Playmakers: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Genre Drama
Created by John Eisendrath
Written by Peter Egan
Original channel ESPN
Original run 02010-08-26 August 26 – November 11, 2003 (2003-11-11)
External links
Official website

Playmakers is a TV series that aired on ESPN. It depicted the lives of the players of the Toronto Cougars, a fictional professional football team. The show starred Omar Gooding, Marcello Thedford, Christopher Wiehl, Jason Matthew Smith, Russell Hornsby, and Tony Denison. The show, which ran eleven episodes from August 26, 2003 to November 11, 2003, was the first original drama series created by ESPN. Though it had a critically acclaimed cast, it was criticized for predictable and often sensationalist storylines, while simultaneously praised by publications such as TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. The show dealt with topics including drug abuse, steroids, domestic abuse, and homosexuality. The NFL was unhappy with the way the show portrayed professional football players (despite several players, most notably Deion Sanders, speaking out about the accuracy of the lifestyles portrayed), which prompted ESPN to cancel the show.



The show followed the lives of various members of an ensemble cast who portray the players and personnel on a fictional football team, the Toronto Cougars, in a fictional league (referred to in the series as "The League") during the regular season. Many of these segments are prefaced by an internal monologue in the format of a character narrating in his head.


Episode 1: Game Day

The Cougars are 2-3 and it's six hours to kick-off. Leon Taylor, back from injured reserve, plans to retake the running back throne from Demetrius Harris. "D.H." will not slow down for anyone. Eric Olczyk can't get over his hit that paralyzed a player and Coach George is depending on a psychiatrist to get Olczyk's head back in the game. Fresh from a night of partying, DH and his teammate Kelvin "Buffalo" James are late heading to the stadium. At game time, it's unclear who will take the field.

Episode 2: Piss Man

The league drug-testing official visits the Cougars in the second episode of Playmakers, and DH gets tipped off that he's on the list. Guard Dog tempts Leon with a way to get his mojo back. Olczyk continues to struggle with the ramifications of the devastating hit he made. Speaking of pain, quarterback Derek McConnell sucks down anti-inflammatories like candy. The team doctor is concerned about McConnell's health. It's all part of the effort to keep personal problems from interfering with the game. Guard Dog gets caught and DH goes through a terrible procedure, involving injecting clean urine into his own bladder, to not get caught.

Episode 3: Choice: Part 1

Two of the Cougars are tackling some big decisions. A man is shot outside a club, forcing DH to decide where his loyalties lie—with the team or with his posse. Meanwhile, Leon gets a chance to be traded to another team, but his wife Robin isn't sold on the idea of uprooting their lives. Their marriage begins to suffer.

Episode 4: Choice: Part 2

The Cougars' team owner Wilbanks pressures the young, star running back DH to change his statement about the shooting at the nightclub after new evidence surfaces. Meanwhile, linebacker Olczyk meets and pursues a romantic relationship with Beth who has surprise news about his father. Also, the rift grows between veteran running back Leon and his wife, Robin, after he refuses to get counseling.

Episode 5: Halftime

The Cougars have been ravaged in the first half. They are plagued with injuries. Coach George and the medical staff must patch up the pieces for the second half. Leon faces a potentially career-ending knee injury in which a player missed a block and resulting in Leon's injury. As Leon is awaiting the results from the x-ray on his knee he realizes that Robin spent the night at Eric's place. The argument escalates into Leon punching Eric in the face several times. The brash, young running back DH can't make it to the next half without getting high. The doctors assume that he is just dehydrated and when the doctor says that he has low blood sugar DH says "I'm no junkie." The doctors hook him up to an IV and tell him he will be good as new after he gets some fluids into him. However, DH knows that he is not dehydrated but in fact he is craving more crack, and says the "grip" is taking over. DH rips the IV out of his arm and calls his drug dealer demanding he brings him crack to the players lot. On the way from the locker room to the players lot DH starts throwing up and can not walk any farther. Eventually, Guerwitcz, a teammate, comes and finds him on the floor in his own vomit and DH asks him to go buy the crack for him. Guerwitcz agrees and then helps him smoke the crack moments before the second half is supposed to begin. After his craving has been fixed DH is ready to play again. Leon and Eric make amends after clarifying their earlier discussion. Guerwitcz gives Harris his Saint Christopher medal in an attempt to help him begin leaving his habit behind, and recites the Lord's Prayer before the team returns to the field.

Episode 6: Man in Motion

Coach George lectures the team about selling "the fake"; football is all about deception. Speaking of deception, DH's drug abuse comes to a head when Wilbanks sends him to detox. Viewers learn Guerwitcz's closely guarded secret. Samantha returns to dig up dirt about a domestic abuse rumor involving Leon. McConnell arranges a night out for the boys. And Olczyk's romantic interest in Beth resurfaces.

Episode 7: Talk Radio

Leon and Robin's decision to go public with their domestic abuse incident leads to legal problems for Leon and a possible suspension. Guerwitcz struggles to maintain a double life. DH must make a charity appearance to cheer up a terminally ill young boy. Coach George finally sees a doctor. McConnell treads on dangerous ground with Wilbanks' daughter.

Episode 8: Down & Distance

Olczyk prepares to face his nemesis, the league's star quarterback who routinely scrambles his way past linebackers to rushing touchdowns. Leon tries to resolve his legal issues to continue playing on the team. Coach George gets his test results while McConnell's romantic interlude comes back to haunt him. Guerwitcz struggles with whether to tell his teammates he is gay.

