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 Fourth So Bad It’s Good Blog-a-thon being hosted by Taking Up Room. Yet again, she’s got some of the best blog-a-thon themes out there. Thankfully, she has yet to realize these events would only go up in quality if she quits having me back 🙂
You can see all the contributions to this blog-a-thon here:
In yet another comb-over of Arthurian legend, we find ourselves in pre-Medieval England where war is raging Uther Pendragon (played by Gabriel Byrne) and the Duke of Cornwall (played by Corin Redgrave). In an attempt to forge Merlin the Magician (played by Nicol Williamson) takes the mystical sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake (played by Hilary Joyalle) and gives it to Uther. Excalibur is seen as a massive source of power; whoever possesses it is thought to be the reigning bad-ass of the time. Between that and Uther’s promises of land, the Duke of Cornwall recognizes Uther as king, and the war is over. But as a post-war celebration hosted by the Duke, Uther openly lusts after the Duke’s wife Igrayne (played Katrine Boorman). Nothing will destroy an old-school truce faster than illicit “booty-calling;” as such the war is back on.
Uther lays siege to besieges Cornwall’s castle, then requests Merlin’s help. However, the cost of Merlin’s intervention is steep. Merlin will deliver Igrayne to Uther, but ini return Merlin will take their first born. The Duke is lured out of the castle, at which point he is slaughtered. Merlin then transforms Uther into a doppelganger for Cornwall. As Cornwall, Uther enters the castle and basically rapes Igrayne to impregnate her as the real Cornwall lay dying outside.
Later when Igrayne gives birth to a son, Uther decides to be a peaceful king and wants to secure his kingdom eventually to pass it on to his new son. However, having not been seen since the killing of the Duke of Cornwall, Merlin returns to receive the price of his favor. Seeing that Igrayne is distraught at Merlin’s taking of her child, Uther tries to stop him, but is mortally wounded by knights still loyal to the Duke of Cornwall.
Merlin, who has not been seen since the night Cornwall died, appears and takes the child, as per their agreement. Igrayne is distraught and as Merlin disappears into the forest, Uther tries to stop him but is attacked. Mortally wounded, Uther drives Excalibur into a stone; his dying utterance being that no one will have the sword but him. While that’s happening, the nearby Merlin casts a spell keeping Excalibur stuck fast in the stone until the day the son of Igrayne and Uther is of suitable age to claim it; he will be the only one who can pull the sword from the stone.
For the next several years, as expected several unsuccessful attempts are made to claim the sword. Eventually, it becomes an annual event to see who can draw Excalibur from the stone; the prize being the first man who can do it will be crowned as king.
One year, Sir Ector (played by Clive Swift) brings his son Kay (played by Niall O’Brien)and Kay’s squire Arthur (played by Nigel Terry) the contest. However, Arthur forgot to bring Kay’s sword, so blissfully unaware of the event, he’s goes to the sword in the stone intending it to be merely a replacement for Kay’s forgotten weapon. However, the crowd gasps as the sword slides from the stone in Arthur’s hand.
See, this wasn’t supposed to happen. It was though only a knight would draw out the stone; as such most of the other knights refuse to recognize Arthur the Squire (think “apprentice, but not yet knight”), as their king. Only Leondegrance (played by Patrick Stewart) acknowledges Arthur as the rightful king.
Meanwhile, Ector reveals that it was Merlin who brought to him as a baby, asking that Ector raise him. Now, Merlin gives the boy who would be King Arthur a crash-course in mysticism, then leads him to the castle of Leondegrance. When they arrive, they find the castle under siege besieged by the other knights. While Arthur proves himself a worthy warrior, he wins the day by admitting that he is fact not a knight. As such, he kneels before the rebel knight Uryens (played Keith Buckley) beseeching him to grant knighthood. Declaring that the brave spirit of Uther Pendragon’s flows in Arthur’s veins, Uryens agrees and knights him. to remedy the situation. Uryens recognizes Uther Pendragon’s courage flows through Arthur’s veins and knights him.
Now having his nobility, Arthur is now recognized as King. Later that night, Arthur begins his courtship of Leondegrance’s daughter Guenevere (played Cherie Lunghi), At first, all goes well in Arthur’s new kingdom. Life is prosperous, there has been a unification under his rule of the the various fiefdoms, and the people are flocking to Camelot, his spectacular castle.
