Third Thursday Throwback – ‘Breakfast with Scot’ is a sweet queer family comedy about hockey and healing your inner child

Our June Third Thursday Throwback is a Pride edition, and Breakfast With Scot is a 2007 romantic comedy slash family drama slash sports movie that is all too often overlooked when people are discussing older queer films with happy endings.

Third Thursday Throwback is a monthly feature that grants our team an escape from the current pop culture news cycle and sees us reviewing a property from the past. It may be a popular older title or a completely obscure one, and it might be a report of a writer’s late-to-the-table first-time experience with an older work, or a reflection on one of their tried and true favorites that still holds up. It could be a movie, TV show, book or even an album, but on the third Thursday of each month, you can expect to see at least one review here that will cover something that one of our writers thought was worth revisiting. This month, we’re remembering an adorable queer sports movie called Breakfast with Scot, and if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve got to check it out for Pride Month.

Released in September 2007, Breakfast with Scot is adapted from Michael Downing’s 1999 novel by screenwriter Sean Reycraft and directed by Laurie Lynd. The film stars The Flash fan favorite Tom Cavanagh as Eric McNally, a retired NHL star turned television sportscaster who lives with his sports-lawyer partner Sam (Ben Shenkman, Emmy and Golden Globe nominee for Angels in America) When Sam unexpectedly becomes the legal guardian of his brother’s pre-teen stepson Scot (Noah Bernett) their lives as a quiet couple are turned upside down.

So the first thing you need to know is that I don’t care about hockey, not really, mainly because I don’t like sports in general. (Please don’t look at my search history. The amount of time I’ve spent reading about Premier League football recently doesn’t mean anything. I don’t like sports, not one bit). But if I had to pick a team to root for, it would be the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I don’t know if they’re controversial. I don’t know if they’re any good. All I know is that in 2006, the Toronto Maple Leafs made headlines when they approved the use of the team’s logo and uniforms for use in this movie. The official NHL branding was cleared to be used as well, and this was the first queer-themed movie to ever be allowed this by a professional sports league. These days, this probably wouldn’t be a big deal, but back then, the film got a lot of online abuse and the Leafs were targeted for this move by some right-wing US groups, so props to the Leafs for being so onboard in supporting a story about a gay former Leafs player.

Anyway, I don’t like sports (I mean it!) but I do love sports movies, and I love queer films and so a film about a queer hockey player and his lawyer partner accidentally ending up with a kid? Sign me up.

(A quick sidebar: I should point out that another sports movie aficionado friend of mine protested that Breakfast with Scot didn’t have enough actual sports scenes in it to count as a sports movie, and it was, in fact, more of a Christmas film. But it had enough hockey for me, thank you very much.)

I first came across Breakfast with Scot when I was scrolling through Tumblr about five years ago. It was on a post collating feel-good queer films where the LGBTQ+ element of the story wasn’t about some big trauma, and that was instantly appealing to me. Because I am queer, and I want to see myself represented in media, and those stories that show our past and the adversity and what we’ve faced are important, yes, but sometimes I want to watch stories that resonate with me that aren’t all about the struggle part of it, where people are gay and that’s just one element of their life. I discovered a lot of fun, heartwarming, easy-going queer stories thanks to that list, but this one has stuck as my favorite. More movies like that exist now — more exist every year, every month really, especially since the growth of streaming. There are even shitty gay Hallmark Christmas movies now, just like the straights have in their thousands! But for 2007, Breakfast with Scot stands out, and I still don’t think it comes up enough in conversation when movies of this oeuvre are being discussed.

Another semi sidebar: I recently discovered that director Laurie Lynd shot a bunch of later episodes of Schitt’s Creek, including the sensitive and emotional episode “Rock On!” where David encourages Patrick to go on a date with another man, and the joyful and long-awaited episode “The Hike,” where Patrick eventually proposes. This connection makes a lot of sense to me, as one of the things I love most about Schitt’s Creek is the way it handled queer stories. The fact that Schitt’s tells the story of Patrick and David as all about their actual love, and not about combating others hate — even when Patrick is having internal difficulty expressing his own queerness — makes it one of the most joyful and lovely relationships to watch come about on TV, and there’s something similar, if slightly less advanced, at play in Breakfast with Scot. I can see why Lynd was invited to be a part of that award-winning show for such crucial and complicated episodes.

