of this show to be featured in this series:

Check out Dubsism’s Movies and Blog-A-Thons page for a full schedule of projects past, present, and future!

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About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

4 comments on “Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 104: “The Rockford Files – Drought at Indianhead River”

  1. Patricia Nolan-Hall
    March 21, 2021

    Hilarious! I couldn’t imagine where the sports analogy would come from this time.

    Also, hilarious, the expressions on Rockford’s face when dealing with Angel. Grand memories from one of the best detective shows ever.


    • J-Dub
      March 21, 2021

      If nothing else, I’m full of surprises!


  2. mercurie80
    March 21, 2021

    Angel has always been one of my favourite characters on The Rockford Files, so I always looked forward to Angel-centric episode. One of the things I always enjoyed about “Drought at Indianhead is the whole idea of Angel living the high life. Of course, Angel being Angel, one would have to know that something is amiss! Anyway, thank you so much for taking part in the blogathon.


  3. Elisabeth Grace Foley
    March 22, 2021

    Oh gosh…I’ve only been watching European football for about five years (and am more familiar with German clubs than English), so I hadn’t heard that story before, but I’ve been watching quite long enough to know what the supporters’ reaction to that re-enacted celebration would be. Talk about nerve. 🙂


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