In a society in which major league sporting events have replaced Sunday worship as the religion of choice, North Dallas Forty appears like a desecration at the altar. In this film, directed by Ted Kotcheff (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz), the National Football League is revealed to be more about the money than the game. Nick Nolte is North Dallas Bulls pass-catcher Phillip Elliott, whose cynicism and independent spirit is looked upon as troublesome by team coaches Johnson (Charles Durning) and Strothers (G.D. Spradlin) and team owner Conrad Hunter (Steve Forrest). Elliot, at the end of his career and wise to the way players are bought and sold like cattle, goes through the games pumped up on painkillers conveniently provided by the management. His teammates include savvy quarterback Maxwell (Mac Davis) and lunk-headed defensive lineman Jo Bob Priddy (Bo Svenson), who deal with the impersonality and back-biting of the game through off-field diversions. When the Bulls management benches Elliot after manipulating him to help train a fellow teammate, Elliot has to decide whether there is more to life than the game that he loves.