How The Movie Deep Impact Altered How I View College Sports

I must have seen the movie a thousand times, but never before has Deep Impact made such an impacting impression on me.

You know, this is the movie with Morgan Freeman as the president, Tea Leoni as the lowly reporter turned national news breaker, Elijah Wood as the amateur star-gazer turned unlikely hero and one of the youngest first-world husbands alongside his wife, Leelee Sobieski.

I haven’t even mentioned Robert Duvall leading a ragtag group of young astronauts in space and saving the world one suicide mission after leaving Jon Favreau’s corpse to freeze in outer space… That Deep Impact.

Bud, years of neglecting your daughter is NOT made up because you let her die.

Bud, years of neglecting your daughter is NOT made up because you let her die.

The impression it made on me today — August 29, 2015 — nearly 17 years after its debut in theaters, is remarkable. I watched as the world discovered it was about to end due to an asteroid named after a world famous astronomer and Elijah Wood. The humans on planet Earth did not riot. No, sir. Instead they rallied around each other, with their hopes of survival being pinned on Robert Duvall, Blair Underwood, Jon Favreau, Ron Eldard, and other actors’ names I do not know by President Morgan Freeman, and they thrived together as a people.

The most important aspect in all of this, beyond learning James Crowell has zero faith in Morgan Freeman or his plans to attack asteroids coming for Earth, is that people want other people to succeed only if it benefits them.

(Editor’s note: That’s the first sentence which seemed to hint at a segue to college sports. Thank goodness.)

Case in point: Leoni’s character thought she stumbled upon Cromwell’s character — a senator or something — having an affair with some lady named Ellie. Except he wasn’t. We would later learn Ellie was actually E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event) and Cromwell was the fall guy (Chris Carter would love him) to keep the secret of a world-destroyer coming to kill us all.

Leoni chased down Cromwell, who supposedly had an ill wife and was about to go on a sleek-looking boat with his daughter, and asked him the hard questions. Long story very short (this movie is rather long for an “end of the world” type), she realized that either Cromwell was the world’s most self obsessed man after telling her she discovered “the world’s biggest story,” or that there was more to her investigative reporting than met the eye (her eyes are very pretty, for what it is worth).

You see, much as Chris Columbus discovered an already inhabited place by accident (how is that possible? If I walk in my kitchen despite humans already being there, does that mean I discovered it?), Leoni was soon swept up in the biggest story in the history of mankind. After one meeting with President Morgan Freeman, in which he halfheartedly agreed to let her ask the first question at his press conference, Leoni was off and running — sans the fact she had no idea what was going on.

At the press conference, mind you, after President Morgan Freeman talked about the near and imminent destruction of our home world, Leoni’s VERY FIRST QUESTION was about the troops. Her second and more important question was about the actual asteroid in question. So, um, yeah, Leoni probably wasn’t a good investigative reporter anyway. No, seriously, hear me out.

(Editor’s note: *drums fingers on the desk, waiting for the transition to college basketball*)

When we first meet her, Leoni’s character is a bottom of the rung reporter who is striving to make it big at MSNBC. She stumbles upon the biggest story ever and continues to not know what she is actually reporting on until the rest of humanity finds out. Then her FIRST (it was supposed to be her only) question to the President of the United States right after finding out that we are all about to go to heaven or hell was about troops being sent back home. For the love of gawd.

Okay. Back to where I originally wanted to go with this…


He is a murderer… or at the very least let a future comic book movie director in space to float around for aliens to scoop up after he was already dead. I say murderer, though.

Deep Impact made me think of the world of college hoops. It honestly did. Robert Duvall is the cagey old astronaut veteran whom we are supposed to view as a hero, but is the same guy who refused to listen to the Russian astronaut when the latter asked about going back to save Favreau (Dr. Gus Partenza… the only character in the movie whose name I remember). Duvall’s character allowed Dr. Partenza to die a miserable death (or be saved by aliens).

Duvall’s astronaut is like many college coaches throughout the nation.

We view college coaches as heroes of sorts. Molders of men. The type of guys we want raising our kids — which really seems like a bad way of being a parent anyway. (I don’t want other people raising my kids.) However, what do we really know about them — the coaches, that is? Not much. In the world of college football we recently learned something about “Sark After Dark,” and in the past we have witnessed college coach after college coach leave sour tastes in our mouths after we find out that they are deadbeats, or drunks, or cheaters, or worse. Still, like Robert Duvall letting the guy who made Swingers die, we view them as heroes because some people want to immortalize them for whatever reason.

Leoni — the not very good reporter, turned somehow into a national news anchor who still wasn’t very good and then died with her dad at the end — is like all the retread hired coaches. Leoni is not merely like the guys who get head coaching gig after head coaching gig, but also those who land in the safety zone of being an assistant coach. Some guys, we won’t mention specific names, are shown to be absolute and utter failures at being the Robert Duvalls of college sports, yet they continue to get jobs — and sometimes promotions.

