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Film / Second String

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"She believes in him. Now he must believe in himself."
Tagline from the DVD cover

Second String is a 2002 Made-for-TV Movie with licensed use of National Football League franchises, logos and even the Super Bowl. It stars Jon Voight as coach Chuck Dichter, who has assembled a Super Bowl-calibre Buffalo Bills team, and Gil Bellows as Dan Heller, a former NFL starting quarterback turned insurance salesman picked up off waivers for the practice squad.


  • As Himself: Actual NFL athletes Doug Flutie and Donovan Greer portray themselves as Buffalo Bills starters. ESPN analyst Chris Berman, colour commentator Mike Ditka and play-by-play announcer Van Miller also appear as themselves.
  • Big Game: The fictional Bills/Vikings Super Bowl.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: George Eads character of free agent QB Tommy Baker is not villainous, but the film really wants you to know that he is not at all a protagonist.
  • Down to the Last Play: A quarterback sneak ending with a goal-line lateral as the clock runs out is about as straight as this trope can be played.
  • Dumb Muscle: The back-up left tackle is big and strong but can't memorize the playbook. He needs the quarterback to tell him his assignment on nearly every play.
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: This is the main premise of the film. The entire starting offensive line and back-up quarterbacks come down with a particularly nasty case from poorly refrigerated shellfish. This results in them being off the field for weeks just before the post-season.
  • Hero of Another Story: Jacky Mumms, star corner on the Bills defense leads them to victory in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Chargers. In the same game Heller's offense does nothing but lose yards and throw picks. Somehow Mumms and the defense are barely shown at all beyond him returning a punt for a touchdown.
  • Only a Model: Stock footage/photos represent the Superdome exterior for the Big Game at the end of the film.
    • The interior shots also make it quite clear that filming was done in a significantly smaller stadium.
  • Rousing Speech: Averted twice, Heller tells a story about his football coach who instead played George C. Scott's speech in Patton. He later gives a stern but passionate speech about celebrating the AFC Championship win before the Super Bowl.
    • He finally gives Weathers a truly inspirational speech about riding the bench for a long-shot win. When Weathers shoots down his words he reveals he wasn't talking about him.
  • Put Me In, Coach!: Played straight with Heller. Averted by Weathers, who wanted a last chance at glory, was replaced by a younger breakout runner and has resigned himself to being a benchwarmer on a playoff contender team.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: The basic thesis of Heller's You Keep Telling Yourself That speech to his AFC Championship winning team. He scolds them for celebrating their victory as it will make them complacent against the Vikings.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Hamilton's Ivor Wynne Stadium is one of several used to represent Buffalo home field at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The managers box and seating do look rather similar in real life.
  • Underdogs Never Lose
  • Wax On, Wax Off: Heller has his teammates perform some odd but conventional training. He also makes his superstitious running back practice his evasive technique by making him run around headstones in a cemetery.