American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Featuring: Dave Irwin, Danny Studer, Ellery Moore, The Massilon, Ohio, Tigers.
I don't know if Massillon, Ohio, has the best high school football team on the country, but since the annual Massillon-McKinley rivalry is the only prep game that carries Vegas odds, doesn't that tell you something? "Go Tigers!" is a documentary about a town of 33,000 so consumed by football it makes South Bend and Green Bay look distracted.
The film was directed by Ken Carlson, a Massillon native and, it must be said, a Tiger booster. He raises an eyebrow at the widespread local practice of holding boys back to repeat the eighth grade, whether they need to or not, because they'll be older and bigger as high school seniors. He listens to a couple of kids observe that if you aren't into football you're an automatic outsider ("I can't wait to get out of this dump"). But the movie argues that Massillon lives for football, that it creates identity and pride, and on the evidence I would have to agree.
Consider a town where a live tiger cub is the team mascot (and cringe as it plants a friendly paw on a small child). Where the "Tiger Lady" fills her house so full of tiger paraphernalia that there is scant room for her husband, jammed into his chair in a corner. Where the high school band has mayoral permission to march and play anywhere within the city limits on the day of the McKinley vs. Canton game (it marches through department stores, cafeterias, and the library). Where more fans attend the games than at many (maybe most) colleges. Where there are so many assistant coaches one specializes in strength and fitness.