I am a Baltimore Ravens fan and play co-ed, two-hand touch football in Patterson Park, but when it came to reviewing the football-themed movie, “When the Game Stands Tall,” I thought it best to seek out a subject-matter expert.
Who better to evaluate a movie based on a De La Salle sports team than a coach at a De La Salle Christian Brothers school?
So back in June, I invited Calvert Hall College High School’s head football coach, Donald Davis, to attend a screening with me and give me his professional opinion of the film.
If anyone knows football, it’s Davis. In the early 90s he was a running back at Calvert Hall, and after graduating in 1996, he went on to play at Johns Hopkins. In 2001 he coached at the former Cardinal Gibbons School before taking over the reins at Calvert Hall in 2007.
The husband and father of five was voted Baltimore Ravens Coach of the Year in 2003 and Coach of the Year by the Baltimore Touchdown Club in 2006.
Coach Donald Davis has been leading the Calvert Hall football team since 2007. (Courtesy Evan Zimmer)
See a video of Coach Davis talking about the annual Turkey Bowl game.
“When the Game Stands Tall,” which is presented by Tristar Pictures in association with Affirm Films and Mandalay Entertainment, is based on the record-setting 151-game winning streak (1992-2003) by the De La Salle Spartans out of Concord, Calif.
Jim Caviezel, best known for portraying Jesus Christ in the 2004 film The Passion of the Christ, plays the role of head coach Bob Ladouceur. While the streak is amazing, the film is about much more than wins and losses. The film looks at social issues, the work-life balance faced by coaches, friendships, family and more.
Without giving too much away, here’s a look at the movie and the reality of high school football through Coach Davis’ eyes:
I thought the message was a very good message. Obviously coaching at a Christian Brothers school, I have some familiarity with De La Salle High School, so I know the story somewhat. I liked learning the back story surrounding the program and I thought it was presented in such a way that it was interesting beyond the football.
I thought the football scenes were decent. To some degree, cinematography, when I think of Christian movies that are sports related, may not be the best. I think this (When the Game Stands Tall) is probably better, if not the best, in terms of the camera work and the realistic expressions. I didn’t think the acting was good. There were some recognizable actors, which is cool, and usually, that’s the case.
On the reality of the religious aspect
We pray before we play. We pray before meals, we always pray. That was realistic – the scenes in the classroom and having those sorts of discussions.
On the reality of the challenging situations faced by the players
Do our players face challenging situations? More than you could ever believe! Sometimes at least the perception is that only kids from difficult socioeconomic backgrounds have social issues, but if you look at the players in this movie, their issues are friends, support and an overly involved father who was living through his son. The boy who appears to have everything, mom, dad, faith-based, middle class family – in a lot of ways you would look at that kid as a “have,” and yet in some respects he was a “have not”.
On the work-life balance Coach Ladouceur faced
I coach in a difficult situation with high expectations. There are some difficulties the kids have to suffer, but I’ve tried to include my kids in everything I do. I took my kids on a summer tour – for two thirds of the journey I took my high school age son and my 8-year-old daughter. As a coach, you are under particularly demanding circumstances – your family has to understand the dynamic. I’ve tried to do the best I can.
On the way the players in the movie opened up. Does that really happen?
On the last day of practice day before Thanksgiving, I have a very short practice. Then I allow my seniors to go out to the 50 and share with each other – only players, no coaches, and only seniors. I’ve seen guys come in the locker room with tears. While that’s happening, I take the rest of the team, and tell them, “Before you know it, this is going to be you. You’re going to be out there.”
I remind them what I want them to do the next day is play for those guys. Most will not play football in college, so this is the last time they’ll play. So I remind the underclassmen to go out there and play for those guys.
This movie is based on a winning streak. What do numbers mean to you?
The year we won the championship, we ranked 15th in country the day we played Gilman. At the banquet that year it would have been easy to talk about how we won. I talked about numbers for this team because the only numbers people think about are points and rank, but I talked about guys in the National Honor Society and how many hours of service they did and all those numbers that mattered to me. I’m not sure those things resonated with families the way they did with me. I know that later on, when my guys come back, I can see that the way you begin to wire them begins to matter after they’re gone.
Hopefully this gives you some good food for thought before you see the film. Comment here after you see the movie and let us know your thoughts. For a review of the movie, click here.