Honest and Exciting
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"There be some sports are painful, and their labor
Delight in them sets off. Some kinds of baseness
Are nobly undergone, and most poor matters
Point to rich ends." Shakespeare, The Tempest
Glory Road, the new film about Texas Western's astounding NCAA basketball championship in 1966 with the first all black starting lineup, goes beyond the usual "Coach Carter" nail biter about ghetto kids overcoming odds. It underscores the ignorance of the culture, embodied in the benign prejudice of U of Kentucky's legendary Adolph Rupp (Jon Voight), who publicly states in the film that five black starters could not beat five whites.
Well, they did and Josh Lucas as Coach Don Haskins, who had previously coached only girls' high school ball, showed that determination, beyond experience, just like the players themselves, was the key ingredient in a great team. As Lucas portrays him, he is a good man with a vision, who has to overcome the ill will of his own campus toward fielding a predominantly black team as well as the poverty of a program without even recruiting money.
Glory Road has no memorable lines; in fact, nothing the coach says here could have been reason for the success of the team, perhaps a deficiency in a work of art that tries to relay the truth of the excellence leading a little team to national championship. What the film does do better than most is show the cultural context as it affects the team and its individual members. Neither strident nor superficial, the film seems an honest and exciting "inspired-by-real-events" effort to depict an era filled with heroes.
The film joins other sports films depicting an unremarkable team's rise to greatness such as Remember the Titans, Miracle, Friday Night Lights, and, of course, Hoosiers. It stands proudly as the one most honest about the importance of blacks to modern sports.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com