Better yet, the greatest knight in all the realm are uniting under Arthur’s leadership. This even included Arthur’s former rival Lancelot (played by Nicholas Clay). There was a time when Lancelot gave Arthur a harsh lesson in humility. Lancelot has bested all Arthur’s knights, but Arthur prevailed over Lancelot only because he abused the mystical powers of Excalibur. As a result, the sword shattered. But Arthur realized his error and atoned for it, after which the Lady of the Lake restored Excalibur and returned it to Arthur. As a result of this spectacle, Lancelot swore his allegiance to Arthur.
But there’s one small hitch. Lancelot doesn’t hang around Camelot much because like Arthur, he’s in love with Guenevere. But is is King Arthur who marries Guenevere, and then formalizes the founding of the Knights of the Round Table. Peaces falls over the kingdom, and to keep that peace and maintain his honor, Lancelot self-imposes himself in exile.
Another problem comes from Arthur’s half-sister Morgana la Fey (played by Helen Mirren). As a child, she witnessed Uther Pendragon raping her mother Igrayne while her father the Duke of Cornwall lay dying. Now, she is hatching a plan to exact revenge on Arthur. She browbeats Gawain (played by Liam Neeson) into into leveling accusations of infidelity at Guenevere and Lancelot. This results in a duel between Gawain and Lancelot, which Gawain loses.
Meanwhile, the aging Merlin is coming to the realization that science and the Christian God will soon take the place of magic. At this point, Morgana convinces Merlin into revealing his secrets, including the spell of “making”…the very same spell Merlin used to “morph” Uther into the Duke of Cornwall. With this array of sorcery, Morgana imprisons Merlin in his cave.
While this is going on, Guenevere absconds into the forest for a tryst with Lancelot. Afterward, they fall asleep and Arthur finds them. Enraged, he decides not to kill them, instead he drives Excalibur into the ground between them. When they awake, Lancelot and Guenevere are driven apart by guilt. But later that night, Morgana “morphs” into Guenevere so she can dupe a delirious Arthur into impregnating her.
Being despondent over the infidelity of his queen and the betrayal from his best knight, and lacking the power brought to him by Excalibur, Arthur falls into inefficacy as a leader. His kingdom is wrought with disease, failing crops, and a general malaise. In an attempt to save his kingdom, Arthur sends his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail; believing it can cure all that ails Arthur and his realm. After a decade, they don’t find the Grail and most of the knights perish in Arthur’s search.
Meanwhile, Morgana has raised the child she conned Arthur into siring to hate him. Together with the child Mordred (played by Charley Boorman), they deceive the remainder of Arthur’s knights to come to their enclave for the sole purpose of killing the ones they can’t pull under their sway. Perceval remains loyal to Arthur, and as a result ends up with a rope around his neck.
However, Perceval manages to escape. As he makes his way through the countryside, Perceval encounters a group of peasants, one of whom is a barely recognizable Lancelot, who is dressed as a monk and is now almost completely insane. Perceval tries to get Lancelot to come back to Camelot with him; instead Lancelot and the peasants attack Perceval and nearly kill him.
Escaping death yet again, now Perceval finds himself at the castle which contains the Holy Grail. Understanding the secret of the Grail is that it is the faith that sustains Arthur. As goes Arthur, so goes his kingdom. When Perceval presents the Grail to Arthur and he drinks from it, his health is restored and the land springs to life. Arthur then visits the convent where Guenevere has basically exiled herself. They forgive each other, and she returns Excalibur to him.
That happens to be rather timely, as Mordred has assembled a massive army and intends to challenge Arthur for the throne. Morgana has also cast a spell which makes Mordred invulnerable to any man-made weapon.
Before the battle, Arthur prays for Merlin for help. Appearing in Morgana’s tent, Merlin dupes her into reversing her spells. Not only does that take away Mordred’s protection, it also causes Morgana to age dramatically. As the battle begins,
The next morning, Arthur’s forces are seriously outnumbered, but they take the fight to Mordred’s army. During the battle, Lancelot re-appears, but succumbs to his earlier wounds, but not before Arthur forgives him.
