Bill Weimer is my brother-in-law and a retired US Navy Chaplain and Pastor. This is his Movie Review of
“WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL”
My Quick Comments:
“Highly Recommended – I loved it, maybe even better than the movie “Blind Side”!
“If you like sports… if you like life, go before it is no longer showing in the area.”
“It’s a true sports story with clear spiritual and biblical emphases!
If you don’t have a lot of time this week… THEN stop reading this article right now, speed-walk, run, drive, hitch-hike, or get a friend to take you and go with you to…. GO SEE THIS MOVIE! Critics were not high on this low-budget movie – it’s not an Oscar-winning, not a big budget production, not a shoot-‘em-up and violent action every 3 minutes, not a curse-word-filled flick, and not sexy gals and guys film. It is just human beings dealing with challenges in sports and life. Audiences loved it. I was spiritually up-lifted by it and it’s now in my Top Ten or maybe even Top Five – I’d be very interested in how your mind, your heart, and your spirit respond to this flick.
Victories versus Values
Yep, it’s football season again! College games, even top-notch ones between highly ranked teams, are beginning played – with a new “championship” format. Professional NFL games are about to start soon, leading to the Super Bowl. Some teams and/or individuals try to win at all cost: spying on opponents, playing injured players, injuring opponents, etc. Drugs have begun to enter the college scene. Players with off-field troubles and summer run-ins with local police are often allowed to continue playing on the team, possibly being held-out of a quarter when the team plays a weaker team! For example, “my college” – the U.F. Gators – while winning two SEC football titles and two national championships yet had at least 31 arrests involving 25 players, and now the former UF coach is at Ohio State where reports show 8 players arrested. Recently the LSU Head Coach let his players vote whether or not to reinstate one of the Tigers’ players who, convicted for carnal knowledge of a minor when he was a high school senior, violated his probation on that charge by being in a fight outside a Baton Rouge bar.
Compare those scenarios with a few other college head coaches. One suspended his merging star quarterback for the rest of their games as their season was ending – for being out drinking beer before a game. The substitute QB, under careful coaching and planning, won the final game: defeating Miami 17-12 on the road. Then that team, Alabama, defeated Ole Miss in the 1963 Sugar Bowl – without QB Joe Namath whom Head Coach Bear Bryant would not let play for the rest of that year’s season after the incident!
Greatest Winning High School Football Coach Ever
A high school football coach, whom few of us know, was similar – Northern California De La Salle High School coach John Ladouceur! Like the legendary basketball coach John Wooden who never screamed or hollered or focused on winning (only to win 88 college games in a row and 10 national championships in 12 years!), this teacher and coach at a Catholic high school never emphasized the win streak, which went to 151 games! In fact, he sought to de-emphasize it with reporters, fans, and his own players! His focus was on character, values, teamwork, love, and commitment that he worked so hard to build into teenage boys – even rejecting an offer to become the Head Coach at Stanford University. When their 151-game win streak ended, how would he and his players respond?!
A Few More Insights – If You Are Still Reading (and are not yet at the movie)
Compare some winning streaks by great college teams. Oklahoma Sooners: 47 straight (1953-1957). Old Division II – Grand Valley State Lakers: 40 games (2005-2007). And then Division III – Mount Union Purple Raiders: 55 (2000-2003). De La Salle won 151!
The Forbes website has an excellent “business-life” article on this movie – see Carmine Gallo’s“ The Coach Behind the Longest Winning Streak in Sports History” http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2014/08/19/the-coach-behind-the-longest-winning-streak-in-sports-history-shows-how-to-build-a-champion-business-team/
Coach Ladouceur and his team were neither magically gifted nor trouble-free: the coach had a heart attack and has to step away from the team, a top player is murdered, one player has family members die, and yet another player is constantly and vehemently pushed by his father for a state record! A powerful movie scene is when the win streak is snapped, the coach takes them to a unique place for a reality and motivational check!
The author of the book, on which this movie is based, Neil Hayes reflects, “I spent a year with ‘Coach Lad’ and I never heard him use the word win. De La Salle doesn’t win because of anything Bob Ladouceur does. They win because of who he is,” says Hayes.
Ladouceur explained. “Our kids aren’t fighting for wins. They’re fighting for a belief in what we stand for.” Hayes tells of a game halftime when his team played poorly, Coach Lad walked into the locker room and when his team “looked at their coach, begging for wisdom, his guidance.” Lad didn’t give them a traditional pep talk. Instead he said, “Why do I always have to be the problem solver? Group problem-solving is a skill you will use your whole life. Figure it out.” And with that the most successful high school football coach in history walked out – leaving the players to come up with their own solution.
You and me???…. What goals do you and I have for the rest of our lives, for this “season”, and for this month or week? – Are they written down for you (or someone else) to check? Are we waiting and looking for others – even a pastor or priest – to tell us what to do or how to grow spiritually, or are we stepping up and stepping out ourselves to ask, seek, and knock that we might go and grow forward? What are the core values and perspectives for everything you and I are doing? Is your faith, Bible verses you know, and your teamwork with other Christians central and foundational to all we are planning and doing?
There are not many great movies. There are few films which may affect change in your life. The movie, “When the Game Stands Tall” is both! See it, not for the never-to-be-surpassed “win streak” but for the spiritual life lessons taught and learned. Is it “our wins” in life… or is it “who we are” that really counts? As one La Salle player says, James 4:10 summarizes the focus of this coach (and of this movie)!
Sports and drugs… football injuries… win at any cost… winning is the only thing…
Longest football win-streaks…
Division I – Oklahoma Sooners: 47 straight (1953-1957)
Division II – Grand Valley State Lakers: 40 games (2005-2007)
Division III – Mount Union Purple Raiders: 55 (2000-2003)
University of Connecticut women’s basketball teams won 90 games in row
UCLA men’s basketball team won 88 games in a row
Los Angeles Lakers won 33 straight NBA games
Oakland Athletes MBA team won 20 straight baseball games