Opening scene and credits of MGM's 1986 "Hoosiers," with Jerry Goldsmith's iconic Oscar-nominated score. Uploaded June 1, 2012. http://youtu.be/tUqhPsZh93Y
NYTimes video: N.Y. Times film critic A. O. Scott reviews the beloved 1986 MGM film "Hoosiers" about Indiana high school basketball -and personal redemption- set in 1951, and why it still remains a film for the ages. Uploaded March 3, 2009. http://youtu.be/AzgOZ0xHCEA
And on the day after my IU Hoosiers win the Big Ten basketball regular season championship for the first time in 20 years, a game they appeared certain to lose to Michigan in Ann Arbor before coming back in the final seconds, we speak of the other beloved "Hoosiers."
In 1986, I was living in Evanston, Illinois, the suburban home of IU Big ten rival Northwestern University, located on the shores of Lake Michigan, a town full of bright and fully-engaged professional, academic and management types just north of Chicago, and a world separate and apart from the life I had known and led in North Miami Beach and in Bloomington.
Then as now I was a big sports fan and avid movie-goer, a lover of not only classic films, but the worlds of advertising, journalism, American and European history and politics.
And like many of you reading this today, a sucker for smart and knowing well-made films about comebacks and teamwork and overcoming adversity against all odds, including those of self-sabotage, as was the case with Dennis Hooper's character in the film, where he played former basketball star-turned-alcoholic father and assistant coach "Shooter" Flatch
In short, I was the perfect demographic for the MGM film that came out that year loaded with a cinematic all-star lineup and a narrative that was straight out of both Indiana and Hollywood, loosely based on a story I'd known for years since leaving South Florida in the rear-view mirror for the Cream and Crimson of the beautiful rolling hills of southern Indiana and Indiana University in Bloomington, late in the summer of the year that the film 'Breaking Away" had been released to popular and critical acclaim.
Because of who I knew and what my interests and passions were, I'd been hearing and reading about the film from the very beginning, even before it was ever shot, from friends in Los Angeles involved in the entertainment industry and thru my avid and copious reading of the film industry trades I usually bought most weeks, like Variety.
From the crucial initial choices made in on-screen casting as well as those behind-the-screen with respect to the writer, director and even the film's composer, I knew that it could be a very special film indeed if all the stars aligned, and yet you never know how these things will go, despite the talented team you assemble.
So, it was with all of that history and knowledge very much front and center in my mind that I found myself one cold night in Evanston literally leaning against a wall while in line outside of a movie theater, forced by timing to listen to a bunch of jaded and self-indulgent NU grad students blabbing about the film and story in ways that bore absolutely no resemblance to what the reality was or what was soon to come.
As ridiculous as it sounds now, they even joked about leaving after an hour because how could this story about Indiana high school basketball possibly turn out to be anything worthwhile, even with Gene Hackman.
Yes, they really said that.
But you know what I did?
I kept quiet.
I kept my mouth shut and refused to play the Marshall McLuhan card as Woody Allen had does in his Oscar-winning Annie Hall.
You know what scene I mean.
I found myself there at that point in time because I'd had the good sense and foresight many months before to call in some IOU's from folks I knew around the Chicago area who were very much, yes, "in the "Loop" in the Loop.
The sort of people who know things before the masses and have unusual access because of who they are or what they do.
Since I wasn't afraid to reciprocate, I was also never afraid to ask for favors when it came to something important, as long as it was legal and above board.
I told them, these media and business mavens, that I wanted to be in the audience for the sneak preview of "Hoosiers " weeks before the film actually played in Chicagoland, and if possible, somewhere near Evanston.
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That's how I came to be standing in line with a special pass from a film-related concern to attend a special sneak preview of "Hoosiers" at a then-extant movie theater on Central Avenue, located across the street from the Wildcats' athletic facilitiess, the-then Dyche Stadium and Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Hickory High head coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) gives his underdog Huskers some pregame reminders and encouragement just moments before the start of their championship game against South Bend Central. Preacher Purl (Michael Sassone) delivers a message that seems tailor-made for the upset-minded team. Uploaded February 13, 2011. http://youtu.be/3gKbrj2nZis
"And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it. And it struck the Philistine on the head and he fell to the ground. Amen."
- Preacher Purl encouraging the underdog Hickory High basketball team before the state title game against heavily-favored South Bend Central in 1986's Hoosiers
The rest as they say is history.
I've seen this film well over 25 times from beginning-to-end, less than some, but surely more than most.
Though that's still less than I've seen "Breaking Away," a film that I know inside and out like I know the smiles of my three adorable nieces in any large crowd.