Judd Apatow Explains The Roger Staubach Mistake In ‘The King Of Staten Island’

So I had to go and put my big boy reporting pants on this weekend.

As a columnist and talk show host, doing hard “reporting” isn’t always a priority for me. My job typically requires more opining than reporting, but every now and then a story is so important that I have no choice but to think back to Miss Cawthorne’s Journalism I class from 11th grade at Perry Hall High School and get answers to the questions that require them.

The major story I had to get to the bottom of this weekend? Why on earth would the new movie “The King Of Staten Island” suggest that Roger Staubach had played football at Army instead of Navy?

Background: “The King of Staten Island” is a new movie written, directed and produced by comedy legend Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” “Pineapple Express” … honestly if there was a funny movie in the last 20 years he was probably involved). It stars Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Steve Buscemi, Bill Burr and more. It was released June 12 on demand because the COVID-19 crisis prevented it from making it to theaters. It’s a major film – No. 1 on Amazon and iTunes for the weekend and would have certainly made a lot of money in theaters in a “normal” world this past weekend.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, I promise you that nothing I share here would be considered a “spoiler.”

In one particular scene, Davidson’s character (Scott, a bit of a deadbeat who has struggled with addiction, mental health and Crohn’s disease since his father’s death when he was a child) is informed by his mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) and her new boyfriend Ray (Bill Burr) that he needs to get a job and move out of her house. The dialogue goes like this:

Margie: “It’s just you’re 24 years old now.”
Ray: “You’re 24. I mean, [Michael] Phelps had a fistful of gold medals by 24.”
Scott: “Why are you talking?”
Ray: “I’m just giving you some perspective, that’s all. You know, Wayne Gretzky had like 96 goals when he was 24.”
Scott: “What?”
Ray: “Roger Staubach graduated West Point, won the Heisman Trophy, fought in the Vietnam War and then joined the Cowboys by the time he was 24.”
Scott: “I don’t know who that is. Who gives a f***?”

Quick fact checks: the Towson High School alum had 14 gold medals by the age of 24, Gretzky had significantly more than 96 goals even before he was 24 and “Roger the Dodger” indeed had won the Heisman Trophy and served a tour of duty in Vietnam before his 25th birthday.

But he sure as hell didn’t go to West Point.

Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) and Ray Bishop (Bill Burr) in "The King of Staten Island," directed by Judd Apatow.
Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) and Ray Bishop (Bill Burr) in “The King of Staten Island,” directed by Judd Apatow. (Photo credit: Mary Cybulski / Universal Pictures)

The Ray character in the film is not portrayed as being particularly intelligent in a traditional sense, but this particular faux pas both went uncorrected and just so happened to be the only factual mistake he made while discussing sports (although we would later learn he had a penchant for betting on the Jets, which certainly seems foolish).

So on June 13, I took to Twitter to both offer my overall approval of the film and then to publicly (and humorously via a play on a legendary Key & Peele skit) denounce the Staubach error. (While I was intentionally humorous, I also have significant admiration for Navy football and couldn’t believe such a mistake would be needlessly made in a major motion picture.)

That caught the attention of Apatow, who took the time to explain to me (and perhaps any other nerds who were bothered by it) that the mistake was purposeful as the Ray character is a “blowhard know it all who doesn’t know quite as much as he thinks.”

Fair enough. As a natural skeptic I couldn’t help but wonder, but I was willing to let it go. A number of fanboys, however, decided to put me in their social media crosshairs, leading me to eventually ponder whether the mistake, left uncorrected, really helped advance the character considering the majority of the film’s viewers are unlikely to be particularly versed in Academy football.

And then it happened. Judd Apatow admitted to the world that I, Glenn Clark, know better about movie-making than the great Judd Apatow.

Well, not exactly … but kinda. He said I was correct but that the minor mistake almost became a sort of easter egg — a “secret joke” just for me!

So there you have it. Judd Apatow dedicated a line in a movie to me and we’re best friends now and yes, I just used my weekly column space to brag about it. Well … actually I get the sense he probably thinks I’m a bit insufferable, and he wouldn’t answer my repeated questions about why Paul Rudd’s character in “Knocked Up” was wearing Orioles gear during the fantasy draft scene.

But no matter why such a mistake occurred, he proved to be a good guy by retweeting a request for donations to benefit PressBox Sportsperson of the Year Mo Gaba, who has taken another difficult turn medically in recent days.

And honestly, it’s a good flick that’s worth watching. But if you’re a Navy football fan, just be prepared to seethe.

As I sat back and thought about this (yes, I know, completely innocuous) movie reference about a local sports icon — technically two since it also involved Phelps — it made me think more about strange pop culture references to Baltimore sports. I’ve done a piece before about Baltimore athletes crossing into Hollywood for cameos (or more), but sometimes the references to Baltimore sports come in much smaller forms and yet still captivate local fans.

I wrap this column by sharing some. Some of them are among my favorites, others were suggested by fans. Again, this list is not cameo appearances. Just references:

  • Brooks Robinson of course was a central part of the “Sleepless in Seattle” story
  • The Simpsons offered a hilarious take on Johnny Unitas’ haircut
  • Unitas (and the 1958 NFL championship game) were central to the second-ever episode of “Pete and Pete” on Nickelodeon
  • An absolutely bizarre (and totally NSFW, I’m not kidding you guys) Gus Triandos scenario from “The Wire”
  • Miguel Tejada managed to injure Drew Barrymore’s character with a foul ball in “Fever Pitch”
  • Of course, the legendary football quiz from “Diner” included references to Alan Ameche among others
  • Boog Powell was set down by Sam Malone twice on “Cheers” and ironically was referenced by Burr on “F Is For Family”
  • No one can forget Elaine refusing to take off her Orioles hat in “Seinfeld”
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ relationship with Baltimore sports continued as Ray Rice was one of a number of local athletes to be referenced on “VEEP”
  • In “Bull Durham,” Annie Savoy knew just how bad the Frank Robinson-Milt Pappas trade turned out for the Reds
  • Jenna Maroney suggested she had a relationship with Ray Lewis on “30 Rock”
  • We included the “Wedding Crashers” scene with a Jay Gibbons home run airing in the background during our cameos story. We accidentally left off Randy Milligan’s late-game heroics being a part of “A Few Good Men”
  • As referenced in “Back To The Future II,” Maryland really did beat Clemson in 1955
  • On “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Lt. Peralta attempted to pass off him and Captain Holt as the Ripken brothers
  • Speaking of which, the gang from “Celtic Pride” was also willing to kidnap Cal Ripken if necessary
  • NCIS’ Jimmy Palmer was named for Jim Palmer
  • Thanks to Edgar Allan Poe, the Ravens were name checked in the movie “Finding Forrester”
  • Overton needed help coping with the Browns’ move to Baltimore on “Living Single”
  • Sadly, the 1969 World Series pops up in the films “Frequency” and “Men In Black 3”
  • There was a reference to Dennis Martinez in the 1983 film “Under Fire”

Photo credit: Kevin Mazur / Universal Pictures

Glenn Clark

See all posts by Glenn Clark. Follow Glenn Clark on Twitter at @glennclarkradio