Bye Bye Barry (2023) Movie Script

[fax machine buzzing]
[upbeat music]
[clicking, whirring]
[woman] Barry Sanders played his hand
today, revealing his desire to retire.
- [man 1] Barry Sanders will retire.
- [man 2] The day before training camp.
[man 3] He didn't have a press conference,
he sends a fax in.
Fax machine?
[woman] He does not want to talk
to anybody, doesn't want to see anybody.
[woman 2] Shocking announcement
has thousands of fans feeling flustered.
People are very disgusted
with the way Barry handled this.
[host] I've got an email that says,
"Until yesterday,
O.J. was my least favorite NFL runner,
but he only stabbed
two people in the back.
[upbeat music continues]
There's all these conspiracies
of why he did that.
- Well, I've heard a number of things.
- A lot of it doesn't make sense.
[man] Was Barry frustrated
playing for a losing team?
[man 2]
Is this possibly a bargaining ploy?
- Everybody's trying to figure out why.
- I don't remember if I asked him why.
- Yo, you walked away early.
- It was the right time for me.
I'm a little part of the reason
why Barry retired.
[man] Was it friction with his coach,
Bobby Ross?
He's always had bad coaching.
I had called Barry perhaps ten times,
wrote him three to four
personal handwritten letters.
Whether it's coaching or whether it's
front office, whether it's ownership.
[man] Was he just plain burned out?
Who knows?
[man 2]
To walk away at the height of his career,
we might have had two or three or four
more good years left. That takes guts.
[woman] I mean, he has his dad talk
for him and his coach talk for him.
Can't he talk?
[man] All we know is Sanders ran
to daylight again, taking off for London.
[man 2] Barry Sanders is in London.
[man 3] Turns out somebody found out
he was going to be there.
And so he actually had cameras
waiting for him.
What the fuck? Wow.
[Eminem: "Cinderella Man"]
[man] I've seen every documentary
on Barry Sanders that there is to see,
and I've never walked away feeling
like I knew why he walked away.
Who could catch lightning in a bottle
Set fire to water
coming out the nozzle
On the fire hose
Flyer than swatters
[Eminem] Still to this day,
everybody talks about him.
He's the greatest running back
to ever play the game.
And I know that he walked away at a time
when he could have broken
every single record there ever was
and ever will be.
So why did he walk away?
Catching lightning, he struck it
Screamed shut up at thunder
And flipped the world upside down
and made it rain upward
Cinderella man, Cinderella man
Cinderella man
You know,
I don't take that question lightly.
It's really hard to explain.
He's the shit right now
Cinderella man, Cinderella man
Cinderella man, Cinderella man
Cinderella man
[dramatic music plays]
[man] I always view Barry as...
it's like an artist
will convey their personality
in their work.
They may not be dynamic,
but what they do is dynamic.
Barry was every bit Picasso or Rembrandt
or whoever you want to throw out.
He was an original.
He was somebody that when you watched him,
you added the words
because Barry didn't describe himself.
He didn't want to. Didn't care to.
He left it up to your interpretation
of what you saw.
And that always fascinated me.
[music continues]
[Patrick] He didn't have a brand.
He didn't need to be famous.
He was going to be famous.
But he didn't really care
about telling you about being famous.
[man on TV] You are looking live
at the Marriott Marquis ballroom
just a couple of ticks past noon
Eastern time here in New York City,
as the 1989 NFL draft is about to begin.
The 1989 draft class
was one of the best in NFL history.
Troy Aikman, Hall of Famer.
Derrick Thomas, Hall of Famer.
Neon Deion! [laughs]
Cowboys select
Troy Aikman, quarterback, UCLA.
Next up, the Green Bay Packers.
Tackle Tony Mandarich, Michigan State.
Next up, Detroit Lions.
I had a pretty good idea
that I was coming to Detroit.
Coach Fontes was like, "Young man,
if you're coming out of college,
we're going to pick you."
Detroit Lions.
Detroit Lions select...
- Barry Sanders.
- [cheering]
Running back of Oklahoma State.
Barry Sanders, the Heisman Trophy winner,
the true junior that came out.
And he goes to the Detroit Lions.
Our Dan Patrick has been with Sanders
out in Wichita.
[Patrick] Well, I thought
we had an agreement on draft day.
I said, "Look, I'm going to come out
and we need to do an interview."
And he said, "Okay."
And then I got out there, he got drafted,
and then we couldn't find him.
The Atlanta Falcons first round choice,
Deion Sanders, cornerback, Florida State.
I was kind of scared.
I thought Detroit was going to take me.
I woulda asked for so much money,
they'd have had to put me on layaway.
[woman] On layaway, uh-huh.
No baseball leverage there.
[Patrick] So now ESPN is going, "I thought
you had a relationship with him."
I go, "I do." And then they would say,
"Well, let us know
when you found Barry Sanders."
I mean, it sounds strange to say...
I couldn't find him.
And people in his family
that weren't quite sure where he was.
Like, it was just odd.
But then that's... that's Barry.
[Patrick on TV] Back here in Wichita,
and we're finding out
Barry Sanders is just as elusive
off the field as he is on the field.
We finally tracked him down
after a couple of hours.
We had sightings of you going to church.
We had sightings of you
going to the airport to go to Detroit.
- Where have you been?
- I've been at home, uh,
watching the draft. First, I watched...
[Patrick] And there was part of me
when I did the interview,
like, I was a little bit pissed at him
because it's like, help me out here.
And I'm like... It came back to...
he just wanted to go play football.
You're one of the shyer persons
I've ever met,
and you didn't want to
meet the media today.
You didn't want to go to Detroit
to meet the media up there.
Pretty tough to be a pro athlete
and stay out of the spotlight there, bud.
It's a... I think I'm being...
I'm being read wrong, I think.
It's not that I'm shy.
You know, I'm not shy.
Uh, well, like I say, I don't...
I mean, some things
are just unnecessary, you know?
And I'm not trying to downplay
what you guys do, you know.
But you have to respect my judgment
and the way I am as a person, too.
You know, uh, I mean,
every individual is different, you know?
And I don't... I'm learning now,
the people in these...
in situations like this,
people don't really...
They don't really care about you,
you know? And that's all I'll say.
They don't really care about you.
They just pretty much want
what they can get out of you.
But I don't know.
That's just something I have to deal with.
[Sanders] I mean,
it's certainly something,
when you talk about the spotlight.
I think for some people
that's almost second nature
and that's something they enjoy.
Um, and me, on the other hand,
I mean, that's not something
I naturally do and naturally,
you know, sort of gravitate towards.
It just was not important to me.
Barry was never interested
in promoting himself.
That role was reserved specifically
for William Sanders.
[woman] Barry may be exceptionally humble,
but his father makes up for it.
He's one of Barry's greatest fans
who is very proud
of his son's accomplishments.
[William Sanders] I'm so proud
of what's happened to Barry.
I know Barry don't...
Barry don't want it.
If he wants it,
he wants it for his father.
Because he know how I feel about him
and my friends back home in Wichita.
[Sanders] My dad. One thing you
know about him is he's his own man.
He was opinionated, you know,
and he was going to
let his voice be heard.
He craved the spotlight.
He wanted to talk to us.
He liked when we'd come around
with the cameras and reporters.
He always would give somebody something.
What make him so special
is 'cause he's a Sanders.
He's my son.
That's what make him special.
[Sanders] Dad was a handyman,
which included roofing and painting
and doing, you know, remodels.
Most of my free time
was spent working with Dad,
starting when I was maybe ten,
12 years old.
It wasn't that he needed help, but it
was just that he wanted to make sure
me and my brother were with him
just because that's what he felt
like we needed to do.
[man] He was such a stickler
for doing things perfect.
He wanted things done right and perfect,
and you had to make sure you did it right.
Daddy would say,
"I'm your father, not your friend."
So we wouldn't get it twisted
or mixed up.
We had eight-foot ceilings in the house,
and Barry could jump,
and every time he come to a door,
he want to jump up and touch the ceiling.
And that was one of our little pet peeves.
After I threatened
to break his arms and legs
for doing that, he stopped.
[Sanders] Certainly he was
a passionate football fan
and a lot of my love for the game
definitely comes from him.
- [woman] Look at him! Look at that strut!
- [indistinct chatter]
Look like I used to run.
[woman] I knew he was gonna say that.
[Sanders] He was always probably my
biggest fan, but also my biggest critic.
[William] He couldn't outrun me.
And I told Barry if I had...
if I put him in my offense,
he might have never touched the ball.
[Boyd] Dad is true to form.
He's always said... [laughs]
who he thought
were the best running backs.
[man] We all knew that since he was a kid.
Top three running backs: Jim Brown,
Mr. Sanders, and then Barry.
Me, I wouldn't do too bad now in a 40.