Episode 9: The Outing

Guerwitcz makes an attempt to dodge a rumor that one of the players is gay by asking August to marry him. But his partner David has had enough and outs him to the team, putting Guerwitcz's future with the Cougars in question. Meanwhile, tensions build between Olczyk and Leon over Olczyk's in-season contract negotiations.

Episode 10: Tenth of a Second

Leon learns that Wilbanks is not renewing his contract, so he puts himself through a combination of athletic drills to prove to Coach George that he's still got it. DH's reunion with his older brother, Big E (rapper Snoop Dogg), leads to trouble when Big E learns the truth about Cal's crime.

Episode 11: Week 17

Leon plans for retirement by auditioning for a sportscaster job. Buffalo's weight issues affect his chances of playing. Now that DH is back on top, how far can he flaunt his playmaker ways? After Olczyk invites Beth to move in, he must decide how to handle the surprise of Jenna's pregnancy.


Hidden Pasts: Each character has some skeletons in their closets, which leads to some interesting ways they portray the characters. For instance, throughout the show Leon Taylor is portrayed as a veteran and likeable protagonist, getting the audience to sympathize with him, while at the same time they portray DH in an antagonistic light. This is interesting because both have some major problems in their past, yet Leon's seem to almost overshadow DH's. As a teenager Leon beat up his step father so bad in retaliation the stepfather beating his mother that the man had cranial bleeding and had to go to the hospital. It's also revealed Leon has a daughter that Robyn doesn't know about, and throughout the show we see how Leon gets physical not only with Robyn when he pushes her, but with the Coach as he slams him up against the wall, DH when he punches him, and Olcyzk when he punches him too.

The fact that they all have a hidden past is universal, but Playmakers tries to focus on who they have become after all of it. Olcyzk has problems with his father and the death of his brother, DH grew up in a life of crime and lost both his parents, Guerrwitz is secretly homosexual and has to find ways to hide it, and Buffalo and McConnel both have kids out of wedlock whom they view as "arrangements".

Friendship: A huge theme in the show, there are many protagonists who have this unbreakable bond of friendship. Taylor and Olcyzk do for instance as well as DH and Buffalo. The show dramatically shows how two friends can go through so much, yet still come out on top.

Treatment of Women: This show portrays many women in an extremely negative light. Besides Robyn, who is shown to be a strong willed and dedicated woman, the majority of other women shown are strippers, prostitutes, or women looking only for the men with money. It's not only their portrayal that is negative, but how the football players view them. They are constantly making jokes about how easy it is, and when it comes to any kind of pregnancies the players already have legal actions planned because they view the women as golddiggers, who will have the child only to get their money.

Strength: Being a show about football, strength is something very important to these characters. Not only physical strength, but moral strength, and emotional strength. Each character has something on their shoulders that they have to fight with. Olcyzk paralyzed Corey in a dirty hit and is having real problems communicating with his father, McConnel has to constantly pop pills and get special treatment for all the damage his body is taking, Leon must overcome his own past and problems with Robyn and the team, DH struggles to fight "the grip" and decide if he should be loyal to his gangster friends, Guerrwitz must find a way to lie to his girlfriend to hide the fact he's gay and then show moral strength when shown the video tape of when he was buying drugs for DH, Coach dealing with his cancer, as well many other scenarios.

The show mentions a certain quote which holds true to this theme: "Adversity tests character". This theme is tested through and through in the show in every scenario, and each player finds a different answer to their problems.


  • The show was filmed in Toronto. The SkyDome stood in as the home of the Cougars and most game footage was shot there.
  • In one episode, Demetrius "D.H." Harris mentions that, given the choice between listening to Q-Tip or 50 Cent, he would choose Snoop Dogg. Snoop Dogg later guest starred in an episode as Harris' brother.
  • Before the show's cancellation, posted profiles of the fictional players, including statistics and names of actual universities the players "attended."
  • Throughout the show, sportstalk radio host Jim Rome can be heard commentating.
  • Blitz: The League was inspired by the show.[citation needed]
  • An odd irony is that ESPN has since licensed the "Playmakers" name to sporting goods manufacturer Baden for a line of low-cost youth athletic balls which are sold at retailers such as Walgreens.


  • In Canada, the show is broadcast on the Showcase network.
  • In Pakistan, the show is broadcast on Geo TV.
  • In the UK, the show was originally aired on FX.
  • In Denmark, the show was broadcast on the TV2 ZULU who owned the license to NFL in Denmark at the time.
  • In Australia, the show is televised on ESPN.
  • In Poland, the show is broadcast on AXN.
  • In Italy, the show is broadcast on FX.
  • In Israel, the show was broadcasted on 'yesWeekend' and syndicated on 'yesSTARS'.
  • In Romania, the show is broadcast on AXN.
  • In Brazil, the show was broadcast on Fox
  • In Mexico, the show is broadcast on FX.
  • In Portugal, the show is broadcasted by FX


  • Won AFI TV Award, Top TV Series (2003)
  • Won GLAAD Media Award, Outstanding Drama Series (2004)
  • Nominated CSC Award, Best Cinematography in TV Series (2004)
  • Nominated DGC Craft Award, Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing - Television Series (2004)


The only season of Playmakers was released on DVD by ESPN Home Video in 2004.

External links

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