Friday, December 4, 2009

Sports Flicks: Hoosiers

"Welcome to Indiana basketball."

Friday night is Family Movie Night at our house. The three of us take turns picking a movie to watch together as we sit on the living room floor and eat dinner. Two weeks ago, my wife picked Totoro, the Japanese anime film. Last week, our daughter picked Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. This week was my turn and I picked one of my all-time favorites, a movie I watch every year as a matter of ritual: Hoosiers.

For me, basketball season doesn't officially begin until I've had my annual Hoosiers viewing. It is a lovable film for so many reasons: it is the prototype for the inspirational sports film, it is a classic underdog story and it really happened - sort of. But for me, what truly sets it apart from other sports flicks is the obvious affection which the filmmakers had for the subject matter. The love for the sport is abundantly clear, of course ("I know everything there is to know about the greatest game ever invented"). Equally evident is an affection for the setting: the time and most definitely the place. Indiana is as much character as setting in the story.

My wife is from Indiana. My own ties to the midwest are strong, too: parents from Nebraska and Ohio plus five years of my own life split between Iowa and Minnesota. Driving through small towns and cornfields in late autumn - I've done that. Granted, there is rarely a single trumpet calling out a song of yearning as I drive but I can certainly imagine how there might be.

If you own or have access to the Collector's Edition DVD, I highly recommend that you watch with the commentary. The creators have wonderful stories about the location scouting and also the casting of the film. They worked very hard to preserve the authenticity of 1950s Indiana.

I first saw the movie in the theater with an old friend whom I've not seen in years. We were about 13 at the time. I remember waiting in the lobby afterward for our parents to pick us up. I don't think we talked a whole lot. I remember pacing and thinking. It's the sort of movie that gives you a lot to think about at that age.

Over the years, I've probably watched it more than any but a handful of movies. Tonight was my first time to share it with my daughter. She seemed to enjoy it. I guess they started basketball in PE at school this week. She was pleased that she got to play with a basketball that was the right color (orange) while other kids had to settle for other colors. My wife tends to roll her eyes whenever I talk about the film - or inspiring sports movies in general - but I think she had a good time, too, as we talked the girl through parts of the story. The girl seemed genuinely pleased when the final shot snapped the twine.

"I love you guys."

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