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.
NOTE: This installment of Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies is being done as part of something called the John Williams Blog-A-Thon being hosted by Taking Up Room. As one might suspect, this is event celebrating the work of the legendary film scorer. Hats off once again as our host has not only come up with yet another awesome topic, but has been gracious enough to allow my twaddle to be a part of it.
You can see all the contributions to this blog-a-thon here:
Yeah, Jaws 2 is obviously a sequel. Yeah, it has many of the same main characters as it’s predecessor. Yeah, it has exactly the same plot; a big hungry fish binge-eats people. Despite all that, this is still a perfectly entertaining movie…largely because it deals in very passable ways with how it has to be different from the original.
For my money, Jaws is the greatest monster movie ever made. The shark…and the threat of the shark…are completely terrifying because it could actually happen. Any trip to a warm, ocean-facing beach brings a shark attack into the realm of possibility…certainly far more than being eaten by a giant, radioactive Japanese lizard. But what makes Jaws one of my essential films is it’s combination with the all-too-real man-eater with the man who wants to kill it; a modern Captain
Ahab Quint and his quest for the Great White Whale Shark.
The problem for Jaws 2 is Captain
Ahab Quint falls to his predictable demise at the end of Jaws; he gets eaten by the shark. This leaves Chief Brody (played by Roy Schieder) alone to deal with the newest shark menace; especially when he discovers Matt Hooper, the other member of the previous movie’s shark-hunting team, is in Antarctica on a research expedition.
Another problem is the original antagonist Mayor Larry “Those Beaches Will Be Open” Vaughn (played by Murray Hamilton) has the “my kids were on that beach too” conversion. That means we need a new reason why we can’t sound the “shark alarm.” That comes in the form of real estate developer Len Peterson (played by Joseph Mascolo). Peterson has just opened a very “Holiday Inn”-style hotel on Amity Island, and just like pre-conversion Mayor Hughes, he’s not really interest in having the beaches closed. From everybody’s experiences from the first movie, Brody has some credibility when he starts yelling “shark!”
However, in his own inimitable style, Brody kills that when he is watching the beach from an observation tower and starts shooting at a school of bluefish he mistakes for a shark. Naturally, a guy blasting away with a .38-caliber revolver on a crowded beach causes a panic; a result of which is the Peterson-led Amity Town Council firing Brody as police chief.
In order to keep Brody from having the natural “not my problem” reaction after getting canned, the very next morning his son Mike (played by Mark Gruner) organizes a pleasure-sailing flotilla involving pretty much every kid on the island, including his 10-year-old brother Sean (played by Marc Gilpin).
You know what’s going to happen, but the twist here is we’ve replaced the “Captain
Ahab Quint” angle with a tried-and-true element from a “horror” flick: teen-agers facing death and making horrible decisions en masse. Of course, that sets the stage for the disgraced Chief Brody to emerge as the hero who saves the day and the stupid teen-agers with the creative use of a bazillion-volt electric transmission cable.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
Yeah, I breezed through he plot of Jaws 2; it’s a sequel and as such you go into it…let’s all say it together… knowing what’s going to happen. Rocky II only exists because studio executives thought America wanted to see Rocky win. That movie totally doesn’t work if Apollo Creed ends up with the heavyweight belt again. You can say the same thing for Jaws 2; the powers that be at Universal believed movie-goers wanted to to see another killer shark meet it’s end. The suits were right on both counts. In 1978 Jaws 2 became the highest-grossing sequel in Hollywood history…until it was surpassed by Rocky II the following year.
Having said that, the whole point behind this blog-a-thon has nothing to do with giant killer fish; rather it’s about the man who did the musical score for both Jaws and it’s sequel. John Williams put the music to so many legendary pictures, but Jaws 2 has something none of those other films can claim. As I mentioned earlier, an important component of this film is it needed to add another antagonist. That comes in the forms of Len Peterson, the real-estate developer who muscles his way on the the Amity Town Council.
To establish how powerful Peterson is, early on Jaws 2 contains a scene where his new hotel is having a “Grand Opening” ceremony. It’s clear Peterson is the boss; he has Mayor Hughes as his “master of ceremonies,” and it’s the mayor who can deliver the local high school band as part of the entertainment.
