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Original Issue

Saints’ Days

A new series explores a football program’s effect on a community

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“To be a Saint you have to love everyone.” So says Aiden, one of the central players in the new Netflix documentary We Are: The Brooklyn Saints, which follows a youth football program in the East New York neighborhood of the borough through a season. The fly-on-the-wall look at young athletes from hardscrabble areas is hardly a novel concept, but what elevates this four-part series (apart from the excellent direction of Emmy winner Rudy Valdez) are the offhand moments of genuine sweetness. Whether it’s the teddy-bearish Aiden (54, above) boasting he was “raised for hell week” as the 9U team gets ready for its last week of practice before the opener, or a coach calming an upset player, or one teammate telling another to take out his mouth guard at the water fountain, the interactions show how the program has become a de facto extended family, not just for the kids, but for their parents as well. “They say it takes a village to raise a child,” one dad says. “The Brooklyn Saints is that village.” —Mark Bechtel