‘When the Game Stands Tall’ offers lessons in humility

By Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

8/22/2014

WTGST-Poster-WEB.jpgMovie: When the Game Stands Tall
Release Date: Aug. 22
Presented by: TriStar Pictures
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Michael Chiklis, Alexander Ludwig, Clancy Brown, and Laura Dern

You may have seen movie trailers for When the Game Stands Tall, which opens in 2,500 theaters across the country Aug. 22. The new TriStar Pictures release is a true story about a high school football program that achieved phenomenal success with 12 perfect seasons and a string of 151 consecutive victories. The winning streak remains unequaled by any team in American sports history and landed the Spartans of De La Salle Catholic High School in Concord, California, and head coach Bob Ladouceur in the record books.

None of that, however, is what this movie is really about. This is an inspirational film about a coach who draws up a game plan that involves boldly facing fears and remaining humble in the process. The scoreboard is secondary.

After seeing this film, you may leave asking yourself if this was a religious movie.

 Is it a film starring a devout Catholic, Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ)? Yes.

Does it involve a Catholic High football team? Do we follow the lives of Catholic athletes? Yes and yes.

Does it tell us how we should lead better lives as faithful Christians? Definitely not.

This movie does not attempt to tell us anything. Instead, it effectively leads by example.

Kelly Kracht with Carmel Communications talks to the North Texas Catholic about the upcoming movie. (Video by Jerry Circelli)

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve personally witnessed Friday night high school gridiron nail-biters, if you see When the Game Stands Tall, you’ll become a fan, and the Spartans will be your team. And you’ll come away far more intrigued by the coaches, players, families, and townspeople in this movie than by chalkboard X’s and O’s or wins and losses.

This is a movie where tragedy and triumph intersect, where vanity and valor clash, and where faith and faults coexist — it’s a movie about life.

The characters in When the Game Stands Tall reach their defining moments, not when things are going great, but when the chips are down, on the football field and in their personal lives.

It’s not until the lights go out for a team once regarded as a national powerhouse that the strength of the players, their families, and the community around them discover their true character.

“Twelve years, 151 games in a row, but we were never just about winning,” says Caviezel’s character, Coach Ladouceur. “We were built on families and our town coming together. But losing the streak tested us all.”

Through it all, Coach Ladouceur does not ask his players to be perfect, but to give perfect effort. Players learn that it is not a football game that will ultimately define who they are, but the way they live their lives that will be their legacy.

The twists, turns, and ending of this film are as unpredictable as the game of football and life itself. Just when you think you have it all figured out, the players and their coach are presented with a new set of circumstances that test their character.

Probably the greatest strength of When the Game Stands Tall, comes from humility.

Central to this movie are the words of Matthew 23:12: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

A coach taught it, his players learned it, and we can be inspired by it.

 

Actor Jim Caviezel, producer David Zelon talk with Catholic press about new film

 
 
 

It is unusual for producers to present advance screenings of movies a full two months in advance of their release. Moviemakers did just that, however, when they hosted two viewings of When the Game Stands Tall in mid-June in Charlotte, North Carolina, during the Catholic Press Association’s annual media conference.

And unless you reside in Hollywood or New York, it’s also highly unusual for the star of the show and movie producer to meet personally with viewers of these advance screenings. Again, Tri-Star Pictures and promoters of When the Game Stands Tall broke the norm and made arrangements for actor Jim Caviezel and producer David Zelon to meet and answer questions from the Catholic media after the screenings.

When asked why more movies like When the Game Stands Tall are not made, both Caviezel and Zelon had no reservations in telling Catholic media members that getting the word out about this film will go a long way toward ensuring that it is a success and that others like it will be made.

Zelon said viewer turnout and box office revenue on opening weekend are especially important, since production companies and theater operators often base predictions about a film’s future success on initial reactions from movie-goers.

WTGST-Caviezel-WEB.jpg

De La Salle High School football coach Bob Ladouceur, played here by Jim Caviezel, asked his Spartan players not to be perfect on the field, but to give perfect effort. He encouraged them to be people who are dependable and can be counted on in life. (Image courtesy of TriStar Pictures)

“You have a lot of power in your hands by choosing the movies you go see,” Zelon said, making a reference to another film in which Caviezel starred, The Passion of the Christ. That movie surprised critics when film watchers made it a huge success, with a reported worldwide box office gross revenue of more than $600 million.

While Caviezel can’t predict the future of this film or its box office returns, he did say people can depend on him to be involved in meaningful films.

“I have to make movies that are real and authentic,” Caviezel said. “What you can count on me to do is to do movies that have redemption in them.” That is not to say, however, that the characters he plays must always have redemptive qualities, but that the overall theme of the movie reflects these values.

Caviezel is thankful for the gift of his Catholic faith and points out that his beliefs guide his actions. “One thing about our faith is, if you follow it, it creates authenticity. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. It’s how you live your life.”

What particularly impressed Caviezel about playing the lead character of Catholic religion teacher and head football coach Bob Ladouceur was portraying a man who led by example and changed the lives of thousands of high school students.

Caviezel explained that the coach says to his players in the movie, “I’m not asking you to play the perfect game, that’s impossible. What we’re asking of you and what you should be asking of yourself, is to give a perfect effort on every play from snap to whistle, that you can be depended on, that we love each other.”

The actor continued, explaining that he felt enormous responsibility in portraying the faithful, dynamic, and exemplary coach. “That energy, that spirit, fed into me. And no, I’m not Coach Lad, but I love what he did, and I love this man for what he did. And I couldn’t let him down.”

WTGST-Poster-BUTTON.jpgYou may have seen movie trailers for When the Game Stands Tall, which opens in 2,500 theaters across the country Aug. 22. The new TriStar Pictures release is a true story about a high school football program that achieved phenomenal success with 12 perfect seasons and a string of 151 consecutive victories. The winning streak remains unequaled by any team in American sports history and landed the Spartans of De La Salle Catholic High School in Concord, California, and head coach Bob Ladouceur in the record books. None of that, however, is what this movie is really about. This is an inspirational film about a coach who draws up a game plan that involves boldly facing fears and remaining humble in the process. The scoreboard is secondary.

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