Rudy, the 1993 biopic about known fraud Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, is often ranked among the best sports movies of all time. Well, counterpoint: Rudy is actually a terrible movie about a terrible man who complains his way to success. It is not a film that exemplifies strength and resilience. It’s a film that exemplifies the triumph of weakness.
Let’s recap. The movie—directed by David Anspaugh—begins with young Rudy (Sean Astin) feeling stuck in his hometown of Joliet, Illinois, surrounded by a family who does not support his dream of one day playing football for Notre Dame. His dad and brothers are blue-collar guys, you see, and they find Rudy’s aspirations of going to college totally frivolous. To be fair, they’ve also probably seen him play football before and noticed—as we’ll spend the rest of the film noticing—that he is not very good.
Not to be deterred by circumstance (or skill), Rudy attempts to get into Notre Dame and fails. (Failure is a big pattern here.) He instead enrolls in a nearby community college and takes an unpaid job helping out Fortune, the Notre Dame stadium groundskeeper. I’m sorry, did I say “helping out”? What I meant was “annoying the shit out of.” Rudy, that little fucker, spends most of his “work” hours complaining to Fortune—a black Notre Dame alum-turned-janitor—about how much he wants to play football. Coincidentally, Fortune once dreamt of playing Notre Dame football, too, but was never allowed to play on the field because of RACISM. But yeah, keep whining, Rudy. Your struggles are very similar.
Similarly to how he keeps failing to get into Notre Dame, Rudy keeps failing to win the support of his family. Maybe it’s because they don’t believe in him. Or maybe it’s because Rudy’s such a fucking snot about working in a steel mill. (Steel, by the way, is a great American industry and Rudy’s dad and brothers should be proud of their occupation. Damn, this film’s not only bad—it’s also anti-patriotic.)
The family eventually comes around when Rudy makes it into Notre Dame during his final semester of eligibility. Once there, he tries out for football and is eventually allowed on the practice team, not because he’s particularly good, but because he wants it so badly. The rest of the practice scenes basically consist of a flailing Rudy grunting, “Come on, Coach! I can do it,” while consistently demonstrating that he cannot do it.
Slowly but surely, Rudy gains the affection of his teammates with his across the board “E for Effort” performance. One coach even says he’ll let Rudy play in one pity game so that his friends and family can see that he’s a real Notre Dame player. (He’s not.) But then that coach dies or something (I was checking my phone while re-watching the movie last night and missed this part) and the new head coach sees Rudy for what he really is—a shit player who doesn’t really deserve to be there. Unfortunately, this lone MAN OF SENSE is pressured by his team to let Rudy suit up for the big game against Georgia Tech.
Anyway, the game happens. Rudy is stuck on the bench in his little football costume. Notre Dame is winning by a lot, so finally—after more pressure from his team and the crowd—the coach is like, “Whatever, Rudy, you dumb fuck. Go on the field and run around in your little circles or whatever. The fuck do I care.” So Rudy gets out there, yells “what do I do!” (answer: football), does some pointless plays that don’t really do much, and becomes a hero. Wow, mediocrity at its finest.
You know, it’s strange that millennials are always being dubbed as the “everyone gets a trophy” generation when Rudy—fucking RUDY—is considered one of the most inspirational stories to come out of the ’70s. This is quite literally the story of a bad football player who gets to play for an elite team simply because he asks enough times. Hell, at least Friday Night Light’s Matt Saracen had to earn it.