Being the sole remainder of his army, Mordred attacks Arthur and they mortally wound each other. Arthur issues a dying command to Perceval to throw Excalibur into the nearest body of still water. Perceval goes to the lake, but cannot follow through. Perceval returns Excalibur to Arthur saying that sword cannot be lost again. Arthur reassures Perceval that is the best place for the mystical sword so it can be claimed by the next worthy king. Perceval returns to water, where the Lady of the Lake takes it beneath to resting places awaiting the next king. that the sword will be safe and will be presented to the next worthy king.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
As bad as the movie Excalibur is, it still contains a great hidden sports analogy. At first, you might think this is about watching a man have sex while wearing a full suit of armor. Yeah, that’s an impressive feat, but it can’t match the sheer amount of melodrama a tale about a “boy king” can generate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s pre-medieval England or 21st-century northern California, when you have a wacky old man who plays “King-maker,” there’s no way the story isn’t gong to be epic.
That’s precisely why there’s a bazillion tales springing from Arthurian legend. Just like Merlin is crucial to the dawn of the age of Arthur, the former owner of the Oakland Raiders is the creator of the Court of Lane Kiffin.
Like Merlin in Excalibur, Davis was once a formidable figure in the history of professional football, but the ravages of time spare no one. It was in his later years when Davis decided to hire Kiffin as the Raiders head coach in 2007. At age 31, Kiffin was clearly the NFL’s “boy king;” there were players on his roster that were older than he was.
But Kiffin came from an NFL blue-blood lineage; his father had a storied career as a coach in both the collegiate and professional ranks. Monte Kiffin could be the “Uther Pendragon” of this story; he was a two-time college national champion and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where is a a member of their Ring of Honor.
While Kiffin the Elder was honing the Buccaneers in into a championship side, Kiffin the Younger was building his own coaching reputation at the University of Southern California. Beginning in 2001, Kiffin began as the Tight Ends’ coach; by 2006, he was the Offensive Coordinator. Despite his youth, Kiffin was an integral part of a USC Trojan program which won a national championship in 2004; his offense produce three of the four Heisman Trophy winners between 2002 and 2005.
While Kiffin’s career was on it’s ascendancy, the fortunes of the Oakland Raiders were clearly in decline. After a decisive Super Bowl loss to Monte Kiffin, the Raiders had fallen on hard times; they were 19-47 in the four season after that, including a dismal 2-14 mark in 2006.
For Al Davis, this was beyond unacceptable. There was a time in the 1970s that the Oakland Raiders were the winningest team in all of professional sports. Now, they were a laughing stock, and Al Davis believed the “Young Turk” Lane Kiffin was his “Arthur.”
Forget the fact the college coaches have a not-so-great track record when coming to the professional ranks; Al Davis had a nice run with a defensive coach he found at San Diego State named John Madden…you might have heard of him.
The problem was Lane Kiffin didn’t have a mystical sword.
From the first kick-off, Kiffin and Davis were the personification of oil and water. The young Kiffin and old Davis couldn’t see eye-to-eye. The clashes between the two were epic, and were often carried out via the media. Kiffin questioned Davis’ player personnel decisions, and Davis second-guessed Kiffin’s coaching decisions.
The relationship was so contentious, it was more like that of Arthur and Morgana. Kiffin and Davis seemed intent on destroying each other. The nadir of this whole affair came when the elderly Al Davis used an overhead projector to give a nearly hour-long harangue on why he was firing Lane Kiffin.
Now, you can follow that link to see the video for yourself, but in any event, there’s quite a bit to unpack here. First, this is the first time any of us saw Al Davis in what was clearly an advanced state of decline. That’s what made the presence of the overhead projector more tragic than funny. After all, this is 2008; Powerpoint exists, and by now, I’m in my 40s and the last time I saw an overhead projector was in grade school.
Most importantly, nobody needed an explanation why Kiffin was getting the gate. You can only fight with the boss so long before he tires of you. Not to mention, a total win-loss record of 5-15 isn’t exactly what Davis had in mind.
At least for a time life was good in Arthur’s Camelot…even if the glory was the most fleeting.
The Moral of the Story:
Never send a “boy king” to do a man’s job.
P.S. Stay tuned…that moral is a reference to The Rockford Files, which will be featured in an upcoming blog-a-thon event.
P.P.S. In the next blog-a-thon in which I’m participating, we’ll explore more about John Madden.
P.P.P.S. Former Raiders owner Al Davis shared some interesting posthumous comments on his relationship with Lane Kiffin.
Check out Dubsism’s Movies and Blog-A-Thons page for a full schedule of projects past, present, and future!