We are currently in the thick of the college football season and all of the triumph, tragedy and pageantry that comes with it. If your man cave looks like a campus gift store, you’ve purchased all the gameday packages available by law, and you still can’t get enough Division I action during your week, then here's some good news for you: This week marks the 20th anniversary of The Program.
If that doesn't ring any bells, The Program was a 1993 cinematic ode to the NCAA gridiron starring James Caan alongside a young Halle Berry and Omar Epps that promised to expose the grimy underbelly of pigskin practices.
So, why should anybody care about the birthday of an underperforming ($23 million domestic take), poorly written male soap opera about the exploits of the fictional Eastern State University Timberwolves? All it took was one deleted scene to transform this film from a forgettable sports drama to one of the most controversial movies of all time.
The scene in question depicts a group of rebellious Timberwolves players, led by strong-armed Heisman Trophy candidate Joe Kane (played by Craig Sheffer), laying down in the center of a heavily trafficked road in order to show how grande their huevos were. You will never see this scene on any DVD, Blu-ray or cable TV showing of this movie -- all because of the actions of a few impressionable teenagers about a month after this film was released.
In two separate incidents -- one in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey -- a teenage boy was killed and two others seriously injured while mimicking that scene. Disney-owned Touchstone Pictures, which released the film, initially defended themselves: "The scene in The Program clearly depicts this adolescent action as an irresponsible and dangerous stunt by a troubled and heavily intoxicated individual, and in no way advocates or encourages this type of behavior," read a statement responding to the copycat accidents. "This is a tragedy and our sympathies go out to the families of those involved."
But it later reconsidered that position. Together with director David S. Ward, the studio decided to remove the chicken scene from all cuts of the film. There were even rumors that the negatives were burned. 20 years later, however, the scene lives on on YouTube.
Don't try this at home, kids.