We Are: The Brooklyn Saints

TV review by
Ashley Moulton, Common Sense Media
We Are: The Brooklyn Saints TV Poster Image
Football docu has role models, language, intense moments.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Series emphasizes the importance of hard work, focus, perseverance, and supporting each other.

Positive Role Models

Characters make a lot of good choices, and work to fix their mistakes when they make poor choices. Adult coaches model positive behavior for kids. All characters are Black and brown boys and men and they talk about the role of race and class in their lives. They show a lot of sensitivity and freely express emotions, counter to masculine football stereotypes.

Violence

Moderate amount of scariness -- one kid's father is arrested on screen and it's unclear how long they'll be separated. The head coach talks about the death of his child. Kids suffer football injuries and are in pain. Mild football-related physical aggression, some arguing between teammates in tense parts of football games.

Sex
Language

Infrequent use of words like "hell," "damn," and "s--t." Some football-related negative language like "let's go spank their behinds," and coaches using the metaphor of wanting body bags.

Consumerism

Since this is a real-life documentary, there are tons of logos throughout (many for sports-related brands). Brands are not talked about in a materialistic way.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults infrequently smoke cigarettes on screen.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that We Are: The Brooklyn Saints is a documentary series about a youth football program in New York City. The inspirational characters model a lot of positive behavior, but some more mature content makes the series most suitable for older tweens and teens. There's infrequent use of words like "hell," "damn," and "s--t," and infrequent but visible cigarette smoking by adults. There's a moderate amount of scariness in various scenes, including the onscreen arrest of one kid's father and uncertainty around how long they'll be separated. The head coach talks about the death of his child. Kids suffer football injuries and are visibly in pain. There's mild football-related physical aggression and some arguing between teammates in tense parts of football games. There are a lot of logos present since this is a sports-related documentary, but they're not presented in a materialistic way.

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What's the story?

We Are: The Brooklyn Saints is a four-part documentary series from Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment (On Pointe, Dads). It follows one season of the Brooklyn Saints, a youth football program in East New York, Brooklyn. The dual storyline focuses on both the team's quest to make it to the national championship tournament and the players' lives off the field. Inspirational head coach Gawuala and his coaching staff make it clear that their goal is to use football as a means to help their players become good humans. A few kids' stories are highlighted: there's standout quarterback Dalontai "D-Lo" who carries the 9U team on his back, 13U team captain Kenan who excels at football and robotics, and goofball Aiden and his devoted dad. Throughout the season, the players and coaches overcome obstacles on and off the field, and learn what it means to be a team in pursuit of a common goal.

Is it any good?

This compelling series captures a slice of humanity and social commentary through the lens of football. While there are lots of big plays and dramatic games, the heart of this documentary is its themes of race, class, and perseverance. The players and their families live in a New York City neighborhood known for gang violence and economic hardship. What makes the series so compelling is the multi-faceted portrait it paints of the lead characters and where they live. East New York isn't depicted as downtrodden and depressing, but instead a place with resilient people who care about their community. Black and brown males from inner-city neighborhoods often are portrayed stereotypically in media, but these characters get to show the full range of their humanity. There's lots of scenes of the kids just being kids- being joyful and having fun playing football. The players have other interests besides football- one star quarterback loves competing in robotics competitions, and another plays piano. All of the kids have fiercely devoted parents who make a lot of sacrifices so they can play football. Not everyone's perfect, which makes them feel so real and relatable. The adult coaches talk openly about how they've had to overcome adversity due to a lack of opportunity growing up. It's clear that the main motivation of the coaches is to help their players not repeat their same mistakes and to give them a chance at a better life. 

Coach Gawaula is an incredible role model for both the kids on his team and viewers at home (kids and parents alike). In his loud moments he is the nonstop cheerleader full of motivational catchphrases, but in his quiet moments it's clear how much he has invested in the success of his players. He is extraordinarily gifted in validating kids' emotions and making sure they feel loved, which is even more remarkable within the hyper-masculine world of football. He shows up in a big way for these kids, even when it becomes clear he's dealing with hardship in his own life. Coach Gawaula's Brooklyn Saints exemplify the importance of sports in many kids' lives: teaching the value of discipline, teamwork, and learning how to win and lose.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Coach Gawuala shows so much compassion for his players that he says he thinks of them like his own kids. Are there any coaches or other adult mentors in your life that care about you? What have you learned from them? (And have you ever told them how much you appreciate them?)

  • How are Coach Gawuala and the other Saints coaches effective communicators? How do they get their players motivated to do well in football? How do they explain what their players need to do to succeed off the field? How do they talk about emotions?

  • What were all the times the kids on the Saints practiced teamwork? Why was it sometimes hard for the team captains to let their teammates help?

  • When did the kids and coaches show perseverance? When did they keep pushing, even though they had injuries or other setbacks?

TV details

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