And he would remind Barry,
no matter how great you are,
you'll never be better than Jim Brown.
He never wanted me to get too high
or too low in what I was doing.
He's definitely different.
But I can...
I mean, I can tell he's more relaxed.
He's definitely not like a superstar
like you would expect.
- Greg, if he did, I'd kill him.
- Would ya?
But he was thrilled,
you know, to have his son being, um,
you know, the number one guy
on a team in the NFL.
- Yeah, Barry!
- [laughter]
[man] All right, Dad.
[soft music plays]
[Sanders] I had, you know,
really known and heard about Detroit,
really just through the news.
For me, it felt almost overwhelming.
You know, it was a much bigger city
than I'd ever been in or lived in.
The late '80s, you know, it wasn't...
You know, it wasn't sort of a,
you know, the greatest time for like,
you know, Detroit proper.
[woman] It was a rough time for the city.
There was a lot of crime.
Detroit had a very negative perception
because nationally, the only time you saw
Detroit really spoken about
in the national news
was when the murder rate was released.
Because usually Detroit
was somewhere in the top three.
We were just so used to
being the national joke.
It was kind of the same for the Lions.
Their reputation, um, was not very good.
Every bad stat that you don't want,
the Lions are the number one.
1957, that's the last year the Lions
won a world championship.
You had to go there, didn't you?
You grow up in a darkness.
[announcer] Frustrating afternoon
for the Detroit Lions.
[man] You're watching all
these incredible other teams go
and you just stay right here.
[announcer] Eight turnovers.
And the second one
that goes for a touchdown.
[Daniels] Decades of darkness.
[man] The identity of the Lions
going into 1989,
it was same old Lions.
They were 4-12. They're horrible.
- [cheering]
- But there was a level of hope
because Wayne Fontes had taken over
as head coach.
And Wayne was one of the best salesmen
that you could ever meet.
I want to sell the people in Michigan,
in Detroit area,
that the Detroit Lions are for real.
I want them back. We need the people back.
He sold the Lions gonna be different,
and he sold it on,
"We got Barry Sanders."
[cameras clicking]
[Fontes] Ladies and gentlemen,
I'd like at this time to introduce to you
one of the finest running backs
in the United States of America
and our number one pick, Barry Sanders.
[Sanders] When I was drafted,
I guess I would have been 20,
but I was so excited
and I was looking forward
to the challenge of playing in the NFL.
It's really good to be here in Detroit.
I really feel... I feel good
and I feel it's a privilege
to be one of the players
that will help
restore the roar in the Dome.
[cameras clicking]
Get drafted.
And then I signed
the week of the first game.
The plan was not to play the first game.
Just to put my uniform on,
let the fans see me.
[laughs] That's... at least, that's
what I was told going into the game.
Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan.
Crowd of about 40,000,
half-filled here at the Silverdome.
Those kids can move up,
there are some empty seats.
Join the crowd.
[Peete] And they didn't see him
in the backfield to start the game,
that's when they started.
Barry, Barry, Barry!
[crowd chanting] Barry!
[announcer] Waiting in the wings
on the sideline is Barry Sanders.
Signed a $9 million contract plus,
the highest paid Lion in history.
Cardinals look like they're ready to come.
Paige. A loss on the play of a couple.
Tony Paige. He doesn't have nearly
the speed Barry Sanders has.
[announcer 2] Obviously.
He runs about a 5.1 40.
[man] But you could feel
the uneasiness with the fans, like,
"Come on, man, what's going on?
What are you doing?
What point are you trying to prove?
Put him in there."
[announcer] Barry Sanders is primed
in case his number is called.
[Peete] He didn't get in before half.
And there were some boos.
[crowd booing]
[announcer] I wouldn't be surprised if we
don't see Sanders on in the second half.
I don't think the Lions
can beat the Cardinals without him.
The first part of the game
pretty much went as planned.
I watched the game.
The Lions went to the dressing room.
The crowd started chanting,
"Barry, Barry." We heard it again here.
Around the end of the third quarter,
Coach came to me and asked me,
did I want to go in the game? [laughs]
And I wasn't going to turn that down.
So I said, "Absolutely."
[announcer] He's coming up to Fontes.
[Sanders] So they showed me
a few running plays on the sideline...
[announcer] You'll hear the cheer.
After I guess they felt
I had a pretty good handle on it,
you know, they sent me in.
- [announcer] Here it is.
- [crowd cheering]
[announcer] What kind of play might be
best for a Barry Sanders in his debut?
And he gets the call.
Cuts it back, reverses field, 25, 20!
He's to the 15! Barry Sanders!
On his first NFL carry,
goes 19 yards!
[Sanders] I was off
and running in more ways than one.
[announcer] Well, you talk about
restoring the roar.
Barry Sanders does it in one carry.
That Silverdome crowd really woke up,
and it was...
To that point, I feel like
it had been a pretty boring game,
but they came alive after that.
[announcer] This 40,000 crowd
sounds as if there are 70,000.
Handoff Barry Sanders, left side!
Sanders breaks a tackle! Touchdown, Lions!
Barry Sanders!
- [cheering]
- Listen to this crowd!
What a debut.
[announcer 2] From the end zone,
Barry Sanders is gonna
shake off two tackles.
And now he knows exactly
how to get into that pay dirt.
[Sanders] Reaching pay dirt,
getting my first touchdown,
it was such a thrill, man.
It was as much a surprise to me
as it was to everyone else. [laughs]
But it was also, I guess, almost a relief.
[announcer] It has been years
since the Detroit crowd
has been this excited about the Lions,
and Barry Sanders
has given them a shot in the arm.
Right then and there, you knew
that we had something special
and something to build around
and something that was unique.
And that's Barry.
It was lightning
from the first snap that he took.
And because of that,
Detroiters were just all-in.
[dramatic music plays]
[announcer] Rolling right, draw play.
Barry Sanders... Touchdown, Lions!
[man] Barry was the messiah
when he came here.
Thank the football gods
for letting Barry fall into the hands
of the Detroit Lion fans
and the Detroit Lion organization.
[music continues]
[Sanders] I was very satisfied with,
you know, how the season started,
but I wasn't really paying attention to,
you know, how popular,
this, that, and the other.
For me, it was I had to continue to go out
and continue to prove myself,
I felt like.
[announcer] Another flag here
in the late going. Here's Sanders. Draw.
Ran right around Bubba Baker!
And with those 13 yards,
rookie Barry Sanders
is over a thousand yards
and gets a standing ovation.
[Patrick] I just remember
he was so unassuming.
The spotlight was on him,
but he never reacted to the spotlight.
I did a story his first year in Detroit,
and he agreed to do an interview.
He said, "The only thing I ask,
the only thing, when I get out of my car
in the parking lot,
I don't want you to have a camera there
following me down the tunnel,
the loading dock,
where the players would go in."
He said,
"I don't want the veterans to see that.
I don't want them to think
that I'm getting special treatment."
I mean, he was cognizant of those things.
He was cognizant of being,
"Can I just blend in?"
The best example of what kind of person
Barry is, is his rookie season.
When he had a chance
to take home the rushing title.
[announcer] Of course,
All-Pro rookie Barry Sanders,
going today for the '89 season
rushing title.
[dramatic music plays]
Sanders now with 133.
[announcer 2] Oh, there it is again!
[announcer 1] Sanders going out to
the right again and he will score again!
Sanders on the delay.
Inside the ten! Touchdown!
Barry only needed nine yards
to win the rushing title.
We had got word on the sideline
that the Kansas City game was over with
and Barry was only nine yards
behind Christian Okoye.
We had a whole quarter left.
As a rookie in the league, I would think
you would want to win the rushing title,
but we didn't know that records
didn't matter to Barry.
[William] Barry's not after records.
If they have kept track of Barry's career,
Barry just take himself
out of ballgames.
[dramatic music plays]
[Sanders] It was North High in Wichita.
We were playing against
the crosstown rival East High.
It was the last regular season game,
and I had a chance
to get the city rushing title.
We were up by two or three touchdowns,
and I remember calling him over
in the third quarter saying,
"Hey, we got the game in hand.
Do you want to get in and get some...
get some numbers on that stats
to win the thing, or not?
Or should I let the young kids play?"
And he said, "Let the young kids play."
[Sanders] It had been pretty much
mission accomplished.
I mean, it had been a great season.
And being that the game
was already over, no.
You know,
those few extra yards, just...
just was not important to me.
Now Sanders is going off the field.
This is unbelievable.
Sanders is not in the game.
Man, we begged Berry to go back
in the game to get that nine yards
because that meant something to us,
you know, to have the rushing king,
you know, that's a lot
to an offensive line.
[Fontes] So I walk over the bench.
I said, "Barry, you're five yards away
from leading the league in rushing.
You want to go back in?"
He goes, "No, Coach."
He said, "That's not important to me."
