Current review: "Glory Road''. Back in the late 1960’s I was at Trenton Central High School, the one large public city high school in Trenton, NJ with 3,200 students in just 10th through 12th grades. Back then I lived for sports and the one that stood out at Trenton High was basketball. The thing is, of the 12 people on the team all but one or 2 were always black and I never thought anything unusual about that. Now I do remember hearing back then that Texas Western University (now University of Texas El Paso) was in the NCAA basketball finals and had an all black starting line up, but it made very little impact on me as, so, what is the big deal? But in reality in most places at the time, it was. And that is the story line behind the film “Glory Road”.
This is similar in vein to the film “Remember the Titans” in that it does help to at least have a bit of enjoyment of sports, but the movies main theme is more of the human spirit trying to survive bigotry and overcome obstacles to achieve a goal than of the sport itself. This is ‘based on a true story’ of coach Don Haskins who gets his chance to coach an NCAA Division 1 university in basketball but since no one has heard of Texas Western he cannot recruit many good (white, as was called for) players. But few schools in Texas, or most places at the time, had more than a few black players, so he does the unheard of- he recruits the best players he can find, and most turn out to be black. The story covers his move to El Paso and his recruitment of players and how he works them into a winning team. This is a Disney movies so I imagine that it is ‘soft’ on some of the harsh realities the people involved really experienced. I was thankful though that there was limited visual violence and the film dealt more with the spirit of the people involved. It deals with the issues of the time, making the point as to what the players and coach had to deal with, but without making it too rough to watch. Whether that is good or bad is for the viewer to decide but it made it easier for me to enjoy while still understanding the point of it. Each of the players has to deal with different things, from culture to health, and the movie at least goes into this enough to get a feel for what they might have been going through, and how it effected them in the process.
The cast is well rounded and quite good, with Josh Lucas in the main role of coach Don Haskins, with Derek Luke and Damaine Radcliff as two of the star players. It is more of an ensemble piece though after the role of Mr. Lucas.
The movie is enjoyable and reflective and inspirational of a time when our society was going through many changes. I do find it sadly ironic that as I write this that the women’s basketball team from the school I went to, Rutgers University, just went from an 2-4 season start to make it all the way to the NCAA finals- an effort that was an incredible feat- only to be derided racially and sexually by some thoughtless ‘shock jock’. Sadly, Glory Road shows how a barrier was overcome but current day events show how far, 40 years later, we still have to go.