Bugeaters is a documentary by filmmaker Jim Fields about the first decade of existence for the University of Nebraska football team. High on detail and stylistic reenactments, this film is a fun historical record for University of Nebraska fanatics, and a nice, educational diversion for football fans in general.
As I mentioned above, this film is detailed, going year-for-year through that first decade from 1890-1900, recounting the different games and scores the Bugeaters played, complete with any notable events or contexts. Some of it is funny; the beginnings of American football are about as primitive and silly-looking as you can imagine, like a less refined rugby (think about that). Other moments are sad though unfortunately historically accurate, such as their onetime star player being African American and the fallout as the team found themselves faced with prejudice from other collegiate opponents.
While the film has a number of talking head historians explaining the world of the Bugeaters, the games are primarily relayed in a combination of stylistic reenactments while newspaper accounts of the matches are read via voice-over, or acted out in first-person (such as when an interview subject is being quoted in said article). It’s a nice mix, and it keeps the information, otherwise unnecessary for only the most completist Nebraska devotees, entertaining enough. At a certain point it does feel like too much information to process, but I’m also not someone who lives and breathes Nebraska football. Had this been about the first decade of the Philadelphia Flyers, for example, I’d probably be right there with it all along.
Bugeaters is a nice history for those obsessed with University of Nebraska football, and entertaining and educational for sports fans otherwise. I learned far more about the early history of football, particularly collegiate football, than I knew previously, and regardless of whether I can tell you the score of a Nebraska-Iowa game in 1896, those little historical tidbits are what will stick with me.
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