[announcer] Why is he not in the game,
unless he's injured?
[announcer 2] It's hard to understand it.
[announcer 1] Unbelievable.
[Glover] To me, that says a great deal
about his character
and the fact that
he was all about team success.
He really didn't
care much about individual awards.
[Sanders] I don't feel like
I've ever been one
who's really pinpoint focused
on the record
as much as just the performance.
You know,
the performance will tell you everything.
[Daniels] I don't think it's that
different from being an actor,
or Hollywood,
which is all about fame.
What athletes, you know,
they become larger than life instantly.
[announcer] At running back from
Oklahoma State, number 20, Barry Sanders!
There are a lot of actors who live
for between "action" and "cut".
I'm one of those guys.
That's where it's at for me.
That's the exciting part.
That's the thing I love to do.
Action. And then you're on the ride
all the way to cut, and then you're done.
Everything else,
I don't... I'm not interested in.
And so I completely get that.
He loved game starts, game's over.
You know, you could tell that
that's what he loved doing.
It was like when the play started,
boom, the ball's in his hands.
That's his action,
all the way to either getting tackled
or a touchdown. Cut.
That's it. That's all you get.
[Sanders] Looking back,
I never remember thinking when I was a kid
that ballplayers are famous or,
you know, they get a lot of money.
Everyone knows who they are.
That was never really
a big attraction for me.
I felt like I had had enough attention...
[laughs] growing up.
You know, I had, you know,
ten brothers and sisters.
I had enough people around me all my life.
So I don't know.
So it was just really weird going places
and, you know,
people stop and you,
saying that you're a star.
[boy] Can you please sign this?
[Hill] He was a perfect superstar
in many ways.
And I know that a lot of people love
athletes who have bolder personalities.
[man] Thanks a lot, Barry.
Good luck this year.
But I think what added
to the allure of Barry
and what gave him
an even sort of greater status,
not just in the city of Detroit,
but I would just say everywhere
across the nation is that he was a dude
that let his play speak for itself.
[man] How do you juke people, spin,
make adults fall down,
get to the end zone
and just give the ball to the ref?
That's a decompression
that 99.9 percent of us just don't have.
[Daniels] I doubt that
the phrase was coined
when he started
just handing the ball to the ref.
But it was the first time that I heard,
"Act like you've been there before."
[Sanders] After going from sideline
to sideline and disappearing... [laughs]
[announcer] Watch out the other way!
[announcer 2] I don't think anybody
in football can do that.
[Sanders] I don't have the energy to dance
and plus I don't have that kind of rhythm.
Maybe I should work with Deion
to see if maybe he could
give me one of his spare dances.
[Eminem] It just made him
so much more likable.
The fact that he was that good.
I've never seen somebody be that good
at something and be so humble.
I think probably because he knew,
I don't have to say this,
you know, you can... you can see.
[Sanders] My dad, you know, I think
there was a time when I did... I scored,
I may have done something, you know,
that was other than just
giving the ball to the ref.
And he just said, "No, you don't...
You don't gotta do that.
I don't want you doing that.
I don't want you doing anything extra."
But it's just really something
that I took as my own.
[dramatic music plays]
[Sanders] From a very early age,
I was exposed to sports.
When I was in diapers, you know,
my dad had season tickets
to OU football games.
He was going down there
to Oklahoma watching the Sooners.
[woman] He was an OU fan.
We all, you know, we all knew that.
I didn't know how serious it was.
Oh, man. I used to get mad
at my wife a lot. When they lose a game,
I wouldn't show up at the barber shop,
I would get mad at my wife and family.
I wouldn't even talk to nobody.
I was a serious Oklahoma fan.
There was no greater name on the planet...
than Barry Switzer, in my dad's mind.
[announcer] A national championship season
for the Sooners of Oklahoma.
[Sanders] All my life,
he continued being a big OU Sooner fan.
If one of my sons
coulda went to Oklahoma, OU,
I coulda laid down and died in peace.
That's the way I feel.
- That's the way I feel about the Sooners.
- [laughter]
[man] North High School, it's a familiar
sight to see Coach Dale Burkholder
on the phone, you know,
answering college recruiters' questions
about his prize player.
Well, I've been getting letters,
but, you know, Coach says
there's going to be more,
so I can't just focus on one school yet.
They're just now finding out about him.
You know, they've seen the stats
and their seasons are over
and they're having a chance
to look at who's done well.
And so now they're starting to focus in
on Barry Sanders.
[Sanders] I didn't have a flood of offers.
My three offers were Iowa State,
Tulsa and Oklahoma State.
Tulsa tried. They tried really hard.
But in the end, I knew Barry
wanted to play... Big Eight back then.
Who wouldn't want to play the Big Eight?
That's our big show
in the middle of the country.
When you grew up in Kansas,
you're thinking, "Okay,
that's where like the real athletes are."
[upbeat music plays]
[Sanders] Oklahoma State,
when I visited there,
I just loved being there.
Something about it felt like home.
For me, it was a clear picture
I was going to Oklahoma State.
For my dad,
I was playing against his team.
Oklahoma State was like the little brother
in the state of Oklahoma,
compared to University of Oklahoma.
Of course, his dad's like,
"Man, you gotta go to Oklahoma."
Barry Sanders, to me, Ron, is exactly
what you would want your son to be
if you want your son
to be a wholesome youngster.
[Sanders] The coach from Oklahoma State
comes to the house
going through
the whole signing day routine.
And Dad comes out of the bedroom.
Coach tries to greet my dad.
My dad wouldn't shake his hand,
and he just says, "You know,
I think he's making a mistake."
And he just walks out of the house.
And I just, I couldn't believe
I was experiencing this.
I mean, it was, you know...
I don't know. It was tough, man.
That was a tough morning. Um...
He wasn't too thrilled about that.
And so...
Uh, and so he let me know it.
A lot of guys like myself
have two years under their belt.
And, um, to have a record
of below .500 for two years,
for me, it doesn't sit well.
And maybe it's not anything
that the coaches can do.
Maybe we have to take it upon ourselves
to say, "Hey, we're sick of the way
things have been going. We're going to do
something on our own to change it."
[announcer] Sanders.
All I saw today was the impact of
a superstar player on a football team.
When Barry Sanders was announced
that he was going to start for the Lions,
you could see the entire squad
getting a lift.
[Sanders] I think the team that they
predicted us to be the previous year
finally showed up that year,
my third season,
and we kind of just got on a roll.
Sanders turned around the defender,
and he's going to score. Touchdown!
Look at Peete with his hands up.
He knows it's going to be a touchdown.
[announcer 2] Oh, yeah.
It's vintage Barry Sanders.
[Peete] We started
to build up a little momentum.
Barry's running wild,
we're winning games.
[announcer] Pitch out to Barry.
35, 40, Barry on the run to the 50!
To the 45! To the 40! Look out! 30!
They'll never catch him! See you later!
[Hill] Because the Lions
have such a negative history,
it was almost like people
couldn't believe it.
Like, Detroit's actually good?
We're considered a favorite in something?
[announcer] This was not sold out today.
There were many disbelievers
even here in Michigan.
Any word for them?
Me personally, we can't spend our time
worrying about what other people think
and whether they believe in us or not.
We know we have the talent
to go on and be in postseason play
and that's all that matters.
[Sanders] Fall of '91, I feel like we
had arrived in the division.
The Lions have been kicked around
for a lot of years.
It had always been someone else.
The Vikings had had their time.
[announcer] The Vikings were chasing
Barry Sanders all day long.
[Sanders] Obviously,
the Bears had dominated.
[announcer] They're playing a good team
in the Bears and they're beating them.
I think they're proving to themselves
that, "Hey, we belong."
It was kind of a new kid on the block
within the division.
[Hill] Everybody had a sense of hope
and felt like this might be the year.
You had people coming to school
wearing Lions gear,
And just that sort of camaraderie
around the Lions.
Um... there was such excitement.
[announcer] The Lions have a shot
at the NFC Central Division title
with a victory today.
[Hill] Going into that game,
the Lions winning the division
was just, you know, it was crazy.
[announcer] Trying to tie this game up.
- Kramer. But Barry spins free, touchdown!
- [announcer 2] Oh, wow!
- [announcer 1] Lions!
- [announcer 2] Wow!
[announcer 1] Barry Sanders with a move
that Mikhail Baryshnikov couldn't make!
Normal joints don't move the way
Barry Sanders' joints move. I'm sorry.
[dramatic music plays]
And this gives the Detroit Lions,
for the first time in franchise history,
they've won 12 games.
The Lions will host
a playoff game in Detroit.
[all shouting]
Lions, Sanders! Detroit is back!
- RFK! Here we go!
- RFK, we'll be there. Next week, man.
- Lions number one!
- [man] RFK!
- Super Bowl!
- Go, Lions, go!
