Was football controversial in 1979? No. It was considered pretty innocent stuff, albeit, as North Dallas Forty demonstrates, it brought plenty of pain to athletic bodies no longer young.
This is convincingly depicted (by Nick Nolte and director Ted Kotcheff), but NDF presents a problem. It is the most cynical sports movie I’ve ever seen, as well as annoyingly coarse. For a long time I thought it was insulting to women, but not really. It’s harder on men than on women, and is, in point of fact, insulting to Christians: Art the quarterback (Marshall Colt) in particular. Partly comedic, it is well directed but unwell in spirit. Its mild nudity is not gratuitous but it seems to be, because the movie itself is gratuitous.