This is the true — and heartbreaking — story of Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, players for the Chicago Bears, who were the first interracial roommates in pro sports, based on the memoir by Sayers.
Piccolo (played by James Caan) was not as talented as Sayers (played by Billy Dee Williams) but had enormous commitment, perseverance, and competitiveness in the most positive sense. He knew that trying to beat Sayers was what made him do his best. When Sayers was injured, Piccolo devoted himself to making sure that he recovered fully, because he wanted to beat Sayers at his best, not beat him because of the injury. Piccolo, trying to motivate Sayers to exercise his injured knee, calls him “nigger” in hopes of getting him excited. But it is such a ludicrous insult that both men collapse into laughter.
Sayers comes back, Piccolo is added to the starting lineup, and all seems fine until Piccolo becomes ill. It turns out that he has terminal cancer. The shy and reserved Sayers must learn to handle a devastating loss by keeping the best of Piccolo inside him.
This is a touching and inspiring film (originally made for television), with an outstanding musical score by Michael Legrand. The friendship and devotion between the two friends (and their wives) is very moving, as is the treatment of racial issues.