- [music plays]
- [man] Are you ready for the showdown
in Motown?
The Lions entertain the Dallas Cowboys.
Sold out, and as loud
as we have ever heard it.
- [all shouting]
- Super Bowl! Super Bowl!
[Brandstatter] This city is starved.
They're starved for a championship.
It's been 1957 since they had one. Okay?
So when they went to that game,
that was the next step.
We get this one,
we go to the NFC champion.
Then we're only one game away
from a Super Bowl.
How you feeling?
What's going on inside you today?
- You nervous, excited? You ready to go?
- I'm nervous. No, I'm nervous.
I'm always nervous.
A little more today than usual.
When I think back
to that first playoff game,
man, it was so loud and electric.
It was like they had been starved,
which they had,
and it had just exploded.
[Sanders] We had such an advantage.
I'm pretty sure that impacted the Cowboys.
[Hill] To be going against one of
the storied franchises in the NFL,
there was a sense
that this was the Lions' destiny,
that this was finally their time.
[announcer] Jimmy Johnson
told us last night,
Barry Sanders is not going to beat us.
The defense's priority
would have been to stop me.
And so it hadn't been a great day for me
statistically, I understood that.
[announcer] Sanders has eight yards,
four carries.
I knew that eventually I'd have
an opportunity to try to make a play.
Sweep! Watch the sweep!
Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!
[announcer] Barry off the right.
Barry to the 45.
And bumps to the 40, breaks it, 35, 30!
He's gone! Unbelievable!
Just kind of an off-tackle play
to the right.
It's looking like I'm just going to
maybe get four or five yards,
and I end up bouncing off of the tackler.
[announcer] You think you got him tackled?
Tony Casillas, kind of looking
around like, "Okay, this guy
is still running down the field.
I thought we had him."
[dramatic music plays]
[announcer] Every time we talk about
Barry, we say, "That's the greatest run.
That's the greatest run."
That might have been the greatest run.
And I just remember the crowd
just absolutely went nuts.
It was such a moment, given the Lions'
history and given the city's history.
For a lot of people in Detroit,
it was just like, "Wow, this is real."
[Sanders] It was just a great feeling,
a great way to cap off
the first playoff win
in however many years.
[announcer] 78,000 people
have been waiting 35 years,
and there's probably a million more
in the Detroit area.
[announcer 2] And, you know,
after he'd done something like that,
everyone around him gets excited.
Barry Sanders does not throw the ball.
He doesn't dance,
he doesn't do spikes.
He scores, his feeling is one of relief.
And this is about
as much as you get out of him.
[man] Sweet running, Barry,
sweet running.
You know,
that was the expectation and the thought
that, um, this is just the beginning.
[man] Have you guys got another
one or two of these left in you?
Yeah. Oh, yeah.
I mean, today was a pretty decisive win.
It wasn't like we were just hanging on
by the skin of our teeth.
We executed well, played well,
despite all the injuries.
And I feel like we can go into Washington
and get a win.
[dramatic music plays]
[crowd] Barry! Barry! Barry! Barry!
I was really looking forward
to playing that game.
At that point,
they were the class of the league.
[announcer] The best record in the NFC
was the Washington Redskins.
[Sanders] I knew that would be
a great test for us,
but I know I was thrilled to go play.
Things didn't go as planned.
[Criner] I was frustrated thinking,
"Can we back...
Can we... what can we do?"
That was the last game before
they were going to go to the Super Bowl.
I just... Anyway.
The only thing you could say
that was good about that
was we did lose to the eventual
Super Bowl champion.
We were one game away. One game away.
[Sanders] I was dejected, man.
I felt that one for a while.
[announcer] That's a competitor.
Something bad has happened to him
and he can't do anything about it.
[Sanders] But I also felt like,
and assumed after that game,
that we'd have, you know,
I'd have another chance
to play to go to the Super Bowl. Um...
That that wouldn't be my only time
playing in the NFC Championship game.
I mean, that was my third season.
I felt like we were on the rise
and we'll be back.
We'll be back
to the NFC Championship game.
And we'll be back for a chance
to play to go to the Super Bowl.
[Hammond] Everybody always thought
that Detroit and Dallas
would be the big rivalry
because they had the two best
running backs in the game.
It was the era for great running backs.
Dallas had Emmitt, and Detroit had Barry.
With Barry back there, I thought we
were going to compete head-to-head
for many, many more years.
[announcer] What a ride it's been.
From the absolute worst
to the absolute best!
[announcer 2] The Lions end
the regular season at 5-11.
[announcer 3]
It's been a long, tough year.
A lot to be done for the Detroit Lions.
You would have assumed that, you know,
we would have been right there with them,
you know, for many years to come.
[announcer] Your Cowboys
are still champions.
Two in a row. How sweet it is.
[announcer] Packers down by three.
[Sanders] Somehow we leave Sterling Sharpe
uncovered with under a minute to go.
[announcer] Touchdown!
There's certainly residual sort of
frustration and disappointment.
[announcer] Cowboys win
another Super Bowl title.
[Sanders] Obviously,
we know what they went on to do,
but just being very surprised,
looking back,
that we didn't fare better
in the playoffs.
- [crowd cheering]
- [announcer yelling indistinct]
[announcer] That is the most points
the Eagles
have ever scored in a playoff game,
and they've done it in the first half!
Barry had this organization
that was known for being incompetent.
Emmitt had better coaching,
better organization.
Hall of Fame line, Hall of Fame
quarterback, Hall of Fame receivers.
I don't want to speak down
about Emmitt Smith.
Emmitt Smith was amazing, right?
Um, but he had a team.
If we had a team like the Cowboys had
and we had Barry, fuck.
We'd have been unstoppable.
[Rose] You swap Barry
and Emmitt right now, my God,
Barry woulda had them three Super Bowls.
When you start trying to go to,
"How many playoff games did he win?
How many Super Bowl did he win?"
You'll get into a fistfight
with a Detroiter talking about that.
You don't even want to know
about Barry Sanders, man.
Like a cannon ball
loose inside a pinball machine.
Bing, bing, bing, bing,
bing, bing, bing, bing.
Sometimes I...
I still see it when I sleep.
Every time he got the ball, it was like
he's going to score a touchdown.
I mean, that's how it felt.
[announcer] And the give to Barry Sanders,
cut back over the middle at the 15,
breaks a tackle to the ten!
Barry to the five! Touchdown!
There will be plays where, like,
ten guys jumped on him.
[announcer] Barry Sanders.
[Eminem] You're like, "Oh, he's down."
And all of a sudden,
he comes shooting out from the pile.
[announcer] He breaks it,
and he'll go all the way!
Touchdown, Detroit.
[Eminem: "Cinderella Man"]
[announcer 2] Sometimes there are
individuals that come along,
superlatives just don't fit.
Like, what the fuck?
Who can catch lightning in a bottle
Set fire to water
coming out the nozzle
On the firehose
Flyer than swatters
Cinderella man, Cinderella man
Cinderella man, Cinderella man
Smash an hourglass
Grab the sand, take his hands
And cup 'em
Spin a rhyme to freeze the clock
Take the hands...
[Eminem] It was literally
like watching a video game.
Cinderella man
[man] The way he improvised
on so many plays
and was able to take it all the way.
[announcer] Quintessential Barry Sanders.
That's what endears us.
It's not even all those plays.
It's some of the plays
where he might've just gained a yard,
but he dodged ten players, you know,
those are some of the greatest.
You know, behind the line of scrimmage,
he get the ball... ah!
They be right there on him.
[Eminem] Running 40 yards
to get three yards.
[announcer] Barry will reverse his field.
And he's running back and forth.
You know what I'm saying?
[Daniels] Everybody kept saying
they've never seen anybody like him.
And I agree.
I mean, for this second he's here,
and then 1,001, he's not here anymore.
He's over there and you're tackling air.
[announcer] Watch what he does.
He just put a move on Reggie White.
[Daniels] He could go
from here to over there,
like, don't even get
a finger on him.
Cinderella man
Cinderella man
[announcer] I think sometimes
you just have to look at something
and just enjoy it. I mean,
there's no one else in football
that can make these moves.
Cinderella man, Cinderella man
When God created Barry Sanders,
even He didn't know what He made.
Cinderella man, Cinderella man
Cinderella man, Cinderella man
[Glover] Playing for the Lions,
Barry Sanders won
the team MVP award every year.
And one year he leaves the banquet
and leaves his award on the table.
I pick it up, take it on the bus,
give him his award.
He leaves it on the bus.
He said, "Oh, take it home."
I take it home, and Barry,
William White, and Bennie Blades
would come over to our house on Thursdays.
My wife would cook for 'em.
Lomas Brown's wife would cook
on different days for 'em.
And he left his MVP trophy
in my apartment the entire year.
And would not take it home.
[Stein III] Of course,
Barry didn't want the MVP trophy.