Scot, who’s about eleven or twelve, comes to live with Eric and Sam after his mother dies. Sam’s brother Billy is actually supposed to be his guardian, but Billy is out of the country being an unreliable flake. You get the impression pretty quickly that ‘unreliable flake’ has always been Billy’s main role in Sam’s life, and once again Sam has been left to pick up the pieces Billy has left behind — in this case Scot.

The kid is grieving and slightly traumatised — that’s the saddest part of Breakfast with Scot, the circumstances that bring him into the care of Ben’s family. Scot has been told by everyone around him that his mother was killed in a car accident, but the reality is her death was drug related. Eric and Sam later overhear Scot telling the neighbour’s son, Ryan, that he knew how his mother really died, and he knows what he’s been told is a lie.

Scot is, to say the least, not what Eric and Sam expect. Before he arrives, Eric is not keen on the prospect of an impending teenager. He’s concerned about their house being trashed and Scot deflowering (his word choice, not mine) girls in their bed. That’s not the case. Scot smells of gardenia hand cream, he wears his mother’s charm bracelet, he sings Christmas songs loudly to stop feeling sad and, to Eric’s horror, he doesn’t know who Wayne Gretsky is, because he doesn’t watch sports, he watches musicals.

Eric just cannot relate to this camp, effeminate little boy. Eric is gay, yes, but he’s only gay in the sense that he sucks dicks on the regular. Well I assume just the one dick, Sam’s, and you don’t ever see that on the screen. (This is an extremely family friendly film, you can definitely watch it with children Scot’s age or younger.) Anyway. I hesitate to call it internalized homophobia, but it’s borderline, maybe. Eric accepts his own sexuality, but he is not into any of the identity politics or the stereotypes or the culture. He is not someone who wants to fly the flag for queer representation in the sports world — he isn’t even out at work. Surrounded by other sports fans and journalists who only know him as the tough ex-NHL player who earned a reputation for fighting during his career, he’s living a double life, and he’s scared that Scot, who Eric, naturally suspects may in fact be gay himself, could end up outing him.

Eric begins to try and quash and restrict of Scot’s queer-seeming flamboyant ‘markers,’ you know, the kind of things that certain people have historically always freaked out about witnessing in their young boys, and steering him towards other behaviours and interests. Interestingly, the film never actually confirms whether Scot does identify as queer — a lot of assumptions are made, but Scot doesn’t ever say whether he is or isn’t. And this lack of distinction is at the heart of the film’s message.

Whether or not Scot is gay doesn’t matter. What matters is that Scot had formerly felt free in his sense of self, free to enjoy himself and express himself without restraint or shame — kudos to his dead mother, I assume — but now, due to being told it’s not okay anymore, due to wanting to fit in, wanting the kids at school to like him, and wanting Eric to like him, Scot changes how he dresses, how he acts, and what he’s interested in. He begins to perform the role that’s expected of him.

It all comes to a head when Scot, who has taken up hockey in order to get Eric to approve of him, drops his gloves during a game to beat up the very sweet Joey Morita, Scot’s first friend at his new school, who he’s cast aside in order to seem cool. Sam is furious at Eric for teaching Scot how to fight, and wants to take the boy home. Before they leave, Eric is hit with a double whammy of revelations that make him realize just how much he’s fucked up. First, Scot shouts through his tears that he doesn’t even like hockey, and that he only played it because he wants Eric to like him. And second, when Eric tries to force Scot back inside to apologise to Joey, Sam reminds Eric that he isn’t actually Scot’s dad. Sam and Scot drive off leaving Eric staring into space, faced with the realisation that he might not be Scot’s parent, but that he sure as hell wants to be.

There was clearly a world of baggage at play for Eric as he coached Scot into rejecting the things that might make him stand out, and instead tried to mould him into being the kind of tough little guy who won’t get picked on. Eric was trying to show Scot how to survive, the way he’d had to survive, in order to get ahead in life. After properly examining what he’s been doing to a very impressionable child, he has to also examine himself and his own past, and consider all the compromises he himself has made in order to be accepted, and the rest of the film shows Eric trying to undo the damage he’s done.