Therein lies the key for this discussion: that high-school band plays four songs which were not written or composed by John Williams. That’s why they aren’t included on the Jaws 2 soundtrack. But they are arguably the most important pieces of music in the entire film because they help set the tone for this scene.
To make this movie work, the “Grand Opening” scene has to do three things; it has to remind the viewer that Amity is a small town, the big-money real-estate developer is the true seat of local power, and despite his “my kids were on that beach too” conversion, Mayor Hughes is nothing more than a stooge to Len Peterson. To pull off setting the tone for that environment, the band has to meet one crucial criteria.
It can’t be good. No small town high school band is.
The producers of Jaws 2 recruited an actual high-school band for this purpose. The problem was out of all the bands they scouted, they naturally picked the best one. It was John Williams who pointed out the problem. Since they were already deep into the production schedule, replacing the band was not an option.
The solution: John Williams re-arranged those four pieces…Fanfare (by Hal Mooney), Downtown (by Tony Hatch), The Girl From Ipanema (by Antonio Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes), and Teach Me Tonight (by Gene DePaul and Sammy Cahn)…so it would be easier for a good band to sound bad. Then he taught a good band how to be bad.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had a hidden sports analogy which explored being deliberately bad. But the one we’re about to delve into matches what John Williams did with the high school band almost perfectly.
To understand this, we have to go from Amity Island in the 1970s to Indiana of the 2010s. The Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League (NFL) to this point have enjoyed a decade-and-a-half long run as a contending team, but in 2011 their future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning suffered a career-threatening neck injury. Manning missed the entire 2011 season, and due to the way NFL contracts and it’s salary cap works, the Colts faced a difficult decision as to the future of their star signal-caller.
Complicating matters was the fact there was another star quarterback coming out of college in the 2012 draft which every NFL team coveted. Stanford’s Andrew Luck drew the eye of every NFL scout; it was clear that if the team which possessed the #1 overall pick in that draft needed a quarterback, he was going to be the pick. Even if a team didn’t need one, since quarterback is the most important position on the field, whoever had the 1st pick was likely to take him.
At this point, two things happened in Indianapolis. First, the Colts decided that the Manning era was over. Due to uncertainty about his neck…after multiple surgeries Manning still had issues with his throwing motion…coupled with fact that he would be owed a $28 million roster bonus if he were still on the Colts’ roster after June 1st, Peyton Manning was released on March 7th, 2012. *
Second, now that the Colts were officially in the market for a quarterback, there was just one problem. Despite the fact Indianapolis just let go of their star quarterback, this was still a pretty damn good football team. After all, the other 52 guys on an NFL roster matter as well, and Indianapolis wasn’t not lacking in that department. The problem is the 1st pick in the draft goes to the team which finishes the season with the worst record. This is why amongst Indianapolis Colts’ fans, 2011 will always be known as the “Suck For Luck” season.
In 2010, the Colts posted a 10-6 record which propelled them to a division title and their 9th consecutive play-off appearance. But in order to “Suck for Luck,” the Colts dropped dropped to 2-14 in 2011. They accomplished this by doing a “Williams-esque” re-arranging of the offense…namely by employing quarterbacks of far-lesser talent.
The guy who got the bulk of this workload was an unfortunate soul named Curtis Painter. While he was a solid college quarterback at nearby Purdue University, he was not ready for the “prime-time” of the NFL. Predictably, the Colts floundered at the bottom of the NFL, which earned them the 1st pick in the draft. Even more predictably, the Colts used that pick to select Andrew Luck.
The “Suck for Luck” campaign worked; the Colts finished 2012 with their new quarterback leading them to an 11-5 record. That was good enough for the first of three more consecutive appearance in the play-offs.
Too bad nobody ever bothered to find out how the Indianapolis Colts would sound playing The Girl From Ipanema.
The Moral of the Story:
Sometimes being bad is the point; it takes talent to be reliably bad. Just ask John Williams or the 2012 Indianapolis Colts.
*– Technically, having not been released until a month before the 2012 NFL Draft, Peyton Manning was on the Colts’ roster all through the “Suck for Luck” season. But because they never made anything official, the fact the Colts planned all along on drafting Andrew Luck may have been the worst-kept secret in the entire history of American sports.
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