He's never really cared about accolades.
He did the same thing at Oklahoma State
after having the most magnificent
college season I have ever
seen in my life.
[announcer] Let's see how they answer.
How about Barry Sanders to midfield!
He might go!
[upbeat music plays]
[announcer] And doesn't Dad love it?
His dad, his heart was a Sooner,
but he jumped...
He jumped on the wagon pretty quick
once he saw Barry run at Oklahoma State.
[music continues]
[Criner] His junior year, OSU,
he just came out of nowhere.
As far as a school rushing record,
he broke the record that Thurman set
against Iowa State last year with 293.
That was 300 and something.
I thought, "He really is good."
[announcer] Barry Sanders,
the storybook year.
24 NCAA records.
[Peete] We went into that season
and all the hoopla and fanfare
and Heisman talks
involved Troy Aikman and me.
Then you start to hear the name
Barry Sanders.
He hated that notoriety.
I mean,
he did not want to win the Heisman.
I heard him say that.
He was hoping Rodney Peete got it.
[Stein III] The Heisman Trophy is
the highest honor in college football.
It's the biggest award you can get,
hands down.
[Sanders] I happened to be in Japan
during Heisman Trophy ceremonies.
As far as the team is concerned...
I was there to play a game,
and it just so happened that the game
was on the same day as the ceremonies.
Oklahoma State scheduled that game,
not thinking they'd have
a Heisman Trophy candidate.
[reporter] For some of Barry's sisters,
it seemed like forever
before the announcement was made.
- That's the living room in the back.
- [all laugh]
[woman] I can't take it!
We didn't understand
the magnitude of the Heisman Trophy.
We just understood
it was just another award.
I didn't know a lot
about what Heisman was.
It was really a nice affair.
I'm on the other side of the world.
And because of
the 13-hour time difference,
it means I had to get up at, I don't know,
three in the morning or whatever it was.
I was halfway asleep.
It is my special privilege to announce
with great joy,
the 1988 winner of the Heisman Award,
the John W. Heisman Memorial Trophy,
and the winner, and I know him now
as you will know him...
- is Barry Sanders...
- [screaming]
...of Oklahoma State University.
It was typical Barry, when they announced
his name as the winner,
it was almost as if he was embarrassed
to get that kind of attention.
[man] Thank you, Barry.
Thank you very, very much. Thank you.
Congratulations to you.
[Sanders] You know, I'd like
to thank William and Shirley Sanders
for being so inspirational in my life
and bringing me up
the way they know I should be brought up.
Thanks a lot.
Barry, I love you,
and have a great game tonight.
Pops was lighting it up,
smiling ear-to-ear, holding court.
We might just store it in the living room
and just look at every day.
[Aikman] For him to be able to come in
and do the things he did
without having any
of the widespread media attention
that I did receive in Los Angeles
is amazing.
Finally, a guy won the award
on just sheer ability,
without having to receive any publicity.
[Sanders] And I'd come from nowhere
to win the Heisman Trophy.
And I was now someone
that people recognized.
You know, that's something we can all
take with us, you know, for a lifetime.
That was one of those markers
where a lot changed after that.
Hey, Coach.
[indistinct chatter]
I appreciate you
telling the people the truth.
- I told them, man.
- [both laugh]
- Absolutely.
- You know what, Barry?
- We had every piece but the core.
- You think so?
- Everybody knows that.
- Right, right, right. Yeah.
- We didn't have it...
- It would have been interesting
just to be a part of some of y'all
conversations about that.
I can only... [laughing]
[Fontes] Joe Montana called,
called me at my desk.
I'm telling the truth.
He called me and said, "I'd love to play
with you and Barry Sanders."
- Wow.
- I said... I jumped off my desk
and I went and saw Chuck Schmidt
and I said,
"We got a chance to get Joe Montana."
And Chuck Schmidt said, "He's too old.
He's over the hill.
He's done, another year..."
I went back to Joe, "I'm sorry."
- He goes to Kansas City, and plays...
- [Sanders] Lit it up.
- Yeah, he lit it up.
- [Fontes] So I said let's get Warren Moon.
Said, "He's too old."
- Wow. That's amazing.
- Yeah.
[man] The Lions finished
this past year, 5-11.
That's their worst performance
in four years.
But Wayne Fontes is now a Paper Lion,
he is in the team's record book.
But he is no longer the head coach.
That's right. It happened.
Fontes had more resurrections
than a televangelist,
but he was fired today
by team owner William Clay Ford.
And without much further ado,
I'll introduce you to our new coach,
Bobby Ross. Thank you.
[man] If you haven't gotten yourself
to the playoffs
and ultimately to the Super Bowl,
there is an empty feeling inside.
And I can tell you
from this very moment on,
that that's going to be the direction
and the goal of our football program
here with the Detroit Lions.
[Sanders] 1997 started out
very, very slow.
You know,
I chalk it up to being a new offense.
[dramatic music playing]
The first two games,
I think I had a total of 50 yards,
53 yards or something like that.
And Bobby Ross was like,
"We gonna get Barry a fullback."
I'm like, "No, we not."
You mess with the other 52 guys,
leave Barry alone.
[man] What is the basic problem
with the system?
The bad offense
they're running him out of.
In fact, there's no...
it's a nonexistent offense.
[Sanders] He was used to seeing me
in the run and shoot.
He felt like that was
a better offense for me.
[announcer] Detroit has been
stymied offensively so far,
especially this man, Barry Sanders.
Stymied again.
[announcer 2] Only 20 yards rushing today.
[announcer 3] He's not going to set
many records today.
I just remember the rumblings about,
you know,
me being in my ninth year,
maybe losing a step. Uh... [laughs]
If they want changes, they can...
they can kiss Barry Sanders goodbye,
number 20 goodbye. That's a promise.
[Sanders] I can't sit here
and say what clicked.
But for those guys up front,
they always were talking about,
"Let's not get too cute with the offense.
Run the freaking football."
[upbeat music plays]
[announcer] Barry Sanders,
cut back over the middle.
Back free to the 25, 30!
He's off to the races!
40, midfield 40!
It's a foot race to the 30!
He slowed up, keeps going to the ten,
five, and touchdown!
80 yards!
Barry Sanders, cut back over the middle
to midfield, right side 45.
Barry in the open, 35, 30,
off to the races.
20 to the 15 to the ten
to the five, touchdown Lions!
[announcer] And he moves into second
on the all-time rushing list.
Now he only has
one more running back to catch,
the former Bear, Walter Payton.
[music continues]
[announcer] Also, aiming for 2,000 yards.
And he has to average this week
and next week 144.5 yards a game
to get to 2,000.
[Hill] I just remember there just being
this campaign of Barry Sanders
has got to get this 2,000 yards.
But people wanted that for him
in the sense of
you're never going to get to
the level of success
as a team that you deserve to have.
You gotta get this.
2,000 yards rushing
for a running back in a season
is one of the most notable records
because at that time
only two players had done it.
It'll be 2,000 this year, Barry.
To be able to eclipse 2,000 yards,
um, it just is such an elite mark
for a running back.
And it almost seemed
to feel like it was impossible.
Or if not impossible, not likely.
That was probably the first time
we had seen him
get excited about a personal goal.
We all told everyone on the team,
"Don't mention it.
Don't ask him anything about it.
If it happens, it happens."
[Sanders] There were a lot
of the sort of storylines
going into that last game
against the Jets.
[dramatic music plays]
We needed the win
to get into the playoffs.
We were playing against
one of the toughest run defenses.
[man] Bill Parcells was the head coach.
Bill Belichick
was the defensive coordinator.
That was actually an all-star staff
when it comes to the coaching staff.
And good afternoon, everybody. Welcome.
As the Detroit Lions and New York Jets
are prepared to kick it off here.
Barry Sanders, 131 yards away from 2,000.
[announcer 2] Sanders has a hole
and it closes in a hurry.
[Sanders] They did a pretty good job
of shutting us down the first half.
[announcer] Trapped, tries to get away,
and their gain is only two.
But as a defensive player,
you don't want that on your resume,
that Barry got the 2,000 yards.
[Sanders] It did not look like I was gonna
be able to get the 130 to get 2,000.
The New York Jets with a 10-3 lead
on the Detroit Lions at halftime.
Barry Sanders, we've been talking
about him all weekend long,
in the first half today,
eight carries for 20 yards.
We had it in the bag on both parts.
He wasn't going to get his 2,000,
- and we were going to win.
- [announcer] And the fact,
he has only 20 yards in the first half,
gives the Jets defense very high marks.
Gotta do it up front now, let's go!
It's gotta be done up there, okay?
The running game has gotta get going!
[dramatic music plays]
[announcer] Sanders.
Inside the ten-yard line,
a gain of nine more.
[announcer 2]
When in doubt, give it to Barry.
