When the Game Stands Tall

First Hit:  Enjoyed this dramatization of a real life story about brotherhood and sport.

Having lived in the bay area for nearly 40 years I’m aware of De La Salle and their Spartan Football team. I was aware of “The Streak” and when it got broken.

However, as the film works hard at doing, the point is not about winning football games, it is about showing and living up to the promise you make to yourself and your teammates. Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) or “Coach Lad” as the team called him, focuses on using football as a vehicle for people to sign up for commitments to themselves and others.

They have to openly share their commitments with their teammates – this makes the commitment more powerful. This film shares all this in many ways; through the story of brotherhood between T.K. Kelly and Cam Colvin (Stephan James and Ser’Darius Blain - respectively).  

Then there is the story of Coach Lad’s son Danny (Matthew Daddario) attempting to find his relationship with his dad. There is Tayshon Lanear (Jessie T. Usher) learning that it is about the team and not him. Lastly, it is about a son living his dream not his father’s as represented by Chris Ryan (Alexander Ludwig) and his Dad Mickey (Clancy Brown).

There were liberties (like Chris Ryan’s going for a record) in the story and the main point is/was simple:  Show up, stand by your brother and learn to become an honorable man in our society.

Caviezel captured the quiet, focused, driven and caring coach and mentor. What Caviezel did was to make the film about the philosophy and not his performance. Michael Chiklis as Terry Edison (Assistant coach and friend of Ladouceur) was very strong. James and Blain were great as life long friends reaching for their dream. Daddario did a really good job of being the son of a father that really has many sons. Usher was strong as the ego driven talent that was willing to learn. Ludwig was really good as the son who needed to become his own man. Brown overdid the strong overbearing father role but it did make the point. Scott Marshall Smith wrote a really good screenplay bringing out the essence of Ladouceur’s lessons. Thomas Carter directed this film and I liked the use of real footage (beginning and in the credits) to bring this closer to life. I did think Mickey Ryan’s character was overdone and this was a directing issue more than an acting issue.

Overall:  I hope that many team sport coaches see this film and gain some insight that success is more than a “rah rah kill them” attitude.