Coach Carter is one of my all-time favorite sports movies. Why? Because I love how realistic it is. SPOILER ALERT: the team does not win the final game. In fact, despite overcoming all sorts of trials and tribulations, beating all the odds, and coming together as a family; they get bounced in the very first round of the playoffs. Getting to the playoffs was a huge accomplishment in the first place, but the movie did not end with the team hoisting the championship trophy in slow motion with inspirational music playing in the background as the credits crawled up the screen.
It was real.
It was raw.
Sports movies are my second favorite genre of film; second to any type of Christmas movie. And yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but that is an argument for another blog. One thing that I enjoy about sports movies is that they almost always follow an underdog that somehow beats the big bad team in the last game of the year. It’s a classic “good vs. evil” plotline that almost always has the good guys winning.
But how realistic is that?
- What would have happened to Rocky if he got dropped in the first round to Apollo Creed?What if Rudy quit the Notre Dame football team because he had no shot of playing a big role?
- What if the Titans of TC Williams High School lost the state championship?
- What if Vince Papale had been cut by the Philadelphia Eagles and never sniffed an NFL field?
- What if the Average Joes would have lost the final dodgeball match to Globo Gym?
Would movies still be made about these situations if they all lost?
But why is that?
Because people go to movies to escape reality, not to be faced with it.
Sports are fantastic, and I am forever thankful that my parents signed me up for my first baseball team way back in 1998. Besides the Oklahoma State Little League Tournament of 2007, I have never won a championship. I have received zero individual on-field accolades. I barely played in college. The closest I ever got to playing professionally was the summer before my first year of college when half of my summer team ended up having pro careers. I did not have the most successful baseball career. As a pitcher, if you were to ask me my senior year of high school how many wins I would have by the time I graduated college, I would bet my life that I would have said a number higher than 1. Yes, I do only have 1 win in college.
Stereotypical happy endings are rare.
I believe that sports movies sometimes give us a false sense of entitlement that we have earned the right to have success in the big game because we have overcome adversity, obstacles, and have worked hard.
The bottom line is that winning is never guaranteed no matter the perception we have of how we have “outworked our opponent” or how we “want it more than them.” Your opponent does not care about your heartwarming story. The fact of the matter is that your opponent might not have worked as hard as you, they might not even care as much as you, but if they are better than you on gameday, then they deserve to win.
Another hard truth: winning is not everything.
I never had my day in the sun or my Hollywood ending. I was never carried off the field as the crowd chanted my name. My trophy case is barron, and no director will ever call me for the movie rights for my life. And that is okay. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.
Like those kids who were coached by Ken Carter at Richmond High, I did not win the big game, but what I did win is something more valuable.I I learned discipline. I made friendships that will last a lifetime. I gained mental and physical toughness. I learned how to work hard. I found my
purpose. I learned lessons that go well beyond any sport I played.
Sometimes we do have a movie ending where we go out on top, but for most of us we won’t. My point is the ending to your own sports movie may not be how you wanted it to end, but it is how it was meant to end. The trick is to figure out how your ending fits into the rest of your life.
I hope you all have the perfect ending to your athletic careers.
But how are you going to respond if you don’t?
What are the things you will remember the most when it’s all said and done?