“Hoosiers”

Dear Erin,

I think both of those gifts are romantic, just in different ways. You’ve clearly been married long enough that you know what each other would like best to receive. Your necklace is beautiful and so sweet! This year will be our 15th (!) anniversary. We’re getting to the point where, if this was a school reunion, I might consider attending. I’ll tell you on Monday what we did and how it went. If I’m really on the ball, I might even have pictures.

Today, I’m talking about Hoosiers as part of the summer series.

So, basically, … I don’t care for basketball; I’m not a huge fan of Gene Hackman; and I could take or leave sports any day of the week. Most of the time I leave them. Not my thing.

I am probably not the intended audience for this movie.

But it was fine. Really, it was just fine. They started off on the right foot by taking out the three most annoying things about real basketball (according to me):

  1. Flopping – every boy on every team in this movie was a hardworking, decent, honest type. You know, the Indiana farm boy. Clark Kent, basically. And a farm boy doesn’t flop. Also, since it takes place in 1951, the concept may not have been invented yet.
  2. The final 10-second Time Warp – how is it that the last ten seconds of nearly every televised basketball game can take half an hour to play? In the universe of this movie, apparently 90% of all games come down in the last few seconds to a single shot that must be made to break the tie, and yet none them stretches out like the game is being played in a TARDIS.
  3. Squeaky shoes – in the movie, they muted that awful sound or at least covered over it with swelling, heroic music. This can be its own kind of awful sound, but it almost always will win over the cheek, cheek, squeeeeak of tennis shoes on the wooden floor of a gym, as far as I’m concerned.

Hoosiers is the story of a man (Hackman) seeking redemption through coaching basketball, yes, but he’s also seeking redemption for a violent lapse of control by building up the men around him. He teaches self-discipline to his players and self-respect to his alcoholic assistant (Dennis Hopper). In almost every move he makes, this idealized central character makes the world a better place.

I sound a bit snarky; I guess I am a little, but I didn’t dislike Hoosiers. I just think it’s a bit disingenuous. The movie is supposedly a true story, and its ethos seems chosen to reflect the stereotypical midwestern values of hard work, modesty, and strong fundamentals. The characters are understated, the plot is matter-of-fact, even the individual games on the way to the state championship at the end aren’t overwrought. The movie as a whole is absolutely solid and entirely unflashy, even predictable. You recognize each sports movie element as it is put into place, and you can see that state championship coming from the beginning. Unconventional coach opposed by the small town? Check. Love interest that must be won over? Check. Many losses at the beginning followed by many wins at the end, as the crowd is also won over? Check.

But it has some other problems, too. For example, “teamwork” is an important concept, but it is only the addition of a star player that makes the team successful at all. Also, there are too many strands going at once, so there’s not enough time or attention given to each one.

A lot of people seem to assume that feminism is about promoting women at the expense of men. [Believe me, I’m going somewhere with this.] But my interpretation of feminism, especially Christian feminism, is that God created each individual with equal worth, gender is only part of a person’s identity, and it shouldn’t be a limiting factor. So as a Christian feminist (and as the mother of a son), I appreciate the theme in this movie of manliness and what it takes to be, or to make, a man. It seems like a worthwhile discussion to have.

I’m not sure why this movie is a “classic,” unless it’s because of its absolute competence. This seems like the kind of movie you show your ten year old. It’s also a nostalgic, clean, family-friendly movie about sports, so the basketball-loving contingent that watched this as children may be skewing the stats a little. And the Indianians.

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