[announcer 1] Barry to the 15,
to the ten, five, touchdown!
The curtain has finally raised
on the Barry Sanders show.
[dramatic music plays]
[announcer] 2:15 to go.
Will he get it here?
Barry. Off the right side to the 44.
And that should be it.
That should be 2,000.
[announcer 2]
So, yes, it is 2,000 officially.
[announcer 1]
And Barry Sanders will get the football.
Officially, 2,000 yards.
Right on the button, 2,000 yards.
[announcer 2] Now, if Barry
loses a yard in the next carry,
- do they go take the ball away?
- [announcer 1] I don't know.
Second down and eight.
Barry cut back. Now he's got it!
50, 40, 30! Look out!
Right side, 20, 15 to the ten to the five!
He's well over 2,000 now!
Holy mackerel! Aaron Glenn with the stop!
[announcer 2]
They can't take that ball away from him!
- Once again, Sanders, as good as they get!
- [announcer 1] Whoa, nelly!
Barry gets 2,000 and then some!
A 53-yard run, 2,053 yards!
The Lions are gonna head to the playoffs.
[Glover] That was the loudest
that I've ever heard the Silverdome,
when Barry broke for that 53-yard run
at the end of the game.
Now you've downplayed this all week.
In fact, all season,
and you've always been very modest.
But beneath this all,
we're told that you really did want this.
- How much of a thrill is this for you?
- Well, don't get me wrong.
I want to go into each game
and run for as many yards as I can.
And... but I just needed
to focus on what was important,
and, you know, playing a complete game.
And if that means blocking
and catching, running routes,
- whatever, running, then so...
- And to have your father here with you.
Well, you know, that didn't hurt any.
Having my father and my brother here.
I think it meant more to everyone else
than it did him.
[triumphant music plays]
[Daniels] Every franchise wants to be able
to point to greatness.
You want to be able to go,
"That's when we were great.
That's when we were
excellence personified."
Barry Sanders gave us that.
[announcer] Papa watching on
the sidelines, William.
He was so... just beyond himself.
He probably enjoyed it more than
anyone else in the world.
To be on the sideline cheering me on,
it really meant the world to him.
And it meant a ton to me, as well.
[indistinct chatter]
Congratulations, B.
Great job, man. Great job.
[indistinct chatter]
Thank you, appreciate it. Thanks. Thanks.
- Congrats, Coach. Congratulations.
- Very proud for you.
What happened to the shoes
I was wearing that day?
Um, I don't know.
Let me think.
Who has my shoes from that day?
One of my teammates?
I walked over to Barry and I said...
I didn't say,
"Congratulations, great job."
I said, "Can I get those shoes?"
And actually had him sign those.
Put "December 27th", signed both pair
of shoes by Barry Sanders
for the shoes he broke 2,000 yards with.
I have those shoes.
- No...
- Everybody else gonna tell you...
- Jocko, that's not...
- Everybody gonna tell you
that Barry Sanders
is better than Jim Brown.
- Them guys don't know.
- Well...
- I know football, too.
- [laughter]
Mr. Sanders, what does that mean
to you from your son?
Jocko, it...
It means you the third leading...
second leading ground gainer.
Second leading ground gainer.
And it probably don't mean
anything to him now,
it probably won't mean anything to him
till maybe ten or 15 years down the road,
and he's through playing,
he look back through the history books
and see the things
he accomplished on the football field.
What does it mean to you, though?
Believe me...
I don't feel good for me.
I feel good for the city of Detroit.
Because this means
they can go on another day,
they can go to another playoff game.
I feel good, but I'm not...
It don't mean... it don't mean much to me
as it should to you people in Detroit.
I think it's a great honor to have this.
And your son gave it to you.
And I think it's... it's great.
- [man] We're all a part of that.
- That's true.
The entire Sanders family.
[man] The biggest thing about that game,
and that game is off the charts for me
compared to any other game,
was the Reggie Brown situation.
- [announcer] Murrell.
- [whistle blows]
Close to the 30, a gain of about three.
11:45 left in the 4th.
Reggie Brown, the injured Lion.
And from the action
of coaches and players,
uh, it's not an ordinary injury.
You get a young linebacker going in,
making a routine tackle.
And all of a sudden he falls
and he doesn't get up.
[announcer] There is an awfully
scary situation going on.
Reggie Brown is lying motionless.
They had to do CPR right there
on the field to revive him.
I mean, this was a life and death
situation that was occurring
and unfolding right in front of us.
[Sanders] We were all just praying
and hoping for
Reggie's safety and recovery.
Reggie had a serious neck injury.
[announcer] I had hoped we would never,
ever see this again.
It definitely brought back memories,
you know, with Mike Utley.
[Peete] So that '91 season,
we're playing the Rams.
And on a freak play, Mike Utley goes down.
[announcer] Mike Utley
is down for the Lions.
[announcer 2] And we can only hope
that it's not as serious as it appears.
He hits the turf, hits in an awkward way,
and he's paralyzed.
[announcer] And the scary thing about this
is, is Mike has not moved at all.
Mike kept pounding his chest,
and said, "I can't feel my body.
I can't feel my body."
A lot of us were just frozen
in disbelief, stunned.
It was a reality check
that there are some dangers involved.
It was tough. It was tough to see that.
It was tough to experience it.
The impact of it, um,
I think, stayed with us.
Over his career,
I mean, he'd seen two of his teammates
suffer serious spinal cord injuries.
He was beginning to wonder,
"Should I continue?
And if I continue,
why should I continue?"
We were on vacation,
and just kind of offhandedly, he said,
"You know,
I've thought about hanging it up."
It's like, "Really? Um... why?"
He said, "You know, um,
I'm really wrestling with
continuing to... to do this.
It's kind of a grind."
[Sanders] What started sort of happening,
guys end up going elsewhere, you know,
guys like Chris Spielman, you know, Lomas.
[Brown] Chris Spielman became
a salary cap victim
the same year I did.
I left kicking and screaming.
I didn't want to go.
[Sanders] Like Ray Crockett, for instance,
Jerry Ball, even Erik Kramer.
And you go to war
and go to battle with those guys,
you form a bond, obviously.
Some of the guys they may have brought in
to replace those guys,
just not the same.
But you got to take the field
with the guys that you practice with.
[announcer] Quietly just labors away.
He has had just constant shuffling
on the offensive line in front of him.
[Hill] As every year passed,
and they didn't quite duplicate
the success that they had in '91,
there was a intense feeling
among the fan base
that here they have this great
generational player in Barry Sanders,
and they are wasting his time.
Had that group stayed...
been able to stay together somehow,
yeah, we definitely
could have done much better
and definitely won some playoff games,
you know, because a lot
of those guys went other places
and did win playoff games
and win Super Bowls.
Toward the end of my ninth season,
Kevin Glover pulled me aside,
and he says,
"I think, you know, I'm probably
not going to be here next year."
And I said, you know, I just thought,
there's no way that's going to happen.
I mean, why would... why would
we do something like that?
Contract was up, and...
Yeah, I don't want to
get into all the details.
The franchise tag was put on me.
It was taken off after the cutoff date,
so it wasn't handled properly.
I just... I'll leave it at that.
[Sanders] To see Kevin go
was definitely tough
just because of how
he solidified the locker room
and was so much a part of my career.
And so when that actually happened,
to me that was a blow.
[Moore] They underestimated the fact
that when you start getting rid of
the leaders of your team,
like a Kevin Glover and a Lomas Brown,
and it's not a lot of money,
you're sacrificing the opportunity
for a franchise
to go from good to great.
I think we looked at the dollars and cents
of it, more so than we looked at,
you know what,
sometimes you just got to pay.
[William] These guys both know football,
that's what we brings.
Them suckers don't know more
about the game than I do.
The Lions attempts at rebuilding
only made things worse.
And the '98 season played out
just like every other one before it.
[announcer] And he did not
find running room there.
Goes up the middle! 40-50.
[Hammond] Barry was one of the best backs
in the league
and the team just couldn't win.
[announcer] 30, 20, ten!
They'll never catch him!
Touchdown, Lions! Barry Sanders!
[announcer 2] That puts Barry
over a thousand yards
for the tenth straight season.
Nobody's ever done that.
[Sanders] By most standards,
it was an okay year, individually.
[announcer] Career rushing,
and Sanders second all-time
on the heels of Walter Payton.
[announcer 2] If he stays healthy,
he will be the leading running back
in the history of the NFL.
But team wise, we didn't play very well.
[William] They lost that game in Chicago.
They blew a 17-point lead,
and I'm not lying.
I've never seen Barry
so dejected in my life.
[announcer] You look over
what the team has lost free agent wise.
It's pretty devastating.
The guys that were there
that made up the backbone of the team,
- the Spielmans, the Perrimans... Glover.
- [announcer 2] Glover.
[announcer 1] Guys that have gone
other places have done well.
