A Scene from The Program
Film,  Podcast

Hops and Box Office Flops: ‘THE PROGRAM’

Place at the Table

Craig Sheffer as Joe Kane and James Caan as Coach Winters in the Program
James Caan and Craig Sheffer

The Program is a highly embellished glimpse at the perils of big time collegiate football. The prioritization of wins over the actual molding of young minds is at its center, but so is football’s innate ability to form lasting bonds. The men who take the field put their bodies on the line for each other. It’s a brotherhood.

It nails both of those aspects. The shadiness of the folks in charge is omnipresent; and the central cast of characters is relatable. Their foibles, as cliché as they may be, are distinctly human. 

You’ve got the young upstart running back Darnell Jefferson (Omar Epps), whose education entering college isn’t up to snuff. There’s the overachieving special teams player, Lattimer (Andrew Bryniarski), who has bulked up through suspect means for a chance to start.

And then, perhaps the most well rounded of the core, are linebacker Alvin Mack (Duane Davis) and quarterback Joe Kane (Craig Sheffer). Kane is an alcoholic who’s struggling with the pressures associated with a Heisman campaign. And Mack is a season away from pro stardom and the type of money that can change his family’s fortunes forever.

Coach Winters Talks to Steve Lattimer in The Program

Yes, all the scandals, drama, and injury, sack this team at once, but none of them are beyond the realm of belief. This is high level college football—warts and all. And, honestly, their journeys are why this movie has endured.

The physicality of football is also well represented, a testament to the work done by the folks at NFL Films. It immerses you in the game and the atmosphere.

Thus, despite its more outlandish elements, The Program is a film that has stood the test of time and remains widely regarded as a cult classic. Poor reviews, controversy, and a lukewarm box office couldn’t prevent it from becoming so.

Now sit back, crush some Dankful IPAs from Sierra Nevada, and get ready to peel some caps! I, the Thunderous Wizard (@WriterTLK), Chumpzilla and Capt. Cash are putting the women and children to bed, so we can go looking for dinner!

This Week’s Segments:

  • Introduction/Plot Breakdown – Is the program overexaggerated? Sure. But it’s certainly pulling back the curtain on the more unsightly elements of college football. (00:00) 
  • Lingering Questions –  Is it even possible to improve this movie? (47:03)
  • The “Kill ‘Em All” Trivia Challenge – Chumpzilla challenges the field to a series of questions about the movie. (1:10:46)
  • Recommendations – We offer our picks for the week and next up: We continue “Hops and Sports Ball Flops” with the beach volleyball classic Side Out! (1:21:59)

And, as always, hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to check out all the interesting factoids—ESPN’s oral historyand more—from this week’s episode!

You can find this episode of Hops and Box Office Flops on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsStitcherPodbeanSpotifyAcastTuneIniHeartRadioVurbl, and Amazon Music!

Thomas Kelly

Writer, Superman aficionado, lover of odd and underperforming sports teams, and co-host of the film adoring podcast, Hops and Box Office Flops

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