Then there’s Elijah and Leelee — two star-crossed (get it?!) lovers, who let Leelee’s parents die so they could live. Elijah discovered an asteroid, wooed Leelee, and let her parents die so he can have her all to himself. They are the people behind the scenes in college sports — the boosters, guys giving money to players, the AAU folks, etc. They are in it for “them,” not us. When Elijah went back, abandoning his own family in a cave made of limestone (which isn’t really a stronghold) that was meant to save humanity, the asteroid had yet to be broken into two by the heroic efforts of the murdering Duvall and his team, and an extinction-level event was still about to take place. That is nearly the same as a booster continuing to give student-athletes mad cash despite the university being under NCAA investigation. Death penalty = E.L.E. every step of the way — minus the entire end of the world thing, but tell that to SMU fans after they were given the death sentence by the governing body of college sports.

Speaking of the NCAA…

President Morgan Freeman seemed (he was still alive at the end of the movie, so past tense is probably not needed…) like a great, charismatic, and heartfelt leader. He showed no fear to the general public as he let them know they were about to die. Nor did he waver when the murderous astronaut failed in his mission. But he did lie to the inhabitants of Earth… a lot.

First he never told them, then he said the murdering astronaut was going to save them. Then he talked about some cockamamie missile strategy as if it were a surefire thing, and it was all a lie. President Morgan Freeman was making up the rules, the lies, and the truths as he went. Sure, it worked out for him in the end, but that was only because he was the one with all the power to begin with. He needed not worry about no damn asteroid — he was surely going to be saved by those gosh slam limestone caves in Colorado (at least I think that is where they were).

There was also a lottery taking place before the end of the world. After the United States handpicked 200,000 “artists, scientists, teachers (yeah, but what about when they go on strike, President Morgan Freeman?)” and other important Earthlings, 800,000 more people were going to be selected by way of tonight’s Powerball drawing!

President Morgan Freeman talked about those one million people rebuilding Earth. So, let me get this straight; I am to believe that the best way of rebuilding our species if almost everyone else is about to die is NOT picking the best, brightest, and strongest one million people, but only selecting 200,000 of those (and some “artists”) while allowing for the next step in our evolution to be mostly decided by 800,000 of the luckiest bastards in the history of the world? Yeah right.

One of two things were going on with that lottery.

One: There was a fix. President Morgan Freeman, and his group of murdering astronauts and self absorbed Cromwells, told Earthlings there was going to be a lottery simply so panic would not spread — even though it did. Then they selected 800,000 more people like the 200,000 they already selected — you know, the teachers, artists, doctors, scientists, power forwards for the Knicks and the like. Despite it being evil, and very NCAA-like, it seems like a much more honest, accurate portrayal of how we should rebuild if an asteroid was about to destroy our home world, and the only way to save ourselves was by way of cramming a million folks into a limestone cave.

Two: President Morgan Freeman, and his murdering astronauts and self absorbed Cromwells, were a bunch of idiots. What if the majority of the 800K randomly selected folks were as dumb as doorknobs? What then? I’ve seen The Walking Dead, I know how this story ends. The weak thrive (Morgan reference) and the strong die or something. Likely something, but I am running out of horrible bad movie and TV show jokes.

One of that show's most beloved characters despite one of the only things we know about him is letting his son die because he refused to kill his already dead wife. Oh, and he tried to kill Rick once. But hey, we love him because Pilot Episodes RULE!

One of that show’s most beloved characters despite one of the only things we know about him is letting his son die because he refused to kill his already dead wife. Oh, and he tried to kill Rick once. But hey, we love him because Pilot Episodes RULE!

No matter, though. Planet Earth survived because Duvall — void of ANY remorse for letting Dr. Gus Partenza die — drove his spaceship right into the asteroid, breaking the larger half of the two asteroids into smithereens, allowing for some people to not die.

The end of the movie saw President Morgan Freeman barely acknowledge the (somehow only) few millions who died after the tsunami destroyed Philly, New York, most of the East Coast, and mostly talked about the water receding as the White House was being rebuilt behind him in front of a massive crowd of people who are somehow not stricken with PTSD, disease, or any other calamities which should have fallen upon man after an asteroid destroyed the original 13 colonies (or so).

Here is the lesson I learned about college sports while watching Deep Impact, in the most roundabout way humanly possible: Don’t let Robert Duvall coach our kids, keep Elijah Wood away from our top recruits, and certainly never let Morgan Freeman run the NCAA.

The End…

(Screen filters out of black as we see Dr. Gus Partenza riding a comet with two aliens named “College Stipend” and “Academically Ineligible” with Partenza screaming “revenge will be mine, Earthlings!”… screen fades back to black as Gary Jules’ cover of Mad World plays)

About Joseph Nardone

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.