Get ready folks, this is the first installment of the long awaited "Prep Cinema" series that will chronicle/review great movies that center around high school athletics: We start with not only the greatest high school sports movie of all time, but probably the greatest overall sports movie too - 1986's Hoosiers. Now, if you are a prep athlete reading this and you haven't already seen this epic feat of cinematic achievement , drop everything you are doing at this moment - after finishing this blog entry of course - and head to your local blockbuster to rent this DVD. better yet, buy it. you won't be disappointed.
The movie is a story of triumph in the face of overwhelming adversity, redemption, community, and loyalty to a common cause. More importantly this engaging and heartfelt tale spun by director David Anspaugh, also responsible for hemming the classic college football movie, Rudy starring Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, and Vince Vaughn, is based on a true story. In the movie version, little Hickory High School, led by an innovative head coach and dead-eye shooting star player, makes a historical run all the way to claiming the 1952 Indiana High School State Basketball Championship, in a thrilling last-second upset win over heavily-favored and big school hoops powerhouse, South Bend Central. Gene Hackman plays the crusty, yet endearing Norman Dale, a former college bball coach banned from the game almost 20 years prior and out at sea in the navy who takes an old boyhood chum's offer to come coach a small high school team in Indiana. Dale accepts the offer from his friend, the school's principle, and transforms an every-man-for-itself, defensively-lackluster bunch of players into a well-disciplined and well-oiled hoops machine with a relentless attitude on the floor and a town legend in sharp-shooting scoring machine Jimmy Chitwood - who Hackman's character had to lure back to the team after he neglected to join at the beginning of the season out of respect for the previous coach - leading them into battle. Throw in a love story with a local teacher and Chitwood's legal guardian played by 80's leading lady-staple Barbara Hershey and a side story about a former star player turned town drunk- played by Dennis Hopper in an Oscar-nominated performance - whose son is on the team, and an enthralling ride of cinematic magic ensues. The basketball scenes are as realistic as in any movie ever. this is mostly because Anspaugh casted all real Indiana prep studs for the roles as the teams players and you can really believe that these guys could play - unlike in other movies where you see actors trying to play ballers but yo u know they wouldn't last one second on a real court with real hoopsters. Hackman's Dale is inspiring to the max and makes you want suit up and play for him yourself. The conclusion is climatic and till this day sends chills down my spine every time I see the final few minutes of the movie. Bottom Line - the movie embodies everything that's good and right about high school sports and a town of beloved fans - alas communities like Clarkston, Lake Orion, and Pontiac from around these parts - that lives and dies with every win and loss the team endures.
- the events in the movie are based on the 1956 Milan Indians, an upstart small school from southern Indiana that marches through the state tournament slaying bigger, more athletic teams led by the likes of Indianapolis Crispus Attackus' Oscar Robertson and eventually winning the title against heavily-favored Muncie Central on star player Bobby Plump's 15 foot jumper as time expired. The state of Indiana discontinued the "All-Inclusive" state tournament in favor of the traditional "Class" system in 1998, making it so a repeat of the 'Miracle in 56' is now impossible to occur.