As an answer to “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” the 1986 Cleveland Browns released this short fantasy film on home video. It co-stars Tiny Tim and a trained bear.
Masters of the Gridiron concerns a beautiful dream Browns center Mike Baab has after sustaining a massive head injury on the field—you know, the kind that causes permanent brain damage in people who play football. After losing consciousness, Baab awakes in an enchanted realm, transformed into a sword and sorcery hero, “the Baabarian,” who must confront Tiny Tim’s evil Lord of the League in the quest for a magic ring. Hometown heroes the Michael Stanley Band provide the soundtrack for the Browns’ LARP battles with the bear and some ninjas, filmed at the local landmark Squire’s Castle.
I’m sure this movie contains a lot of inside jokes for football fans; I don’t understand the rules of football, or why it is played, or how it is watched, though I have a vague sense that the Cleveland Browns must be all right, because Pere Ubu probably roots for them. I just like Masters of the Gridiron because it contains some of Tiny Tim’s best work. He is riveting as the Lord of the League, who issues his challenge in verse.
Talking to USA Today in 2013, Baab said Tiny didn’t work with bears:
He was terrified of the bear and would not come down from the top of the Squire’s Castle until the bear was back in his trailer. He thought the bear wanted to eat him.
If you watch nothing else, skip to Tiny’s first appearance at 7:18. Tell me it isn’t one of the best things you’ve ever seen.