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Film / Necessary Roughness

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Necessary Roughness is a 1991 sports comedy film directed by Stan Dragoti and starring Scott Bakula, Robert Loggia, and Héctor Elizondo, with a supporting cast including Larry Miller, Sinbad, Jason Bateman, Rob Schneider, and Kathy Ireland.

Paul Blake (Bakula) is a former high school football star who gave up his dreams of playing college ball and probably going on to the pros to stay home and run the family farm after the death of his father. When the Texas State University football team, the Fighting Armadillos, becomes involved in a scandal resulting in almost the entire team being expelled or disqualified, the new coaches must assemble a team from the ragtag group of goofballs willing to join... and the now thirty-plus Blake, lured to college and the team by the idea of finally putting to rest his dreams of what might have been.

It falls on Blake, as quarterback, along with Coach Eddie "Straight Arrow" Gennero (Elizondo) — a former big-time college coach lured to Texas State with the promise of building a program from the ground up, with no booster interference — and assistant coach Wally "Rig" Riggendorf (Loggia), to try and turn this strange group of nobodies into a Band of Brothers, while the entire time the team is under the baleful eye of Dean Elias (Miller), who hates college sports teams and wants any excuse to destroy the team and get rid of football forever. (Yeah, in Texas. As you can imagine, he's quite the popular guy.) Along the way Blake falls for one of his teachers, journalism professor Suzanne Carter (Harley Jane Kozak), with whom he turns out to have a past of which he was completely unaware.

The film averts one of the major underdog sports movie tropes. See, turns out that assembling a ragtag team of weirdos who have never played football doesn't suddenly rocket you to success and send you to the finals. The Armadillos have an absolutely terrible season, and in the end the final game isn't about winning the championships... it's about winning their pride and dignity instead.

