ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: Tose: The Movie (2015)

Directed by Mike Tollin

Mike Tollin’s previous film in the 30 for 30 series, Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? may have been an informative piece on the USFL, if not a very good one. Tollin teams here with NFL Films to present the story of former Philadelphia Eagles owner Leonard Tose, who bought the team for $16 million, only to sell them for some $70+ million, most of which went to pay off gambling debts in nearby Atlantic City. Tollin presents the rosy picture of an eccentric hometown owner, often citing the gambling problems, womanizing, and other vices as novelties that made the man interesting. To take such a viewpoint on the subject is short-sighted, making Tose: The Movie too personal.

What Tollin also manages to do, is take this film and make it an advertisement for his own dream, to make a feature length dramatic film about the life of Leonard Tose. Some of the film is even spent describing his long process of attempting to get the film made. As a result, by the end of the film I was overcomes with mixed emotions, none of which were particularly promises or good signs of the product delivered previously. The roundtable interview with Ron Jaworski, Dick Vermeil and two other former NFLers close to Tose presents the most interesting conversation in the film, as the men remember someone who meant an awful lot to their careers and even to them as men.

However, the rambling mess presented by Tollin feels way too much like a self-promoting commercial for me to say that I enjoyed the brief film, or that any of the redeeming qualities of the film or the man Tose himself will stick with me afterwards. With such a limited time to explore the subject of Leonard Tose, Tollin’s pre-occupation with other objectives leaves me to wonder how poorly conceptualized the film was, or perhaps how uninteresting Tose, the man, actually was.

** – Poor


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