Somewhere along the line,
I definitely felt like,
you know, just that drive,
um, you know,
and that passion to play the game,
you know, it was different.
[man] What's his level of enthusiasm
for football right now?
I think it's like about zero.
[pensive music plays]
[Sanders] The Baltimore game,
there was really nothing to play for.
The season was over.
It was a tough game.
You know, we didn't play well,
had a couple of fumbles and...
And it just wasn't a good game.
[music continues]
[announcer] Sanders loses another yard.
[Sanders] I mean, I just remember
walking off the field,
I pretty much knew
this great journey was over.
[music continues]
[Sanders] I definitely couldn't
hold back a few tears.
Kevin Glover had moved on.
I think he was in Seattle at that time.
But he's from the Baltimore area,
and I remember he had come to that game.
Somebody on staff came and got me
and asked me to come in the locker room.
I said, "Well, I'm not really on the team,
so I'm not going in the locker room."
He said, "No, we need you to come in
and talk to Barry."
I said, "What's going on?" He said, "Well,
he's in the back of the locker room.
He won't talk to anybody."
And I went in and he's sitting back
by the lockers, by himself.
Everybody else was gone.
I said, "Man, you had another solid year."
I said, "Hey, when you break the record
next year, no matter where I am,
I'll be at that game.
I'm coming to see it.
I want to witness it for myself."
And he said, "I don't know
if there's going to be a next year."
[Sanders] I decided to get away
from everything,
that I was going to get away
for a few days.
So I go out to Metro Airport.
I came to the gate as I was heading
to London, and several of the passengers
were like, "Man, I think that's
Barry Sanders over there.
Don't the Lions have training camp
starting, like, tomorrow?" [laughs]
'Twas the night before training camp
and all through the town,
word traveled like lightning
that Barry Sanders won't be around.
[laughs] It was hysteria in the newsroom.
It was just...
CSI: Find Barry.
[Sanders laughs]
And so people found out
that I was on this plane,
including the media.
And some media members
ended up coming to the gate.
[man] Pretty odd going off to Europe
as you announce your retirement.
[man 2] Well, he wanted... It was funny,
he wanted to get away from everything.
And it turns out somebody found out
he was going to be there.
And so he actually had cameras
waiting for him.
[man 1] That's funny.
So, I boarded a plane
and flew to London.
[Ed Sheeran (feat. Stormzy)
"Take Me Back to London"]
Jet plane headed up to the sky
Spreading wings
in the clouds getting high
We ain't hit a rave in a while
So take me back to London
[reporter] On the day that the Lions
opened camp, Barry Sanders is in London,
and he sends word that he's retiring.
[Glover] I actually was on the way
to training camp
and I'm walking
by the sports bar in the airport.
There must have been 60 guys
crowded around the TVs in the sports bar,
and I'm walking by, like,
"What's happening?"
As Sanders announced his retirement
from the NFL at age 31.
And I just stood there and kind of smiled
and shook my head. It's like, that's B.
So take me back to London
[boy] We're in London
with my dad, Barry Sanders.
Uh, I'm assuming something
on his retirement.
I do not know the story.
[anchor] Was Barry frustrated
playing for a losing team? Who knows?
All we know is Sanders ran to daylight
again, taking off for London.
[boy] I really don't know why we're here.
My dad don't talk about, you know,
football a whole lot or retirement really.
I know he retired and he came here,
so that's pretty much all I know.
So take me back to London
I'm here with my dad and my brothers.
He retired in 1999.
He came over here to London. I'm sure
that was a pivotal point in his life.
Spending ten years in NFL
and then just calling it quits.
We got a couple of questions
for him to see what happened.
So take me back to London
[Sanders] In '99, it was so chaotic,
and I knew that I had left, I don't know
if you want to call it a mess.
So it feels nice to be back.
So take me back to London
[Barry Jr.]
You come to London. Why London?
[Sanders] Why London?
I had been there before.
Um, it's a different country.
But, you know,
I kind of knew how to get around.
I knew that it would be crazy back home
and I just wanted to get away.
- And London seemed like a good idea.
- Did you tell Grandma and Grandpa?
I mean, I'm sure Grandpa had
something interesting to say about that.
I called Mother and told her
that I was retiring,
and I was going to head to London
for a few days.
No Grandpa? Where's Grandpa come in?
- He found out eventually.
- Oh, okay.
[phone rings]
[man] How many people
have called you today?
Oh, at least... maybe 25 or 30.
God, I did so many interviews today.
[Sanders] Grandpa Sanders, man,
he thought I was out of my mind.
In particular, he was just very shocked
and surprised and disappointed,
you know, as to why... why I would retire.
But he was definitely
caught off guard by that.
- He was probably...
- So that's why... So that's why
I called my mom and told her. [laughs]
I wasn't going to tell him. [laughs]
They had a good relationship,
but he was pissed
when Barry quit football. [laughs]
[man] You talked to him last year,
he was considering it even then?
Considering it last year and I talked...
I talked him into playing one more year.
- [man] But what did he say?
- I can't tell you. [laughs]
It was... it wasn't nice.
He don't know why the hell he did this.
He could have played, this and that.
[anchor] Barry Sanders played his hand
today, revealing his desire to retire.
A shocking announcement
has thousands of fans feeling flustered.
People are very disgusted
with the way Barry handled this.
I think rightfully so.
They're insulted the star running back
simply faxed in his retirement.
[upbeat music plays]
I think it was his idea
to release it by fax.
So I crafted a statement with Mark.
[McCormick] I was working
at the Wichita Eagle at the time
and we were faxing a retirement letter
back and forth under his pseudonym,
which was first initial B.,
last name Abernathy.
I don't know where we came up with that.
It was important to him
that his hometown paper get that story.
[man] Who's the big loser
in this Barry Sanders fiasco?
Undoubtedly, it's the fans.
Like literal.
Like literal fucking devastation.
What the F are you doing?
Shocked. Completely shocked,
because Barry looked like he was the guy
that could have rushed for 20,000 yards.
Here's a guy in the prime of his career
who could have really help this team
and he didn't retire,
he quit and left them in the lurch.
[man] Issuing the following statement,
and we quote:
Eventually, we got the verbiage down
that his desire to be out of the game...
[man] greater
than my desire to remain in it.
[Sanders] And so we released a statement
in the local paper.
We faxed the Lions,
and that's how I announced it.
Fax machine?
That's when you knew, like,
he hates this thing.
[man] The Sanders statue
at the Lions Experience in Saginaw,
since the Barry fiasco, the middle finger
on the left hand was manipulated.
It was like a divorce.
And you took sides.
[host] I've got an email right here
that says, "Until yesterday,
O.J. was my least favorite NFL runner,
but he only stabbed
two people in the back.
He could have came on national TV
and said that he was going to retire.
Yeah, I heard there was a fax
that Barry... but that's Barry.
You know Barry wasn't going to
have no press conference
and he wasn't going to put on
no whole big shindig.
[Hill] There were some Lions fans who were
angry at him for the way that he left.
There was a lot of Lions fans
who understood.
Because frankly, if they had
an opportunity to send the Lions a fax
and divorce them and then go to London
for a couple of weeks and walk around,
they would have done the same thing.
Was there another way that you could have
sent it or like, why a fax?
I guess email was around, you know,
I guess I could've just driven over there.
I could've driven over there, you know...
- Could have done a press conference.
- ...and just handed in a pink slip.
- [laughs]
- What, so you like run a paper
- through like a printer?
- Correct.
- And then it just prints out somewhere?
- On the other side. Yeah.
- Exactly what it was.
- That's actually kinda cool.
So, I mean, why after that ten years
when you're still having great,
great seasons, why then, why retire?
I feel like that's...
that's a hard one to explain sometimes.
But I think it was even though
the retirement was, like,
kind of shocking
to the football sports world,
for me I felt like toward the beginning,
middle of that last season,
I was pretty sure that just, like, inside,
you know, in my mind,
I was like, "Okay, I'm pretty much done."
Did you consider going to a different team
and, you know, being able to win, or what?
I didn't. It was never really a thought.
That was it.
So you're saying,
there's no circumstances...?
- Circumstance...
- No circumstances could have changed?
- Oh, yeah.
- To have...
still ignited that... that drive?
That's a game you could
probably play all day.
You know, like if we were coming off
deep... a deep playoff run.
- Yeah, yeah, yeah.
- You know, a Super Bowl loss.
- Yeah.
- You know, those things do matter.
And thinking back,
I guess all I can say
is it could have
made the difference, you know.
So basically it was, like, the losing.
Because if you were winning Super Bowls,
you would have wanted to keep playing.
I'm not gonna say
we lost for ten years, but... [laughs]
- I mean, you didn't win the one.
- But yeah.
- But a lot of guys don't win...
- Yeah, no, I get that.