Not to be confused with the USA network show of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Lucy, who surprises everyone by being able to kick a football forty yards.
  • Adam Westing: Rob Schneider's sports announcer talks like his "Richmeister" character from Saturday Night Live.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: When the inmates arrive at the practice field for a scrimmage, they are presented as a bunch of hardened violent criminals. They jump the Armadillos and start beating the hell out of them as soon as the ball is snapped, and only stop when a guard fires a warning shot. As Krimm is getting smacked around by his inmate, he asks him what he’s in for. The response? “Computer fraud.”
  • Artistic License – Sports: The scene where the referee gives up trying to tally all the penalties Samurai racked up when he punched out half the opposing offense: In reality, the other team would only be allowed to take one of the penalties, not all of them (not to mention Samurai would've been ejected from the game before the ref even started talking). Averted in the "take one of the penalties" sense, in that the ref finally gives up on the long list and ends with "15 yards, first down!" ...which is what the infraction would have given in real life (though, again, Samurai would be ejected.)
    • Averted with Blake. Since he never went to college, his eligibility clock never started. Several Real Life older football players (Chris Weinke, Brandon Weeden) have had successful college football careers (this was usually after they had given up being professional baseball players; though this would make them ineligible to play baseball in college, they can still play football just fine.)
      • Andre might be another matter. He's a graduate student, thus in real life he probably would not have the eligibility the movie claims he has.
      • He specifically mentions that he earned his Bachelor's in 5 semesters (two and a half years at most), his Master's in one year, and was halfway to his Ph.D (probably around a semester or two given his prowess). He'd still have his year.
      • Players do occasionally have eligibility while pursuing graduate studies. Andre may have graduated in less than four years or could have been a medical redshirt at some point and gained an extra year of eligibility.
  • Bar Brawl: To absolutely no one's surprise, this ensues when the Armadillos encounter their Jerk Jock rival team, the Colts, at a bar.
  • Berserk Button: You can insult Blake. You can talk crap about his team's abysmal season. You can even pour beer on him. But do not insult his center.
    • In a later scene, the center in question has to be held back by the entire team when an opposing player cheap shots Lucy. (Fortunately, she can fight her own battles - see Groin Attack below.)
  • Big Word Shout: The announcer shouting "SHIIIT!" after the team's 8th loss.
  • The Big Guy: Manumana, Blake's giant Samoan center. According to him, it means "runt of the litter", and the other men in his family are even bigger. He's also given the Ironic Nickname "Manumana the Slender".
  • Black and Nerdy: Sinbad as Andre Krimm, a former player who gave up the team to focus on academics. Blake lures him back. He has a hell of a tackle.
    "Andre does not eat raw meat. Because Andre is a vegetarian."
  • The Cameo: Several NFL legends (including Dick Butkus, Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker, and Earl Campbell, just to name a few) and a pro boxer (Evander Holyfield) appear as inmates when the team plays a "scrimmage" against a local prison.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: During the bar fight, natch.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Charlie Banks, the only surviving past Armadillo, catches Paul's "tryout" throw. When they try the 2 point conversion in the last game, he catches the winning throw, even wearing the number of Paul's old throwing dummy.
  • Combat Commentator: The referee becomes this during the final game, after one of the Armadillos goes all Cobra Kai on a couple of the opposition players.
    Referee: "lllegal contact, Number 51! Zenkutsu elbow thrust to the halfback, Oi-mawashi roundhouse kick to the quarterback, Tegatana sword block to - oh, shit, never mind! Fifteen yards - first down!"
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: Lampshaded when Paul realizes he can't just walk away from the team due to a few personal problems, since Jarvis was about to do the same.
  • Dean Bitterman: Dean Phillip Elias. Believes sports have no place at college. Fine in itself, but he's willing to use every dirty trick in the book, including breaking all conceivable ethical guidelines, to get rid of college football.
  • Down to the Last Play: The Kansas game comes down to Lucy having to make a field goal in heavy rain as time expires just to tie, while the Texas game comes down to one last shot at the end zone with the Armadillos down seven points. Coach Gennero sends in Coach Rigg's gimmick play, and it works, and then lets Blake set up a fake extra point kick to go for the win.
  • Expospeak Gag: Gennero is hospitalized, and later is told what happened in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness technical terms... but it's just indigestion.
  • Genius Bruiser:
    • Andre, a massive, powerful lineman who went to Texas State on a football and chemistry scholarship. He ended up quitting football in favor of academics.
    • Also the convict player who effortlessly manhandles Andre, and replies "computer fraud" when asked what he's in prison for.
  • Gentle Giant: Manu, who is the most physically imposing of the Armadillo players, yet also the most well-mannered and chivalrous.
  • Glory Days: Blake's high school football years are this, but his father died and he gave up college years before to run the farm.
  • Groin Attack/Ironic Echo: A big player on an opposing team knocks Lucy down after the game and dismissively says, "Welcome to football!" She retaliates by kicking him hard in the groin, angrily saying, "Welcome to foot...ball!"
  • Handshake Refusal: Done both ways at the start of the Texas game; after the coin toss, the referee tells both sets of team captains to shake hands — and no one on either side moves a muscle. Both groups simply glare at each other, and walk off.
  • Hero of Another Story: The story of Charlie Banks, the only player on the original team not to be banned from football, and how he not only persisted in the sport despite his obvious athletic shortcomings, all the way to catching the winning reception, would have made a fine movie in and of itself.
