Actor Kevin James says he knows what it's like to be stuck at a job – in his case, on a Hollywood set – and feel guilty that he can't be with his wife and children.
Thus, James sympathizes with his character in the new Netflix comedy film Home Team (TV-PG), which is based on the real-life story of NFL coach Sean Payton coaching his 12-year-old son's football team. The inspiring story took place in 2012, when Payton – then the coach of the New Orleans Saints – was suspended for one year from the league for the so-called bounty scandal.
Instead of sulking, Payton traveled to Texas to spend time with his son, who was living with Payton's ex-wife. Although Payton only wanted to sit in the stands and watch his son play, he eventually was recruited to help coach the team.
In the film, the son initially rejects his father's offer to reconnect, frustrated at the dad's lengthy absences from his life. Eventually, though, they reconcile.
"It inspired me," James (Paul Blart, Hotel Transylvania series) told Christian Headlines. "I went out and played with my kids just recently – and I'm still doing it actually with them."
James and his wife have four children. He is known as a devout Catholic.
"You don't get too much time with your kids, you know, [and] you can get lost in all that," James said of work. "So it's nice to be able to step back and go back and to be able to do things with them and continue to teach and be with them. You've got to cherish those times where you can spend with them and see them growing and help them.
"So that might have been forced upon him – Sean Payton – but he took advantage of it. And it helped him rediscover it."
James is a sports fan, having worn New York Jets clothes – that's his team – in episodes of The King of Queens. He calls himself a "big fan" of Payton, who recently retired as Saints coach.
"It's emotional for me to hear what he did for his son and his family," James said.
NFL players and coaches, James said, have told him the workload is "brutal on families."
"They're just so separated, and it just becomes part of life," James said. "But through the suspension, he was able to actually really take a step back and go see his kid and really kind of reconnect with what was super important to him. Obviously, it just fulfilled him so much that it became the greatest coaching season of his life."
James said he hopes viewers are inspired to strengthen family bonds around them – and perhaps even to reconnect if needed.
"The lesson would be to just take time, step back," James said. "... Always remember those around you and try to spend time with them. And remember what's most important."
Home Team is rated TV-PG for some language and suggestive dialogue.
Photo courtesy: ©Scott Yamano/Netflix, used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.