Review: When The Game Stands Tall

It hasn’t gotten the best of reviews but watching the De La Salle of Concord-based movie “When The Game Stands Tall” this weekend was an enjoyable experience and should be for anyone who has been following California high school football for many years.

For our rankings of the Top 10 High School Sports Movies, CLICK HERE.

“When The Game Stands Tall” doesn’t just jam storylines from two seasons in one story arc but also plugs in the legendary 2001 game between Long Beach Poly and the Spartans and even invents an additional storyline about a fictional running back with an insane father who is closing in on the state career touchdowns record.

DLS movie 275It’s the state record storyline that probably is the most hard-to-believe and frankly weakens the entire movie. Head coach Bob Ladouceur’s heart attack, the shooting death of Terrence Kelly, coaching son Danny, the relationship between Ladouceur and athletic director/defensive coordinator Terry Eidson (barely touched on in the movie), losing for the first time in 151 games and winning a big game at the end should have been enough.

In 35 years of compiling the California state record book, it’s safe to say that no parent, no coach or any player has even come close to the fanatical portrayal of the father in the movie. The character was so over-the-top in wanting his son to break the record that it’s hard to understand how an audience could buy it.

The great majority of people take breaking a state record for what it is: It’s an accomplishment that depends on teammates, depends on circumstances (De La Salle running backs, for example, never come close to state records in reality because they’re out of many games by halftime) and they know it will be appreciated much more later in life.

Is everyone connected to high school sports glad that there are actually state records that somebody actually took the time (30 years in the case of our founder, the late Nelson Tennis) to figure out what they are? Seems to be. Still, the whole idea behind continuing to provide them at Cal-Hi Sports is for the state records to enrich the experience of high school athletics not to overwhelm it.

“When The Game Stands Tall” basically has two endings, one more cliché than the other, but the final ending definitely was a tribute to Ladouceur the way so many De La Salle games typically end.

It’s not as strong of a high school football movie as “Friday Night Lights” or “Remember The Titans” but falls somewhere around “Radio” or “All The Right Moves.”


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