  • Honor Before Reason: He's called Eddie "Straight Arrow" Gennero for a reason.
  • Hypocritical Humor: After the bar fight:
    Sheriff: Brawl? There ain't no brawl.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Dean Elias castigates Suzanne for dating Paul, while the two of them blow it off as simply being consenting adults. But not only is she a professor and he a student (despite their similar ages), but Paul is in her class at the time, making it a severe violation of professional standards by any definition.
  • Jerk Jock: Most of the Armadillos avert this, either by being good people or not being jocks. (Or at least, football jocks.) Their rival team, however, is made up of this. Their star linebacker, "Flat-Top", could probably provide the trope page image.
  • Large Ham: Jim Kelly in his cameos.
  • Large-Ham Announcer: Rob Schneider as Armadillos radio announcer Chuck Neiderman is this in spades. “How are you going to throw a flag on that? It was a clean kick to the face mask!”
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Flat-Top antagonized the Armadillos at the bar by insulting Manumanu. On the game-ending two-point attempt, Manumanu absolutely destroys Flat-Top.
    • Dean Elias spends the entire movie trying to end the football program. During the final game, he approaches Chancellor Purcell, having taken it upon himself to re-grade the team's exams on his own curve. Blake spots this activity on the sidelines, and calls a play that sends both teams plowing straight over the Dean, who's left trampled, and somehow holding the football. Purcell puts a bow on the whole thing by telling Elias:
      "By the way, you're fired."
    • Then the final scene of the movie has the Armadillo mascot point a prop gun at the defeated Elias' head. His only response is an "Of course this happens" eyeroll.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • There really isn't a rule that says a woman can't play college football — and there actually have been a few female kickers at the college level in Real Life.
    • There also isn't a rule preventing older players from playing college sports, provided they have remaining eligibility.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Blake is practicing throwing passes in the beginning of the movie, he uses an old football target with the jersey number 88. Later, when he throws the game-winning extra point pass, guess what number Charley Banks, the receiver, wears?
  • Modesty Towel ->Toplessness from the Back: Lucy in the shower room, to the joy of Kathy Ireland fans.note  Manumanu plays a living Scenery Censor.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Texas State is basically the University of North Texas (where the movie was mostly shot) with the Serial Numbers Filed Off. However, the backstory for TSU is basically that of Southern Methodist University, the only school in NCAA history to receive the "Death Penalty"note  for football. Meanwhile, the Armadillos' rival Texas Colts are an expy of what most people probably think of the Texas Longhorns.
  • One Season Athlete: Paul Blake was a standout high school quarterback until he had to give up his dreams to run the family farm after his father's death. He gets recruited for the Texas State Armadillos in his mid-30s because the team was stripped of almost every player due to scandal and Blake still has college eligibility left.
  • Opposing Sports Team: The Texas Colts.
  • Post-Kiss Catatonia: Manu gets a Smooch of Victory on the cheek from Lucy after the team wins the last game. He promptly faints on the field in the middle of the celebration.
  • Precision F-Strike: During an attempt at a Rousing Speech.
    • The announcer shouting "SHIIIT!" after the team's 8th loss.
  • The Promise: As the Armadillos set up the final play of the movie, it's actually the last line of the movie not spoken by the announcer:
    Manumanu: (about Flat-Top) "Mr. Blake. He'll never touch you."
    (cue dramatic music)
    (Manu hits him so hard, his face mask flies off)(doubles as a Freeze-Frame Bonus)
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Blake gives Flat Top a one-two punch in the face after the latter insults his center. Flat Top is barely fazed (like he just got splashed with a faceful of cold water), prompting an utterance of "oh, Lord" from someone off-camera just before the ensuing bar brawl.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Armadillos.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Fred Thompson as Chancellor Purcell.
  • Redemption Quest: Both for Blake (to prove to himself he had what it took to be a big time college QB) and for Coach Gennero (who was chased from his last job by boosters who hated him). Charlie Banks also gets a nod, since he was the only player from the previous team who didn't get banned from the sport. He ends up on the receiving end of the pass that wins the game.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The coach is laid out with chest pains. He asks his doctor what he has, and the answer is provided by this trope and Expospeak Gag:
    Doctor: Hiatal Hernia. [describes his symptoms here]
    Gennaro: Well, is it fatal?
    Doctor: Indigestion? Only in Mexico.
  • Smooch of Victory: Lucy kisses Manumana on the cheek after they win the last game. Manumana collapses in joy.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: About an hour after the bar brawl, Flat Top goes home and his face is purple from those No-Sell punches.
  • Tragic Dropout: Blake never got to go to college because he had to run the family farm.
  • Underdogs Always Win: Averted until the very end.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After Coach Gennero humiliates the entire team in front of a group of boosters, Coach Riggendorf blasts him for turning what should've been a Moment of Awesome into a Humiliation Conga.
  • Who Needs Overtime?: In the climax, after a few of the players get hurt, it looks like the Armadillos are going for the tie, but they run a fake PAT with Blake hitting Charlie Banks in the endzone for the 2-point conversion and the win. (This was before the NCAA adopted overtime in 1996, five years after this film was released.)
  • Wrong Bathroom Incident: Lucy (played by Kathy Ireland) is the only woman on the Armadillos and has to use the same locker rooms. However, to preserve her dignity, Manu forces the other players out and stands guard while she showers and changes.