The Season: Arizona Football

A review of the feature documentary, “The Season: Arizona Football.”  Premiered on ESPN.   Directed by A.J. Dickerson


The Tucson Citizen

REVIEW by CORKY SIMPSON, Citizen Sports Columnist

It’s a cheeky concept, even to the brazenly intrusive nature of television programming.

Ask a college football coach for unlimited access to team meetings, planning sessions, pre-game pep talks, training room, players’ dormitories, the team bus and right into the head coach’s home. . . .

And you’re likely to get laughed at or thrown off campus.

Your press credentials would be revoked forever, and you would be sentenced to the dreaded double-secret probation.

But that unprecedented access and availability were granted last fall to ESPN by Arizona head coach John Mackovic, a former TV analyst.

The finished product of all that effort made its debut last night in “The Season: Arizona Football, Part I.” It was engrossing, revealing and altogether enjoyable television.

A lot of us in print journalism made fun of the idea and groused about ESPN’s more-than-cozy relationship with Mackovic and his football team.

And when Tony Banks’ grade-card struggle in a screenwriting class was placed in full view (including his grade), one had to wonder about the Student Privacy Act stonewall that is always thrown up at print journalists.

There is a 10-foot pole, at least, between any reporter and his access to any athlete’s academic standing.

But the reality is, television gets special treatment. And the rest of us can either deal with it or get ulcers.

Whatever. Last night’s first installment of “The Season” was special, too.

And to joust at the windmill of TV favoritism would serve no purpose – and would in fact take away from what must be considered down the line for some kind of broadcast media award.

By simply following Mackovic and his coaches and players with a camera and an open mike, ESPN has provided for all of us a new insight into the business of running a college football program.

Warts and winning and all.

Mackovic comes across as more than the cerebral, urbane, white-wine coaching executive he is envisioned to be.

He is shown, in team meetings, one-on-one discussions and sideline game-orchestration, to be tough as nails and unafraid of in-your-face challenges with his star players, including tailback Clarence Farmer, who sits out part of the Idaho game for missing blocks.

“Who are you trying to fool?” Mackovic shouts at his team in one segment. “You won five stinking games last year. I think you guys need to improve your techniques instead of mouthing off.

“Enthusiasm is one thing, but if you want to mouth off, you can go somewhere else. We are not going to be that way.”

Mackovic’s complexity comes through in a comical way when he leads his team onto the field for the opening game last fall at San Diego State. He pumps a fist and shouts, “Chugga-chugga-chugga Wooo Wooo,” like a locomotive, getting his Wildcats fired up.

Later, he tells his team, “We have no draftees, no trades. COMPETE! COMPETE! If you don’t compete, you’re going to get buried – not by them, but by me.”

This two-part project is no cheesy television “show.” It is an important American documentary.