Five Reasons To Watch The Long Beach Poly Football Documentary Tonight


Anyone who attended a Long Beach Poly football game last season noticed something was a little different. For one thing, there were almost more boom mics than balls on the sideline.

That’s because a film crew followed the team on and off the field through the entire 2010 season to create “4th & Forever,” a nine-part documentary series about the season and the Jackrabbits who played in it. As we mentioned earlier this week, the opening one-hour premier airs tonight. Whether you’re a sports nut or not, here are five reasons to catch the first show:

1. Plenty of Drama

There is always drama surrounding a Long Beach Poly football season, with expectations through the roof for the high school program that has sent more players to the NFL than any other in the nation. But 2010 was an especially turbulent season. After coming off a very un-Poly like year in 2009 with a 6-6 record, head coach Raul Lara repeatedly said that the ’10 team could win a national title. Spoiler alert: Those hopes were dashed in the second game of the season with a 32-7 loss to St. Bonaventure, and the rest of the season was a whirlwind of ups and downs as the ‘Rabbits won the Moore League but bowed out of the CIF Playoffs in the first round. If that wasn’t enough, a quarterback controversy between two juniors (one of them Lara’s son) quickly turned into a vitriolic topic among fans, and you have to wonder if putting that duel on national TV was the right thing for two players with still a year of playing together.

2. Portrayal of Long Beach

In the trailers that are available, the topic comes up quickly: Several of the Long Beach Poly players have to deal with dangerous surroundings. Gangs are a problem, and Lara comments in one clip that some of the players on the team are gang members themselves. Of course, the point is that the Poly team aims to steer players away from that life and Lara has commented that his football program is about building productive men in society, but it will be interesting to see how the city of Long Beach comes off to a national audience. There’s no question that our city has its issues, and plenty of children in Long Beach deal with overwhelming circumstances every day, but will the city come off looking like a community working out its difficulties or simply one big gang zone?

3. Off the Field Issues

One player lives with a friend to escape his broken family. Others are counting on a productive football season to earn a trip to college. Another is already a father. And then of course there’s Lara, who works full-time as a guard at a correctional facility and then comes home to coach arguably the most successful high school program in the nation. The battles are not going to stay on the field in “4th & Forever.”

4. C’mon, Charter!

It never stops with you, Charter, does it? I know next to nothing about cable television, but I do know that Long Beach’s main supplier does not carry Current TV and therefore it will be a pain for locals to watch the show. Sure, I would love to tune in tonight, but I’m not so upset that I can’t watch it as I feel sorry for the players who spent all last season with a camera in their face and now that it’s aired, they can’t watch it. What I don’t understand is why there aren’t more cable carriers in Long Beach, and why FIOS is available at my last residence but not my new one – less than a mile away. Sure, it makes me feel less guilty about figuring out how to hook up two televisions while only paying for the service of one, or the time Charter offered me an HD package for $240 per year and I said that was “insulting,” but mainly I feel for the kids. Anyone else know how we can catch the show?

5. Future of the Moore League

As I mentioned in my column in the print edition of the Long Beach Post this month, it’s a rough time for local prep sports. Two Moore League head football coaches have gotten the axe due to budget cuts that have affected teachers and coaches across the board, and it is yet to be seen how that will affect the quality of coaching and mentoring to the young players, as well as the product on the field. The Moore League has been dominant in recent years, but last season was something of a flop as Poly was bounced in the first round of CIF and Lakewood only made it one game farther. After a 6-6 record in 2009 and the quarterback firestorm last season, some were even calling for Lara’s job (which is ridiculous, he will coach at Poly until his above-the-knee shorts wither away). What does the future hold for Long Beach high school football?

Tune in.

4th & Forever airs on Current TV tonight at 9:00pm.

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