EXCLUSIVE: Skydance and Berlanti Schechter Productions won a movie auction and acquired an unpublished article by Flinder Boyd about The Sting. It has all the makings of a Rocky-esque story set in the world of women’s soccer, long before the U.S. team came to Olympic and World Cup dominance.
Never heard of them? They have been largely forgotten. In 1984 President Reagan made a concerted effort to open relations with China. China in turn invited America to send its U.S. Women’s Soccer Team to the first world championship they were holding for women’s soccer. There was only one problem – there was no U.S. Women’s Soccer Team. A nation-wide search led officials to a 19-and-under league of Dallas high school girls who called themselves The Sting, after the recent Robert Redford-Paul Newman hit movie. Led by coach Bill Kinder — who had no prior experience coaching soccer before he formed the team — the story of how this passionate group of young women got to China was miraculous. And what they did against the world’s top women’s teams from China, Australia and Italy — comprised of grown women who played together for years — was nothing short of a miracle.
Boyd, a former basketball player turned sports writer, had his reps at Hotchkiss Daily & Associates circulate the 17-page article before he placed it with one of the many magazines he writes for. They will now find an outlet to publish the story and filmmakers are already being courted to tell an exceptional female sport empowerment tale.
Skydance’s Don Granger and Dana Goldberg, and Berlanti Productions’ Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter and Robbie Rogers, ran the ball on this one and acquired the material in a package that includes life rights to Sting coach Bill Kinder. In order to form the team nearly 40 years ago, Kinder had to get a note from a gynecologist asserting that playing soccer would not harm a woman’s reproductive organs. Texas parents who envisioned their daughters waving pom poms at halftime soon became the cheerleaders for this eclectic mix of girls who were drilled to precision by a Lombardi-like coach, and became a local powerhouse. They then overcame bureaucracy to be chosen to make the trip, and rose to the occasion despite being underdogs against dominant international teams in China. All this led by a coach who so believed in The Sting that he charged $85,000 on his credit cards for non-refundable tickets to ensure the team got to China where many expected they would lose badly. Cue the Rocky theme music.
“The story shows how women have been and still are treated poorly around the world in sports compared to their male counterparts,” Schechter said. “To see what The Sting did with little support and no money, intertwined with how these very different young girls meshed for the love of the sport and country, is something beautiful that deserves not to be lost to history,” Schechter said. “We flipped for it.”
Rogers, who is Berlanti’s husband, played wing and left back both for the US Men’s Team national team and was a solid player in the pro circuit in Europe. While the disparity between funding for the less successful men’s teams in America versus the dominant women’s teams has long been a point of contention, Rogers knows much about the alienation faced by The Sting players when many in Texas objected to girls even playing soccer. When he retired from European soccer, Rogers became the second pro soccer player to come out as gay, long after Justin Fashanu had become the first, at a time Rogers hid his sexuality for fear it would ruin his career.
“I was playing in England and there was this BBC article about Justin Fashanu,” Rogers recalled. “I was closeted and listened as my teammates talked about how disgusting it was, how gay players should take showers with women. It was a time when you heard a lot of racist, sexist and homophobic things. When I made the decision to free myself, most of those same people I’d heard homophobic things from were so supportive. They called and apologized if they’d offended me, said that it wasn’t what was really in their hearts. I grew up in that environment, and there is a long history of telling our daughters, and women, here is how you have to behave, and that you have to be softer. Perpetuating these stereotypes is ridiculous, as is this pressure we place on women and men instead of allowing them to be just who they are. That’s why I responded so strongly to The Sting.”
Hotchkiss, Daily & Associates made the deal without a co-agent.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.