How well do you remember the movie Brian's Song?



By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: tmdb

About This Quiz

Sports movies aren't known for their emotional vulnerability. But in "Brian's Song," two teammates with very different lives bond in amazing ways, only to see their friendship cut short. How much do you know about "Brian's Song"?

"Brian's Song"' is a drama that explores the human side of which sport?

"Brian's Song" looks like a football movie. But it turns out to be more about human relationships and hope.


The story follows the life and challenges of football player Brian Piccolo. For which college team does Brian play?

Brian plays for Wake Forest University. He eventually turns pro and earns a spot as a backup on the Chicago Bears.


What position does Brian play?

Brian was a running back -- a really good one. In 1964, he was a second-team All-American. The same year, he led the nation in rushing and scoring.


Brian is the No. 1 NFL draft pick in 1965.

In spite of his sterling college career, Brian goes undrafted. He signs as a free agent and becomes a member of the Bears practice squad.


"Brian's Song" was a sensation in the early 70s. Who directed?

The movie was an unexpectedly big hit, especially for a TV movie. It was directed by Buzz Kulik, who directed dozens of TV shows and movies during his Hollywood career. He died in 1999.


Who plays the critical role of Brian?

James Caan got the part of Brian. Caan, of course, became world famous in large part due to his role in 1972's "The Godfather."


After he joins the Bears, what does Brian learn about his health?

Brian is working hard on making a name for himself. But he's diagnosed with embryonal cell carcinoma, a type of testicular cancer.


By the time he's diagnosed with cancer, the disease has already spread to which part of Brian's body?

The doctors catch the disease, but it's already spread to his chest. Brian is faced with an enormous health challenge that threatens his life.


While on the Bears practice squad, Brian becomes good friends with which famous player?

Brian meets Gale Sayers, another running back who would go on to NFL history. Brian is white -- Sayers is black. And in the late 60s, race is still a very divisive issue.


The movie is based on a true story.

The movie is based on many of the real experiences that Brian shared with Bears running back Gale Sayers. Sayers published an autobiography called "I Am Third," which provided many of the details for the movie.


Brian and Gale join the Bears about the same time. Which player performs the best during practices?

Gale is the first-round draft pick and Brian is the free agent. Gale is faster and stronger and on the field, it's obvious who the better player is.


Who plays the part of Gale Sayers?

Billy Dee Williams plays the ultra-talented Sayers. Williams later skyrocketed to fame thanks to his role as Lando Calrissian in "Star Wars."


Brian had some of the best statistics in the country as a college player. Why wasn't he drafted?

Scouts saw Brian as too slow and too small to play NFL ball. So he relied on grit and persistence to make the Bears practice squad.


How did Brian feel about going undrafted?

Brian was terribly embarrassed -- more than 400 college players were selected in that year's draft, and he wasn't one of them. But he was determined to make it to the pros as a free agent.


Throughout the movie, we see that Brian is fond of food. He especially loves what food?

Brian is a pizza fiend. Wherever he goes, he devours pies.


What happened to "Brian's Song" after it debuted on ABC?

The movie got such good ratings that ABC worked with Columbia Pictures to release "Brian's Song" in theaters all over the country. "Brian's Song" was a true 70s sensation.


How did the movie fare in theaters?

The movie's formula worked well on TV, but it didn't translate in theaters. It performed so badly at the box office that Columbia almost immediately yanked it from the big screen.


Brian competed directly with Gale for more playing time. The men were also roommates during road trips.

The men were teammates -- and roommates on road trips. They were the first black and white NFL players ever to share a room.


With Sayers excelling on the field, how much playing time did Brian receive?

Sayers got most of the snaps. But in his second season, Brian earned more and more playing time, proving that he belonged on an NFL field.


During the 1968 season, Brian suddenly became the starting running back. How did that happen?

In the ninth game of the season, Sayers injured his knee. Brian was thrust into the starting role.


In the movie, how does Brian respond to Gale's injury?

Brian actively works to help Gale recover, going so far as taking a weight bench to Gale's house so that he can recuperate at home.


Early in the 1969 seasons, Brian began experiencing which strange symptom?

Brian started coughing, and the cough wouldn't go away. He finally went in for X-rays and the doctors gave him the bad news. He had cancer, and it had spread to vital parts of his body.


Gale Sayers wanted to play his own role in the movie. Why didn’t he get the part?

Gale really wanted to play himself in the movie. But he was too busy with football training to participate.


Actor Jack Warden had a major role in this film. Who did he play?

Warden played the part of the great George Halas, the famed head coach of the Bears. Warden was nominated for two Academy Awards during his Hollywood tenure.


After he was diagnosed, the Bears held a press conference and made what kind of announcement?

The Bears announced that Brian was very sick. But they said that he intended to keep playing as long as he could.


Brian worked hard and got to play in numerous NFL games. How many total touchdowns did he score?

He scored just five touchdowns during his brief NFL career. But he left a much bigger personal legacy.


In one way or another, all of the movie's scenes actually happened in real life.

The real story was already incredibly dramatic, but the movie creators couldn't help but ramp up the drama. Some scenes are entirely fictional.


The story is an emotional journey for everyone whose lives are touched by Brian. How does the movie end?

In the end, Brian succumbs to cancer. But Gale and Brian's family want people to remember him for the way he lived, not the way he died.


In real life, Brian died in 1970. How old was he?

Brian had a shiny NFL career in front of him when he was diagnosed. Instead, he died in 1970 at the tender age of 26.


The movie was released in 1971. Where was it first played?

"Brian's Song" is a made-for-TV movie. It was initially broadcast on ABC in 1971.


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