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All They Did Was Win: Remembering Toledo's 1970 female football teamBy: Scott Recker
Like most first-time screen writers, they were worried that no one would read the script or take it seriously. Guy Stout and Steve Guinan had spent the last three years working on the storyline for Perfect Season, a biopic on the Glass City's 1970s female football team, The Toledo Troopers the winningest team in the sport's history, capturing seven consecutive championships from 1971 through 1977 and featuring the dominant tailback Linda Jefferson, one of only four women to be inducted in the American Association Football Hall of Fame but now it was a matter of getting it into the right hands.
Last Sunday, as we sat outside a coffee shop in the Old West End, Guy and Steve chuckled about how they captured the interest of Toledo native and established director Brett Leonard best known for the cult classic The Lawnmower Man and science fiction-thriller Virtuosity, which featured Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. "We met Brett via Twitter," says Stout. "We literally harassed him a bit. We told him we were looking for a champion for the story, but no reply. We told him the lead character was a DeVilbiss graduate, just like he was. He finally reached back out, very polite, but almost in that tone, 'If I read it, will you leave me alone?' So, we sent it off to him and we didn't hear back for a couple weeks and, when we did hear back from him, one of the first things he said after being very complimentary was, 'Fellas, I would like to push this boulder up the hill with you.'"
Guy and Steve have a pretty convincing pitch, even beyond the quality of their script: Guy's dad, Bill, was the fiery coach at the team's helm. Guy himself was directly involved with the team as a waterboy. Being based in Toledo although Steve does reside in Columbus is also an advantage, since a lot of former players and fans who still live in the area have collected memorabilia, newspaper clippings, gear and game footage, helping the two writers accurately portray The Troopers. The former players are having a reunion at the end of the month and the gathering will be for more than just seeing old faces and sharing memories (although, of course, that is an extremely important and the primary aspect of it): Guy, Steve and Brett will be in attendance, doing research and putting together promotional content for Perfect Season. Toledo.com caught up with Guy and Steve to talk about what got the ball rolling for the project, the people they have met along the way and how the movie will benefit Toledo.
On how it all started.
Steve: The story really starts almost 30 years ago when Guy and I were in high school. We were eating lunch in the commons at St. John's and he told me that his dad was the winningest coach in professional football history. And that's just not something you forget. We both have been sort of fascinated by it the whole story, the history of it. Over those years, it kind of percolated and distilled and, three years ago, we decided to make it real, to make it into a screenplay, because it has so much potential. Everyone we talk to, it's the first thing that they say: You should make a movie.
On the invaluable help they have received from former players and coaches.
Guy: Some of these gals, as we are gathering up memorabilia, they have field passes, tickets to the game, their old jerseys, helmets. One woman out in Delta has framed pictures of The Troopers hanging on her wall. They felt like they were really ahead of their time. If they did today what they were doing then, they would be on the cover of Sport's Illustrated. That is how dominant they were.
Guy: These folks are still alive: you get to see their demeanor, the rhythm and pace of how they talk. It's almost invaluable in the process. When we first started this project, one of the assistant coaches, he shows up with a suitcase it was our initial meeting and he sits it on the table and opens it up and in it is every article ever written about The Troopers. From Pittsburgh papers, Philadelphia papers, New York papers. If they played out of town, he ran out and got the paper that morning and threw it in the suitcase. We asked him, 'Jerry, why did you keep all of this?' He said, 'I didn't want anyone to forget about us.'
Steve: The players, some of them have email addresses that relate back to their uniform number, so being a part of that team is such a huge part of their identity, even now.
On the success of The Troopers.
Steve: We would ask them: How did you win? How were you so good? They would tell us that the games were the easy part; it was the practices that were hard.
Guy: These women practiced two and a half hours a night, five days a week and did it for five months a year and made $25 a game. Some of them had husbands and children, others had full-time jobs, others worked the second shift or the third shift. It wasn't for the reward of money or the recognition, but, even though it seems cliche, it was because they loved the game.
Guy: They all have the same sentiment: Your father was tough, he was mean, he had our best interests at heart,
he was a gentle man. The lessons I learned in life later,
reflected on him.
Where the movie is at right now.
Guy: We are in the development stage. Essentially, every movie ever made starts in that phase. We have had such positive feedback that we have almost reached our initial goal. Once that happens, that money will be immediately spent to hire the people that need to be put in place to make the rest of it. Line producers, casting directs, the entertainment attorneys. Pre-production is the next stage.
Guy: The whole film will be shot in Toledo. Brett will be here for the Troopers reunion. He will be here that whole week. He arrives on Monday. On Tuesday of that week, we have a meeting with the mayor. On Wednesday, we have dinner with the Regional Growth Partnership and other city leaders. Thursday, we have cleared the whole day, from dusk till dawn, to shoot certain parts of town. His goal is to get interviews with the Troopers at the reunion and put together a historical sizzle reel on the city and the Troopers and kind of use that as a promotional tool as we move forward, because: football and a true story, those things open many doors.
On The Troopers and Women's Rights.
Steve: One of the backdrops of this story is Title IX. When these women were in high school, they were amazing athletes, but that was the end of the road for [their career in sports]. They could be superstars in high school, but there were no college scholarships for woman in sports. These girls were playing at a time when Title IX was taking shape in 1972 it was legislated, but it wasn't enforced until 1978. While these girls were doing it, the world was catching up with them. They were pioneers.
This is the first story in a series of updates and features that we will be doing on The Toledo Troopers and Perfect Season.
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