But like, if you're in the game,
you want to win. You want to win that.
- Everybody does. You know what I mean?
- Right, right.
If you were winning those bigger games...
I couldn't simplify it just to say
the losing because, again,
we had been losing
for many years, you know.
But obviously,
you do play to win the game.
[Noah] Well said. Yeah.
For me to continue to play,
I would've had to have the same drive.
And I just knew, like,
inside that that was it.
Yeah, I... That makes sense.
And I think if they had made
a concerted effort earlier
to say they was going to
change some things in Detroit,
I think Barry would have still been there.
But they played hard ball
that they was going to go
the same direction they've been going,
and Barry, he was just sick of it.
Oh, no, Grandpa Sanders, man,
he definitely felt
like I should go after
Walter Payton's record.
You guys don't even know
who that is, but...
- [Noah] I used to watch his highlights.
- [Sanders] You heard the names.
[Noah] I used to watch the highlights.
[announcer] The 31-year-old
is calling it quits just 1,458 yards short
of Walter Payton's all-time record.
[William] In fact, I talked
to Walter Payton about a month ago.
He said he'd like to see Barry break it.
You know, that was something he was
looking forward to taking pride in.
You know, so...
[reporter] Sanders,
less than 1,500 yards shy
of breaking Payton's
career rushing record last season.
So barring injury,
this was really just a matter of time
before the record was Barry's.
You know, it's really just
almost hard to explain
because there was... there was a time
when I would've thought that same thing,
how could a person be that close to it?
And I never imagined that I would be
someone that would be that close
to Walter Payton's all-time rushing record
in the NFL.
If they have kept track of Barry's career,
Barry used to take himself
out of ballgames.
When he was in college,
he wouldn't go back in.
He did not wanna win the Heisman.
[William] He's done the same thing in pro.
[announcer] Sanders needs ten yards
to win the rushing title.
Why is he not in the game?
[woman] Everything you saw him do
in the NFL,
some component of that had already
happened in his life prior to that, right?
Barry's not after records.
Barry wants to win football games.
[Sanders] I mean, I think about how much
football I had played at that point,
how much I had invested myself
into the game.
For me, just that...
that thing that drove me to play,
which is just, you know, that passion.
It just wasn't there.
There was nothing really left to play for.
I didn't see us as any kind of
a serious Super Bowl contender.
You know, I was still...
I felt like able-bodied
and, you know, sound mind.
Certainly, not according to my dad,
but I felt like I had a sound mind
and was making, um,
you know, a pretty clear decision.
I just felt like, in my mind,
yeah, this is pretty much it.
I think everybody still wants
to know why Barry retired.
They want to know the mystery.
The real mystery might be why
we're surprised in the first place.
Because everything he did
throughout his life, his career,
how he felt about fame
and personal records,
walking away the way he did
is just another example
of Barry being Barry.
- [man] All right, my man.
- [indistinct chatter]
Yes, yes.
[man] What are you going to do
on Sunday afternoons now?
Um... I can relax now.
Don't have to worry about watching.
Don't have to worry about getting home
from Sunday school
or missing church to see Barry play.
I don't have to worry about traveling.
Maybe I can save some money.
In fact, I'm gonna try to go see Oklahoma
play some games now.
So it's not all bad.
Barry Sanders is officially gone now.
This is video just shot of the mural
in downtown Detroit.
As you can see, Barry is covered
with the message "Gone to Canton" over it.
And in case you didn't know,
the Canton on the sign
refers to Canton, Ohio,
location of the Football Hall of Fame.
Barry is one of those players
you could tell right away
that was going to be special.
But there was a gentleman who saw it
long before the rest of us.
- [cheering]
- His father, William Sanders.
[Sanders] I loved the fact
that I could give him that spotlight.
He loved every minute of it.
He found a way to, you know,
make sure he kept me in my place.
First, I want to say hello to
the greatest running back that ever lived,
the number one running back
who ever lived. He's not with us today.
I think he's with his family
in Los Angeles, Mr. Jim Brown.
- So I want to say hello to him. Jim.
- [applause]
And now I want to introduce you
to the third best running back
that ever lived.
- Barry Sanders.
- [applause]
[Glover] His dad and I had
a good relationship.
We could talk afterwards.
I said, "Well, if Barry is number three,
who's number two?"
He said, "Well, I'm number two."
I was like, "What?"
He said, "Yeah, I was good too,
so I'm putting Barry behind me.
He's number three behind me and Jim."
I was like, "Oh, okay." [laughs]
Well, he was good. [laughs]
The little time that he did play,
he was real good.
- [man] But he was better than Barry?
- I wouldn't say all that. [laughs]
Was there anything you
could have done for you
to have been his favorite player
over Jim Brown?
- I doubt it.
- [laughs]
I doubt if there was anything...
I doubt if there was.
Because there was just
that nostalgic attachment...
- Absolutely.
- that era, you know.
And for him, so...
And obviously, Jim Brown was amazing.
- [laughs]
- Yeah.
My dad, uh, is truly the reason
why I am here.
At one point,
when he was sick but in remission,
I was at home visiting
and I was driving down the street.
And he was in the front yard,
and he was chopping
a stump out of the ground.
When someone like that passes,
it's like watching a redwood fall.
[Sanders] It was amazing
just to see how many people
he had impacted,
you know, when he had his services.
It's like, how did he
find time to do all this?
He helped raise 11 kids.
He would just say things like,
he's definitely not trying
to raise a great athlete.
He wants to raise good young men
and young women.
And when you do that,
then you can go off and do anything.
It seems like he gets wiser
and smarter every day.
[man] As a dad who's
very proud of his son,
what do you wish for him
in the coming months?
I wish all my sons would get married
and have two or three kids.
I think a man do need
two or three kids to be whole.
[man] So that's what's important,
not football.
[William] That's...
that's what's important to me.
This has been just
an amazing few days.
And, you know, you think back, we've been
able to do a lot of cool stuff together.
But nothing quite like this, obviously,
to be able to share this with you guys.
I really appreciate it.
So cheers to that.
- Cheers.
- Cheers.
[slow tempo music plays]
[Sanders] Love you guys.
[sons] Love you too.
[Sanders] This stuff,
it just goes so fast, man.
It's amazing how fast it goes.
So enjoy it, it's precious.
And one thing that my folks
always believed is that, you know,
if you get the character things right,
then other things tend to fall into place.
[man on PA] Kansas Shrine Bowl
Hall of Fame inductee:
Barry Sanders.
[Patrick] He's a good dude.
You know, he's just a good dude.
- Let's go, let's go!
- How you doing?
How you doing?
[Sanders] Football is the greatest
team game out there.
And I was able to shine because of
the efforts of many so many others.
Shirley Sanders, I appreciate all that
you did to make this day happen.
And I know Dad is looking down,
I know Dad is proud.
[William] God, I'm so proud of him.
The average football player
would have been trying to set records
and trying to hang on.
And he walked away
at the height of his career,
and that really take guts.
[Sanders] If I could, I would go out
to each and every Lions fan
and give you a hug,
tell you how much I appreciate you.
It's been such a wonderful journey.
[announcer] Barry, got room, 30.
["Mimi Webb": Last Train To London
(I Won't Look Back)]
I'll be on the last train to London
[announcer] Barry off to the 40, 30!
I'm so sorry, darling
Couldn't give you what you wanted
[Sanders] Wow.
[man] The Barry Sanders Air Zoom Jet
that you made famous.
- Right. Recognize that shoe?
- Sweet.
You can tell your lies
But don't you dare say
that I didn't ever try
[Sanders] I love being here.
I still live here.
And I'm sorry if there
are any hard feelings.
Detroit does not win a lot
of brochure contests.
Miami, Chicago, New York, LA, those are
all the fashionable, cool, it cities.
Detroit is not like that.
It's a city that you got to love.
And you know if people stay there,
that they really love the city.
Thank you so much for the joy you brought
to Detroit and everyone here.
[Hill] The way he carried himself
with dignity, class, professionalism.
He gave Detroit a representation
that the city desperately needed.
And so his legacy of greatness
won't just be about him
being arguably
the best running back of all time.
It'll be about him being
a beloved member of the city.
I hope one day you'll find someone
He's a Detroiter, and that's
the highest compliment I could pay him.
But I'll be on the last train...
[Sanders] I think it just sets in stone,
if you will,
so much of what I was taught by my parents
and what I tried to live out.
[man] We want to
thank you all for being here
for this very special celebration.
[man] You know Dad,
he would have been so...
He would have definitely enjoyed it.
Yeah, that was the only thing missing.
- He may have been...
- [man] You made him proud.
I tried. Yeah. I tried to, man.
[Patrick] We'll never see somebody
like Barry Sanders again.
[Eminem] We had the greatest running back
that ever played the game.
I'm going back to London tonight
[upbeat music plays]