Michael Irvin won’t win an Oscar, but he can act

My love for movies goes back to those childhood days when I spent practically every Saturday afternoon at the Ritz theater in downtown Fort Worth.

I saw some of the greatest films of all times — and some of the worst — in that segregated picture show, which usually got the “first-run” movies two to three weeks after they had opened in the white theaters downtown.

But that didn’t matter, because it was at the Ritz that I saw pictures like The Defiant Ones with Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis, The Ten Commandments, Imitation of Life and the terrifying Psycho, all instant classics.

It’s because of my appreciation of true classic movies that I never want them to be remade — and when they are, I make every attempt to avoid seeing the new production.

I’ve never seen in full the remake of The Defiant Ones, for example, or the television production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. There’s no way they could have matched the original, so why bother?

There’s another film that I swore I would never watch, no matter what. Then the other day, while flipping through cable movie channels, I caught a glimpse of a former Dallas Cowboys player.

I’d already gone about two channels past the film when I realized, “That was Michael Irvin!”

I went back to the Irvin movie, and it took only a few seconds for me to realize that the former wide receiver, nicknamed “The Playmaker,” could act.

He was cast in the remake of The Longest Yard, a movie first released in 1974 about a quarterback (Burt Reynolds) sent to prison and then forced to lead a team of inmates in a football game against the prison guards.

“OK,” I thought, “This can’t be any good, so let me move on.”

But I couldn’t. Irvin had trapped me into watching this new version, which was made in 2005 and starred Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. The next day, I made it a point to see it in its entirety.

I know the former football player has been blamed for a lot of things, but this is probably the first time he’s been accused of making someone watch a movie.
Irvin has always been a showman, on the field and off, but it had never occurred to me that he could pull off an acting role and make it believable, even while playing a football player wearing number 88.

Back in the days when he was with the Cowboys, sometimes getting in trouble with the law and the NFL, I was often considered an apologist for him, primarily because in some cases he was falsely accused and other times I felt he had been unfairly targeted by law enforcement.

Regardless, I think Irvin would be the first to say that he’s responsible for having put himself in positions that brought him his legal problems and negative publicity. And it didn’t help his image or bring him sympathy when he showed up at a courthouse in Dallas during his drug trial wearing a full-length mink coat.

Despite some of his antics, he was the darling of the news media because he usually provided great copy and super quotes, a trait that has served him well as a broadcast analyst, a job at which he is a master.

He’s been on Dancing with the Stars, a couple of reality shows and guest-starred in another Sandler movie, Jack & Jill — which I haven’t seen, but I’ll put it on my list.

Make no mistake, The Longest Yard remake is no Oscar winner and does not come close to being better than the original. But it is worth seeing, if for no other reason than to see “The Playmaker” act.

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