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THERE’S A NEW SPORTS MOVIE OUT called ‘‘Underdogs.’’ It’s a low-budget high school football melodrama, shot in less than month in Canton, Ohio. The actor D.B. Sweeney plays the hard-ass coach who, as expected, turns the losing program around and, in the rebuilding process, gets to say things like, ‘‘If you look good, you feel good and you play good.’’

Singer Natalie Imbruglia plays a sympathetic bartender, real athletes play the high school guys, and Joe Namath gives the pep talk that puts everything over the top.

‘‘We didn’t have the budget for stunt doubles,’’ Sweeney says of the big hits in which it appears certain players really get labeled. ‘‘All those high school and college kids were just jacked up.’’

I guess I should mention that 22 years ago, Sweeney played me in Randy Fried’s movie of my book, Heaven Is a Playground. We’ve stayed in touch because D.B.’s a nice guy and because I’ve always thought it was hilarious to have had somebody play a real living person while that person was watching. Anyway, D.B. recently moved with his family from L.A. to Chicago to get into more stage acting, and he found ‘‘Underdogs’’ to be a kick to act in.

‘‘Who doesn’t want to play a coach?’’ he says. ‘‘To get to say all those things you always thought a coach should say?’’

This nearly completes his athletic film cycle, since he played a basketball player in ‘‘Heaven,’’ a hockey player in ‘‘The Cutting Edge’’ and Shoeless Joe Jackson in ‘‘Eight Men Out.’’ For that last role, he learned to bat left-handed, even though director John Sayles didn’t care.

‘‘Joe batted left-handed and threw right-handed, and I had to play him that way,’’ Sweeney says. ‘‘Had to.’’

A former baseball player at Tulane, Sweeney has the football connection, too.

‘‘I made my Broadway debut 29 years ago in ‘The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,’ and it was Namath’s debut, too,’’ he says. ‘‘We spent a lot of time together.’’

At any rate, the good guys win in ‘‘Underdogs.’’ And Sweeney might want to check out boxing, tennis or distance swimming before he retires.

Read the full article at the Chicago Sun-Times.

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