Did Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan once dream of playing basketball like Michael Jordan?
Or is he just a really good sport?
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On Wednesday night, the season premiere of ABC’s Schooled, a 1990s-set spin-off of The Goldbergs that was cocreated by Jenkintown’s Adam F. Goldberg, featured a story line about Coach Rick Mellor (Bryan Callen) trying to teach teamwork to a star basketball player named Matty (Hunter Doohan), who wants to “be like Mike," and thinks he can win on his own.
Matty’s resistant to Mellor’s methods, and at one point quits the team at the show’s “William Penn Academy,” threatening to transfer to Germantown Academy, only to be brought around after an insane one-on-one game with Mellor. At the end of the episode, Mellor tells him the football team could use an arm like his, and that he has “a hunch” about Ryan and football. Then the show cut to footage of “Mellor’s star player, Matt Ryan," followed by Callen’s interview with the real Mellor.
In real life, Ryan, like Goldberg, went to Penn Charter, where (unlike Goldberg, who also graduated nearly a decade earlier), he captained the football, basketball, and baseball teams in his senior year.
“Matt was a very talented athlete that always put his teammates and team first,” recalled his teacher and coach, Rick Mellor, in a statement released through one of the show’s publicists. “One thing that stood out about Matt, no matter what the sport, was his athletic aptitude. He just seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else during a game. He was also a student of the game who worked his butt off and improved his skills every year.”
Blending fact and fiction is nothing new for Goldberg, whose footage of his family and friends often pops at the end of episodes of The Goldbergs, along, occasionally, with the real-life inspirations for the show’s characters.
In Schooled, some of the characters are named after Goldberg’s former teachers, people he considers heroes. “For me, having crazy parents, my teachers were like the sane people who raised me,” he said in 2017.
Ryan’s not the first sports figure to lend his name to the world of Goldberg’s nostalgic shows. Former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., another Penn Charter grad, has appeared twice on The Goldbergs, playing his father, Ruben Amaro Sr., while Niko Guardado has played the younger Amaro as a recurring character on the show.
If you don’t see this kind of specificity on many TV shows, it’s probably because lawyers tend to frown on the practice. It’s why, Goldberg said in a 2014 interview, he couldn’t simply call the school in his show Penn Charter.
But having named the characters in the show for members of his family, "at a certain point I just had a phone call with [the studio] and I said, ‘Look, I’m going to be using real places, real names, so let’s just not worry about it, and we’ll get everyone to sign off.’ "