“I decided finally to pack the football,” George Plimpton wrote at the start is 1966 best-selling work of non-fiction, “Paper Lion: Confessions of A Last String Quarterback,” about his quest to play quarterback in the NFL just to see what it was all about.
During one of the final scenes of the documentary, “Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton As Himself,” Freddy Plimpton, George’s first wife, declares that to be one of the best opening lines ever in a book, capping a collection of remembrances on the life of the late, great Sports Illustrated journalist who died 10 years ago.
Read it again, if you’re not sure. You’ll end up reading at least the first two chapters of the book again, even if you already finished it years ago.
Written and directed by Tom Bean and Luke Poling, this 87-minute understated documentary will finish a limited run at Laemmle Theatres in Encino, L.A. and Pasadena while it opens this weekend at three more in Santa Monica, Palm Springs and Claremont.
It looks specifically at what prompted Plimpton in breaking new ground as a participatory journalist and turn it into an art form, even at the expense of how people may forget about his exceptional writing ability.
His encounters with Ernest Hemingway and the Kennedy family are one thing. But his connections with the every-day sports fan are more heartfelt.
So much depth is revealed from simple home-movie footage provided by his family that you understand more how Plimpton found victory in defeat, and in the attempt rather than just being the passive observer.
Maybe during these Stanley Cup Final it also perfect to revisit the time in 1977 when Plimpton, at age 50, played goalie for the Boston Bruins during an exhibition game at Philadelphia, with his notebook tucked into his leg blockers. Current NBC studio analyst Mike Milbury, one of Plimpton’s teammates on that Bruins team, adds his own recollections of that moment in the documentary.
And may this also inspire you to find the 2008 book, “George, Being George,” by Nelson Aldrich, also interviewed in the film.