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  • In Football We Trust dir. by Tony Vainuku
  • Travis R. Bell
In Football We Trust (2015). Dir. Tony Vainuku. Prod. IFWT Productions and ITVS. 87 mins.

In cities and towns across the United States, high school football propagates as a respected form of identity and a perceived way out of given circumstances. Coaches and parents emphasize the camaraderie, leadership, and toughness instilled through the nation's most popular sport. In Football We Trust explores these tropes across three high schools and four football players with college and NFL aspirations, in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, the hook for the documentary is that all four athletes are Polynesian, and it situates Utah as the "center of this Polynesian pipeline" to the NFL. The film's opening graphic indicates that Polynesians are "28 times more likely to play in the NFL than other ethnic groups." The film explores this journey through the contexts of drugs, violence, religion, poverty, and family that shape and impact how the players navigate their respective voyages.

The story centers on the senior seasons for linebacker Leva Bloomfield and fullback Vita Bloomfield at Hunter High School, defensive lineman Fihi Kaufusi at Highland High School, and running back Harvey Langi at Bingham High School. The focus is mostly on their athletic potential. As Leva admits, "I'm not really a student-athlete. I think of myself as an athletic student." This attention to athletics is situated against the backdrop of successful Polynesians who made it to the NFL. The documentary includes interviews with NFL first-round draft picks Haloti Ngata, Star Lotulelei, and Troy Polamalu as well as eight-year veteran Vai Sikahema, who warns that "the thing that's difficult for the kids that are growing up is that their parents expect them to play in the NFL at the cost of anything else." The story involves a constant tension among families with the concern of gang involvement that has led each family to deal with incarceration from drugs and violence. Polamalu links gangs and football through violence to the camaraderie within the Polynesian culture.

Langi has the best potential to follow the pipeline, and viewers receive an inside look at the Division I recruiting process. One of nine siblings, Langi was a high school All-American but lost the majority of his college scholarship offers after a suspension for smoking marijuana. His family reinforces that this misstep cost him over a quarter-million dollars in potential scholarship money and reinforces the myth of football or bust. Langi's father, Sam, says, "The salvation for the Langi family is Harvey, and all hope right now is for Harvey," who returns to help his team win consecutive state titles before signing with the University of Utah. He transferred to Brigham Young and switched to linebacker after his two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that followed his freshman season at Utah.

Kaufusi is portrayed as a team leader who yells in a huddle "Make your own history," which sets up an ironic personal outcome. He suffered a knee injury during the playoffs and watched as his team won a state championship. Like Langi, Kaufusi left for his mission trip. Following his return, the film identifies that he was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. [End Page 240] Following a brief playing career at Weber State, he quit playing football; following the film's release, he was sentenced to 270 days in jail.

The Bloomfield brothers followed their father's lead into football (Fua Bloomfield played at Brigham Young University) and off-the-field trouble (Fua organized the first Polynesian gang in Utah). Leva is the better football player but also the more troubled. The story unfolds after Leva is arrested for bringing a gun to school. He is subsequently expelled and spends fifteen months in a juvenile detention center. Vita was kicked out of school for covering for his brother. Both eventually graduated from different high schools, but football remained only a limited part of their lives.

As each story unfolds, In Football We Trust provides intimate access to the daily struggles and hopes that surround this teen quartet. The overarching religious...


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pp. 240-241
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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