Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Glory Road

In continuation of my underdogs and basketball theme. Glory Road - this a movie based on the 1966 NCAA tournament. Which is the college basketball hungama in the US of A. In general, compared to the professional league, the NCAA has good solid basketball, the kind that is a team game and not just one person of elephantine proportions pushing to the hoop with his buttocks. I I am a purist right (thats what my mum says) so I really like the college tournament, overall. There are occasionally some guys who are really short (which is like five and half feet or so!) so I feel somewhat vindicated in my choice of favourite sport!!!

Anyway, this is back in 1966. All the players were generally white. This particular team, Texas Western, had seven black players. They were good. One was a particularly jazzy center; the shooter was short (5ft 6in) but amazingly accurate, and so on. No one believed that this team would go anywhere in the tournament. Lots of fun was made about how basketball was a thinking game and just muscle and physical size could not a champion team make. The media seems to have been quite a bit biased against the African Americans players.The coach, called Don Haskins, was a white guy who really believed in his team and his players. But it was just not the done thing, with the colour prejudices of that day, especially in the Southern states. Of course, the team made it to the final that year, with a spectacular in-season record. The movie does a great job of showing us this stuff, sort of real, I am sure a wee bit jazzed up, but not much. The final showdown is with this real arrogant coach Adolph Rupp's team & defending champions, The University of Kentucky Wildcats.

The odds are stacked against the Texas Western Miners. The crowd routinely boos and throws tomatoes(?) at them when they enter the court. Some rifts and general fights between the white and black players have erupted. They are playing the defending champs. They have never been in a final before, of this or any other magnitude. In a completely gut-wrenching moment, Haskins declares that he will only field his black players in the final game. That means that the seven of them will play the entire duration. While it is his way of making a phenomenally huge point to everyone, it is rather sad for the white players, who have worked equally hard, and have families watching out for them.

Of course, the real story is that this team actually picked up the championship that year, creating a HUGE, unprecedented upset. Victory to the underdogs in a basketball game is one thing, but this went way further than that in creating history.

I LOVE these sports movies. This one especially, cause of the message, the real story behind it, my undying support of the underdog, my hatred of arrogant men. But as the end credits roll, they show us what each player of this team went on to do. The coach went on to bring an incredible number of championships to the college. Some of the players were recruited by professional basketball teams, and did well. MANY of them went on to be teachers and coaches. To me, this was the most important message of the movie. These were phenomenally good players, and the type of momentum they had from this tournament could have taken them anywhere. The fact that so many of them ended up in the teaching profession made me feel real good!

Oh yeah, apologies for the spoilers, but come on, these movies would not have been made if the outcome was any other! Some of the facts are sure to have been distorted for cinematic effect, but the basic funda is true. Comparisons with recent bollywood churnings such as Chak De and Goal may be made of course, but keep in mind there is no Shah Rukh Khan in a goatee wheeling a Bajaj scooter, and, better still, no John Abraham and Bipasha Basu dancing. I saw it this weekend on TV, imagine that, now I want to find the DVD of the final game itself and watch it ...

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