Sunday, February 18, 2001

TV movie dramatizes Bengal's tough childhood

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Call him the unknown Bengal. Back-up defensive back Sirr Parker, who played in only two games last season, will see his life story dramatized today.

        They Call Me Sirr (8 p.m. today, Showtime) shows how Mr. Parker, the son of a Los Angeles alcoholic single mother, literally raised his infant brother by himself. His mother would abandon the boys for weeks, forcing the Los Angeles teen to care for the preschooler.

        Still Mr. Parker managed to be a star high school running back, work a part-time job and maintain a 3.9 grade-point average while living in L.A.'s tough South Central area.

        “He had three or four excuses not to do anything,” says actor Kente Scott, who stars as Mr. Parker. (His unique first name was given to him by his mother, so he always would be addressed with respect.)

        Mr. Parker's cousins also were South Central gang members who would not let him become involved with the illegal activities. “I know the movie is not as harsh or realistic as it was in his life,” Mr. Scott says.

        The movie shows how his high school football coach (Michael Clarke Duncan from The Green Mile, The Whole Nine Yards) became his father figure. But the movie inaccurately portrays the coach as not knowing Mr. Parker was a surrogate father until his senior year; in fact his coach drove him to and from school every day for three years.

        Mr. Scott, who played a gang member on the ER that inspired the guns-for-toys exchange last Christmas, never has met Mr. Parker, a star Texas A&M running back signed by the Cincinnati Bengals last summer.

        The film was shot in Toronto last August while Mr. Parker was battling for a Bengals roster spot.

        “I still have never met him,” he says. The actor would frequently consult with Sirr writer-director Robert Munic, who had talked extensively with Mr. Parker through the years. He was particularly curious as to how Mr. Parker felt about his mother, who would drop in and out of his life during his teen years.

        “Your mother is the one person you want to believe in,” Mr. Scott says. “He kept giving her an opportunity to prove herself, and she kept disappointing him.”

        The film ends with Mr. Parker's game-winning overtime touchdown for Texas A&M over Kansas State University in the 1998 Big 12 Championship game.


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