REVIEW: Buffalo Bills 30 for 30 “Four Falls of Buffalo”

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Jim Kelly is the central figure of Buffalo sports history, and hence he’s the star of Four Falls of Buffalo,” the latest  installment in the highly acclaimed ESPN 30 for 30 series. As magnetic and captivating a personality as the former Buffalo Bills quarterback is, the most interesting character here is still ex-placekicker Scott Norwood.

“Four Falls of Buffalo” opens with Norwood and his missed kick heard ’round the world in the 1991 Super Bowl (XXV). The film, directed by Ken Rodgers, ends with a dramatization of what would have happened had Norwood made the kick.

It’s a perfectly bookended symmetry, in what is easily the best documentary of this season’s 30 for 30 series thus far.

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Like “Trojan War,” Four Falls chronicles a fallen quasi-dynasty that forever carries with it an “if” and a “but.”

Like “Chasing Tyson,” it blatantly capitalizes on the current ’90s nostalgia craze, although Generation Xers like myself will never ever complain about that.

Anyone over the age of say 28 or 29 has vivid memories of the Buffalo Bills as a punchline, and there is no explanation needed as to what that punchline is. Most football savvy millennials are well aware too. In some ways, it’s not exactly fair because who else won their conference four times in a row?

What other team can make a claim to playing in arguably both the most exciting Super Bowl and the most exciting NFL playoff game of all time? The Bills were kind of team of the ’90s and they were definitely the team of the early ’90s.

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With all the future Hall of Famers on the roster, thew Buffalo Bills were indeed a powerhouse. However, Four Falls could have spent more time spotlighting all the Buffalo Bills jokes that exist in recent American pop culture. They missed the funniest, most obvious, but also the most acerbic and abrasive one.

The main villain in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” named Ray Finkle, is obviously based on Norwood’s missed kick. Not based on Norwood mind you, but the actual missed FGA.

Finkle’s miss even came from the same exact distance- 47 yards!

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It’s not just Norwood, but it’s Super Bowl XXV, and the historical backdrop in which the game was played that makes this game, and this moment the most compelling component of this Buffalo Bills documentary. When this game was played, it was the first interesting Super Bowl (other than ’88, Bengals-Niners maybe) in a very very long time. Up until then, the Super Bowl had a reputation as a snore fest in which the NFC POUNDED the AFC into submission every year.

SB 25 began with what is still considered the best rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” in sports history. Performed by Whitney Houston, watch it again below, and get chills like we all did back then. Watch this documentary Saturday night and you’ll see Thurman Thomas agreeing with you about this anthem being the most memorable part of the game:

Houston hits all the notes, and doesn’t add any added extra notes.

It’s also the first anthem to popularize the fighter jet flyover, as this standard procedure today was extremely novel at the time. This Super Bowl occurred just days after the first Iraq invasion began and both teams in the game sport colors that were literally red, white and blue. Jingoism and patriotism were at sky high levels.

Kenneth Davis even has an interesting theory about how an Apache helicopter (present due to the political climate of the game) might have affected Norwood’s kick.

Make no mistake, Norwood did not choke, as he never previously made a kick that long outdoors at any point in his career.

Also, credit this Buffalo Bills documentary for its music selection. “One More River,” by Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers, is the perfect song to accompany early ’90s Buffalo Bills highlights/lowlights.

Very quickly, you’ll reminisce about the K-Gun, no huddle offense, Bill Belichick stifling that offense at a time when he wasn’t quite mainstream yet. It’s an NFL Films, not ESPN films production, and it’s a movie for everyone who got really sick of the Buffalo Bills by the 4th Super Bowl.

Pretty much everyone outside of Erie County, New York felt “just GO AWAY ALREADY” by 1994 and the Buffalo Bills community rallied around that.

You will have to endure some Chris Berman though when you watch this film. Sorry, just warning you now.

It’s a small price to pay as the doc ends as sublimely as it begins. Again they make the perfect music selection with Elvis Presley’s “If I Can Dream.”

“Four Falls of Buffalo,” will premiere on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 9:30 p.m. ET immediately following the Heisman Trophy presentation on ESPN.

Paul M. Banks owns, operates and sometimes writes The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. The website is also featured on News Now.

Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes to the Chicago Tribune RedEye. He also appears regularly on numerous talk shows all across the country. Catch him Tuesdays on KOZN 1620 The Zone.

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram

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  1. “Jingoism?”

    Youre an asshole.

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