Doing Time

Excluding the hassle of unwanted anal sex, I have always fantasized about prison life. Being somewhat of a jock, serving time in the Big House always seemed like the ideal place to establish a rigorous training schedule--nothing but time, three squares a day, and carbo loading. See for yourself in these three films that share the common theme of "sports behind bars."

Victory(1981)--With the score tied at halftime, a well-disciplined group of WWII POWs are faced with the manliest of decisions: Finish their soccer match against their Nazi captors or escape through the sewers of Paris. Filmed just after Rocky II and before Rambo, the movie serves as an evolutionary bridge for Sylvester Stallone's character as an underdog sport champion and a war-torn hero. But the true celebrity of the film is real-life soccer star Pele, who shows off his legendary bicycle kick as the striker for the Allied Force's team.

The Longest Yard (1974)--Burt Reynolds is at his devil-may-care best. A former quarterback wonder, Paul Crewe (Reynolds), lands in prison. There, he organizes the inmates into a ragtag but tough football team intent on settling a grudge match against the guards. But Crewe is in a pickle, caught between a corrupt warden, who wants him to throw the game in exchange for early parole, and Crewe's concern about his fellow inmates' self-esteem. Filmed at Georgia State Penitentiary with NFL ringers, including Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke.

The Jericho Mile(1979)--It is safe to assume that Murphy, the story's focal character, will never appear on a Wheaties box. A life-without-parole murderer, Murphy is withering away in California's notorious Folsom Prison, until he discovers his hidden talent as a long-distance runner. Stubbornly ignoring the reality that he will never compete, Murphy trains with unblinking conviction and becomes an Olympic-caliber runner. A truly mesmerizing film. Played with detailed precision by Peter Strauss, Murphy carries the same blend of charisma and doom as a young Prefontaine. The film was originally made for television, but was eventually released in theaters and on video. Michael Mann's directorial debut. PHIL BUSSE