You have the right to say: one more high school varsity football film. And it has absolutely all the defects of these films: the kids are unthinkable non-thinking machines. At first at least. The coach is a brute that dopes his players or gives them unethical injections for them to play even when they should not. He is a gross character who treats his players as if they were in a marine training camp and he were a training sergeant as depicted by some films about the Vietnam war. Gross language, blackmailing, violence even are some of his skins on top of the illegal stuff and unethical actions.
But the film reveals two elements that are essential to understand this sport is not exactly and only that. First the fathers are shown as being pure idiots who want their children to play football for only two reasons: because they played football when they were going to that particular high school themselves. They are frankly undrinkable nostalgic-spirited bigots about football. And the second reason is that their sons can earn, or win, a full scholarship in college, alleviating the expense for the family. That transforms football into some kind of narrow-minded culture, not to speak of open institutionalized moral prostitution or slavery.
The teenagers are well obliged, willy-nilly for some, to play the game which means violence, superficial clichés and attitudes including racism against the only black on the team, sexism and hefty male-chauvinistic attitudes, some girls overplaying the game by becoming the prize of each game for the winner. Not to speak of alcohol and other inacceptable practices including public or semi-public sex, driving under the influence, drinking binges and challenges, and even some open and gross misdemeanor. This film becomes then some kind of a manifesto against that absurd and inhumane culture.
But the film also shows how the initial quarterback is the victim of some medical mishandling from the coach, and how he will in the last game of the season support his "substitute" that leads that game to a direct confrontation of the whole team with the coach. This coach is on the point of forcing the only black player to accept an injection in his knee to go back on the field. The substitute quarterback tells the black player not to do it and he quits when he is menaced by the coach. But he had built a new spirit in the team putting the black chap in the front and using several other tactics that were creative and valorizing for other players than himself, or the coach. The team then refuses to go back for the second half of the game and the coach is forced to leave. The players then take over: the ex- and the new quarterbacks together, the ex- assuming the coach's position. And the rest is the good ending.
Football, like all other sports, could be a beautiful adventure for the players all the time if some coaches did not use the system to valorize themselves by over exploiting the players. But apart from what I have said, yes it is another high school varsity football film.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID