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NFL Stories Falls a Bit Short

The sports documentarians at NFL Films and Lifetime Television might not seem like the most obvious collaborators, but for this year's Super Bowl, they've teamed up for a third installment of NFL Stories: Straight from the Heart.

Hosted by Heather Paige Kent of the CBS drama That's Life, this special features five vignettes featuring personal stories involving National Football League players or football-related topics. NFL Films keeps the special accessible to those who are somewhat ignorant of the game but manages to do so without insulting the intelligence of the more hard-core fan. That's particularly the case when New York Giants defensive lineman Michael Strahan teaches U.S. Women's Soccer Team Brandi Chastain the finer points of defensive line play.

But the "behind-the-scenes" stories involving NFL players, coaches and others are somewhat spotty. The show opens with a look at Tampa Bay Buccaneers special teams coach Joe Marciano, a 45-year-old bachelor who decided to adopt a son and raise him as a single parent. As much time is spent in Marciano's home and alongside his now-unused fishing boat as we do in the Bucs locker room and practice facility, and we hear from the colleagues and friends who were stunned by his decision to become a dad.

Unfortunately, the documentary doesn't continue at this high level. The next two stories-one on the NFL's work with the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and a second on NFL players involved in autism charities-are puff pieces.

The Komen Foundation segment-built around a New York City event at which designer Nicole Miller introduced a line of league-themed neckties-was particularly self-serving. We get the standard quotes from folks like Monday Night Football
sideline reporter Melissa Stark and other celebs. We also hear a lot from Giants' cornerback Jason Sehorn, who lost his grandmother to the disease, and the wife of the New York Jets' Victor Green, whose mother is a survivor. But Greg Loytig, a reserve tackle on the Jets-and his wife, who contracted breast cancer at age 21-deserved more screen time.

A feature on Tennessee Titans receiver Kevin Dyson-who fell one yard short of the winning touchdown in last season's Super Bowl-also missed its mark. Intended to be a humorous doctor's visit for "post traumatic goal-line disorder," the Football Follies
it isn't.

Fortunately, the documentary ends on a strong note, with the story of Mona Vierra, a deaf cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders. Though not quite as well done as the Marciano piece, it gives the viewers a taste of the difficulty of moving to music one can't hear.

NFL Stories: Straight from the Heart
premieres Friday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. on Lifetime.