Eric and Ben are shown as quietly out as a couple to friends, family and neighbours, but Eric, as I mentioned, was not out as a public figure and hockey celebrity. So he comes out to his colleagues, and it turns out they don’t care that he’s gay — in fact, they already know! Sure, he has been getting shit from his boss recently, but that’s nothing to do with his sexuality – it’s because he’s so concerned with his personal drama that he’s forgotten to watch the sports he’s supposed to talk about on TV.

When Sam’s useless brother Billy shows up to take Scot back to Brazil with him, Eric insists on throwing Scot a proper goodbye party, so he knows that he’s loved. He invites Joey Morita to the party so Scot and he can properly make up. And when Scot starts to back down from plans to perform a Christmas medley for the guests because he doesn’t want Billy to think he’s a sissy, Eric corrects one of the worst things he did in his attempt to protect Scot — and himself — from the ridicule and bullying he thought they’d get. He goes to his room and takes down the toolbox filled with the makeup and jewellery he’d confiscated and put away for Scot’s own good.

And then when Billy introduces a woman, a “new mother” for Scot — which goes down about as well as you might expect — Eric steps up again. Scot is hurt by the fact that Billy hasn’t even noticed how much he’d changed and grown, and when he says as much and is met with silence from Billy, Eric walks up the stairs and gives what would be an emotional speech from anyone, but especially from this character, who has done his best to shy away from his emotions for most of his life.

“I would. Cause you’re gonna grow a lot. You’re gonna get taller, and your voice is gonna change and your face is gonna change. It’ll all be amazingly different. But it’ll all happen so slowly you won’t even notice. But I’d notice. I’d notice you. Every day I’d notice you.”

Watching Breakfast with Scot, I just feel safe and calm the whole way through. Which might not be appealing to some in terms of what they want from movies, but God, the constant need for stress and and high pressure situations in all media at the moment is too much for me, and the fact that this film was made in 2007 feels important. Because at that point, gay romcoms, or rather, gay family films, were few and far between. This was still the middle of the era where most high profile queer films had to be sad or melodramatic, where being gay was something that had to be kept secret for fear of harm. But outside of the workplace and Eric’s specific hangups, that’s just not the case. Every time someone finds out about Eric, he braces for a backlash that never comes.

There is also no romantic drama. Eric and Sam fit so well together. Their lives are so entwined and stable and full of love, and you never get the sense that Eric and Sam will be any less in love with each other by the end of the movie, even when they fight. Yes, Scot has some clashes with the somewhat violent neighbour’s kid at the start, but even he ends up being charmed by Scot at the close. And while the fear of being outed hangs over Eric because of his past experiences in the hockey world, the tone of Breakfast with Scot assures you that this fear is limited to his point of view. As a viewer? You kind of know that when it does come out, it’ll be just fine.

The movie begins with Eric trying to change Scot, to prevent him from being bullied, and Eric from being outed. But it ends with the message that caring for Scot teaches Eric how to accept himself, how to accept his sexuality and his own truth and right to exist in a way he hadn’t until now, despite his happy private life with Sam. And that’s what makes Breakfast with Scot different, for me, from a lot of coming out stories, especially coming out in sport. Eric isn’t really coming out for himself — though I have to imagine it makes things better for him. He isn’t even coming out for his partner, risking it all to be able to tell the world about his romantic love story.

He’s doing it for Scot, a child who at the beginning of the film he didn’t want around, but now he can’t imagine life without. Because whether Scot turns out to actually be queer, or just really enjoys a feather boa and a bold lip, he doesn’t want Scot to hate himself, or to hide himself the way Eric has felt he’s had to for so much of his life. He wants to make sure his new child is seen and heard for who he is, and for that, he has to lead by example.

There are a lot of elements of this film that probably wouldn’t be presented the same way today, fifteen years later: it relies on maybe a few too many queer stereotypes to get its point across and Eric’s attempts to make sure he isn’t outed, or that Scot isn’t beaten up at school can be uncomfortable to watch at times, but as the film progresses and you watch Eric’s journey as he goes from outright hostility to having a kid in his life, to grudging fondness, to publicly announcing to his co-workers that he’s gay, to telling Scot how much he loves him on the staircase in front of their extended family it’s impossible not to be charmed.

Breakfast with Scot is available to buy or rent on Apple, Amazon, YouTube or Google Play. Use JustWatch to find Breakfast with Scot in your region.