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The Wex Preps for Football Season with Rare Football Newsreels

Hope Madden Hope Madden The Wex Preps for Football Season with Rare Football Newsreels
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With more than a week to suffer until OSU kicks off against Buffalo on Saturday, August 31st, what’s a football-starved city to do? This Friday, 8/23, the Wexner Center for the Arts (1871 N. High St.) offers just the taste of the gridiron to tide you over.

The event begins with a tailgate at 5:30 pm and ends with a Q&A with OSU football greats John Hicks and Bobby Carpenter. Sandwiched in between is a program of newsreels covering football – college and pro – from 1903 to 1975, Rare Football Films: The Newsreels.

On the heels of the success of Rare Baseball Films: The Newsreels, a program that celebrated its tenth anniversary this past spring, the Wex’s Director of Film/Video Dave Filipi decided to try his luck with football.

Tapping the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the source that provided such riches in previous years to the baseball program, Filipi pulled together classic football newsreels from their Hearst Metronone News Collection.

“UCLA has a huge film archive,” says Filipi. He explains that back before televisions were a staple in every household, people got their sports fix at the local cinema. “Newsreels were a very common part of the film-going experience. In the Twenties through the Fifties and a little bit into the Sixties, you’d go to the movies, you’d see a cartoon, a ten minute live action comedy, a newsreel, and then the feature would play.”

This pool of material has made excellent fodder for the baseball obsessed over the years.

“Baseball fans – the die hards – are just a different breed. They’ll sit and watch ted Williams brushing his teeth and be excited about it,” says Filipi. “I wonder if the football fans will feel the same way about it. Hope so.”

The footage Filipi chose for the program offers a glimpse of classic match ups, iconic athletes, and odd mash ups of sports and celebrity. That’s by design. Filipi says he was looking for a specific kind of footage. He wanted “things that aren’t necessarily just focusing on football as a game or a sport. Ideally, I’d like lots of examples of intersections with other parts of the culture.”

President Hoover attending a game at his alma mater Stanford is one example. Filipi’s favorite?

“There’s one of Janet Leigh from the late Forties, taking part in a Boston College practice. She’s throwing passes, so that was really funny,” he says.

Filipi found the digging a bit tougher for football than for baseball.

“It’s amazing how the visual record of baseball is so much richer than football. Part of it is that baseball was a much bigger sport than pro football in the Teens, Twenties, Thirties. It wasn’t until the Fifties and Sixties that pro football started to take off and emerge as the most popular sport. But that said, there are lots of good things.”

For instance, the archive allowed Filipi to dig deep.

“There’s actually one from 1903,” he says. The program glimpses football, both pro and college, across the years until the most recent clip, a 1975 Bears/Vikings game.

“I included that for variety. It’s in color, and I’m a Vikings fan.”

Other highlights include early footage of Hopalong Cassady, Knute Rockne, Jim Brown, and even football fan Jackie Robinson, plus insights into the way the game has changed.

“One of my favorite clips in the whole program is this footage of a Bears/Giants game in 1935. What’s cool is there are players on the field without helmets on,” he says. “Bronko Nagurski, who was a legendary player at University of Minnesota and then in the pros, is way bigger than anybody else and he’s running people over left and right.”

As with the baseball program, Filipi will provide context for the audience. Unlike the baseball program, he won’t be alone on the stage. OSU greats John Hicks and Bobby Carpenter will round out the evening, sharing tales of their own football experiences.

“I’ll come out on stage a few times, introduce blocks of clips, and then John and Bobby will come out and we’ll have a conversation at the end,” Filipi explains.

He’s eager to participate in that conversation. “It’ll be interesting to see those two different generations,” he says. He thinks the town will agree.

“I’m really excited. OSU football season starts the next weekend, and the town’s energy starts to change a little bit as football season rolls in.”

The price for film program/conversation is only $10 and $8 for students, members, etc.  It’s FREE for OSU students.  The $15/$13 price is only if you want to attend the tailgate party at 5:30.

For tickets and information, visit wexarts.org.

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