Bill Maher's Basketball Games, Jerry Bruckheimer's Hockey Club: Hollywood's Amateur Sports
This story first appeared in the Aug. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
"Don't hit the actors in the face; don't hurt the writers' fingers" is the No. 1 rule for an insiders-only flag football game run by TV writer Jason Gavin (Touch), one of many events around town in which the industry's weekend warriors quench their competitive thirst, do some networking and have a little fun.
Gavin's game was started about 10 years ago by writers and crew on the UPN animated comedy Game Over and continued after the short-lived show was canceled, later merging with a game played by improv actors including Keegan-Michael Key. The highlight of the players' year is a pre-Super Bowl tournament in a rented college stadium in Valencia, Calif., that has drawn assorted entertainment figures from Justified writers to names like Damon Lindelof. The competition is serious stuff: A few years ago, one team brought in a ringer from the Atlanta Falcons.
When it comes to hockey, two Hollywood players lead off-duty contests. CAA sports agent Pat Brisson established a weekly Monday night game 21 years ago that takes place at the Los Angeles Kings' practice facility in El Segundo. Regulars include Jerry Bruckheimer, Tom Bernard and 3 Arts partner Michael Rotenberg. "It's for fun, but still …" Brisson says about a game that's been known to include NHL pros in the off-season. Bruckheimer himself hosts a Sunday night game and an annual Las Vegas tournament. Those lucky enough to receive an invite to the "Bad Boys" club, including Cuba Gooding Jr. and producer Barry Josephson, get a hockey equipment bag with a logo themed each year to one of Bruckheimer's movies; this year's, the 19th, features Tonto's profile from The Lone Ranger. Many of Bruckheimer's and Brisson's players also participate in NHL Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille's charity game played during the Sundance Film Festival the past six years.
An even more time-honored tradition is the pickup basketball game. Bill Maher hosts a regular weekend game on the court at his Coldwater Canyon house. Before that, he played in Garry Shandling's long-standing Mandeville Canyon game with David Duchovny, among others. A recent Saturday found writers Wayne Federman and Eric Weinberg and singers Chris Reid (of Kid 'n Play fame) and Jaron Lowenstein (Evan and Jaron) trading jokes and jumpers at Maher's house. Others who have played include Sarah Silverman and Woody Harrelson. It's a pretty informal game. Maher has a list of friends he e-mails when he's in town, and "whoever's around shows up," he says. They're all good players, but he keeps things loose. "Anyone who took it too seriously would probably get kicked out," says Maher, adding that there are two requirements to take part: "If you don't have a jump shot or can't tell a joke, you're out."
Additional reporting by Jade Chang