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We Are: The Brooklyn Saints
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We Are: The Brooklyn Saints follows the Brooklyn Saints youth football organization over its 2019 season. Director Rudy Valdez follows the organization, founded in 2009 to fill the vacuum left by the departure of Police Athletic League organizations that used to run youth teams in the borough, interviewing both coaches and players. It culminates in a championship game for one of the teams, who travel to Florida to play their opponent.
WE ARE: THE BROOKLYN SAINTS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A coach ties down the shoulder pads of a young boy, right before a practice.
The Gist: In the first episode, all three of the organizations’ teams — 9U, 11U and 13U, covering ages from 7-13 — as they prepare for the 2019 season.
The coaches and founders all have the same idea in mind: Keep these kids from joining gangs or otherwise getting in trouble, and give them an opportunity to get a free college education through football. Kenan, the star of the 13U team, for instance, is shown in his middle school robotics class, getting into the weeds of programming and troubleshooting to make sure his robot makes the precise turn that he wants.
The coaches are equally as dedicated, if not more, than the kids. Dave, the organization’s vice president and Aiden’s dad, commutes from Brooklyn to Greenwood Lake, where his mother lives. “We sleep upstate, but we still live in Brooklyn,” is how he puts it. Between the commute, his duties with the Saints and his UPS job, he says he gets “13 second of sleep.” Coach Gauwala, who coaches the 9U team, knows he’s not perfect, but he’s dedicated to the kids and he makes sure each one feels appreciated.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? In a lot of ways, We Are: The Brooklyn Saints is a modern-day Hoop Dreams. A lot of the themes are similar, though the kids in this show have a bit more of a realistic sense of why they play and what their goals are.
Our Take: We Are: The Brooklyn Saints is designed to be heartwarming and inspirational, and Valdez hits the mark on both.
And what the series tries to show is that the Saints’ mission is less about socioeconomic status and more about building character, and getting these kids in a position where they can get the best thing for them they can: a good education.
There is a concern here, one that we think is going to be addressed in one of series’ four episodes; the physical toll playing football takes on these kids. In once practice scene, it looks like Aiden gets his “bell rung,” as it used to be called, after a particularly hard tackle. He sheds a few tears — he’s 8, after all — but then collects himself and says, “I’m ok.” But you wonder if he’s hurt more than he lets on. Concussions happen at that age, even off the football field, but the concerns about the kids’ health vs. how the program benefits them definitely needs to be addressed for this show to give a complete picture.
That being said, we appreciate Velez’s fly-on-the-wall approach, and letting the kids, coaches and administrators speak for themselves. We’re not loaded down with statistics about how kids in “inner-city” environments, for lack of a better term, improve their academics if they’re in organized sports.
“Have fun!” they yell back. “This one is gonna be epic. I put my life on the line for this one,” he says, rather cryptically.
Sleeper Star: Aiden is our favorite player in this first episode. He’s goofy, but a smart kid. And, given how far he commutes to go in and out of Brooklyn, he dedicates a lot of time to the Saints.
Most Pilot-y Line: One coach wonders why all these kids are crying during the game. “It’s 2019,” someone replies, after which the coach asks for a Tylenol or Motrin. They’re just kids, buddy!
Our Call: STREAM IT. We Are: The Brooklyn Saints is an interesting profile of an organization that’s trying to do the right thing by the people who are members, and is OK showing that these people who are doing good aren’t angels, just good people.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.
Stream We Are: The Brooklyn Saints On Netflix
football Netflix Stream It Or Skip It We Are: The Brooklyn Saints.