Imagine the immeasurable odds. The year is 1952. Schools in Indiana have only been desegregated for three years. The population in the state is nearly 96 white people for every four people of color. An overwhelming difference between the powerful majority and marginalized minority.
Here is an innercity school with talented basketball players of different races and backgrounds who have one major hurdle: overcoming the internal and external pressures of integration. It’s not enough that these kids with conflicting cultures and upbringings and histories find common ground on the basketball court. Outside the team, the pressures of racism still loom like terrible monsters stepping out from under beds and behind the cover of clothes in bedroom closets.
Somehow, despite all the odds that are against this team, they make it to the State Championship Game. They find they aren’t so different after all. They’re all just people, and they don’t care what the racists say about them or their team. They are brothers all the same.
This team is the final villain in the 1986 film “Hoosiers.”
The hero team of the movie is a small town team full of unathletic white kids. The towns people are close-minded bullies who hate change and love watching high school hoops.
The coach of the team got kicked out of the NCAA forever because he attacked one of his players. He also got banned from coaching high school basketball in the state of New York for this incident. It’s so bad, the only team that will take him is this small town team full of unathletic white kids. Even then, he only gets the job because he knows the principal.
Besides the coach who batters his own players, the most likable person in this town is a basketball junkie who is the dad of one of players. He’s a raging alcoholic, so the coach makes him his assistant coach. He’s okay at it for a little while but ultimately fails his son and his team by showing up drunk to a game.
The coach’s love interest in the story is mostly okay. She’s a strong, independent woman who could do better than going back to this insignificant and dying small town, but returns home anyway. She hates basketball, which is the one thing the entire town loves, so it’s kind of weird she insists on going back after getting her master’s degree. Her mistake is rewarded by the end, though. She gets to be principal when the old principal has a heart attack. She finds love when this old, wrinkly basketball coach comes into town. We are to assume she settles on him because in a town so small, he’s the only person to whom she isn’t related.
The team makes it to the State Championship Game by abandoning their team-first, motion offense when the town’s only good player joins the team. At this point, they change their offense to the only good player taking isolation 18-foot jumpshots. There’s no three point line at this time to provide spacing, so maybe this was considered a good shot in 1952.
This is when they come across the big bad of the movie: an integrated team of talented players with NBA height and skill. An integrated team that overcomes so much adversity just to play in the big game. A team who learned to play together and work as a single, unified force. All the odds were against them, but here they are. Their dreams coming true!
And that integrated team loses to the team of small-minded farmer kids. How do they lose? The small town team’s one good player makes a bunch of contested jump shots.
For most of the movie, I was on board with the small town team finally succeeding despite every character being unlikable pieces of shit. I mean, that’s why you watch these movies. To see a team with all the odds stacked against it somehow win the big game.
That was until the State Championship Game, of course. How backwards thinking is this movie to applaud a bunch of dickhead white kids for beating a team who overcame race issues to get to the big game? The racial overtones in this movie are equal parts uncomfortable and puzzling — even for a movie made in the still-very-racist-1980’s.
Furthermore, this movie isn’t even good at its racism. The coach of the small town team preaches team play the entire movie then rides on the back of his own good player over and over again. The integrated team relies on true team ball and loses. A movie that’s good at racism would have that flipped, implying that white people may not be as skilled but they can win playing the right way. Obviously, that would be a lie, but at least it’s racism that makes sense.
Is this movie really saying that white people are so much better than everyone else that they don’t even need to do things the right way to win? The whole thing was confusing to me and felt icky the entire time. The movie doesn’t show a person of color until the State Championship Game, holding that card until the end in a show of the true, ultimate evil. It was weird.
And once I saw that brave integrated team playing, I couldn’t help but think that’s the movie. That’s the truly interesting movie. Instead of a movie about a bunch of irrationally angry small town dicks, I want to see an Indiana basketball version of “Remember the Titans.”
Even the integrated teams’ coaches were people of color, and I thought that was very uplifting. The small town’s people got mad the entire movie that their coach was from some place other than their inbred town. Look at the other team! In 1952, there are white players being coached by people of color! That’s a big deal! I have so many questions about it. How do the white parents feel about that? Does the community they live in support it? What hurdles did they overcome?
The villains in this movie must have had such an inspirational path to the big game, and yet we get a story about how a town full of white assholes win yet again. Why? Who cares. They’re white, so yey white people. It makes me sick.
I don’t care if the integrated team still loses in the end, that’s the movie I want to see. That’s the movie that gives me hope about the innate goodness of mankind. That’s the story about overcome immeasurable odds.
A movie about white people winning despite being less talented and playing the wrong way? Fuck that. “Hoosiers” is the worst.