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James Gartner's Glory Road: More than a Sports Movie

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Glory Road is an American sports drama film directed by James Gartner, in view of a genuine story encompassing the occasions of the 1966 NCAA University Division Basketball Championship. It was released on 13th January 2006. Don Haskins depicted by Josh Lucas, head coach of Texas Western College, instructed a team with an all-black starting line-up, a first in NCAA history. Glory Road explores racism, discrimination, and student athletics. Supporting on-screen characters Jon Voight and Derek Luke additionally star in their roles. The length of the movie is 1 hour 58 mins.

Greatness Road isn’t generally about underdogs and winning the big game. It’s about racism in American sports, and how mentor Don Haskins and his players on the 1965-66 basketball crew from Texas Western University made a leap forward comparable to when Jackie Robinson was contracted by the Brooklyn Dodgers. In Texas at that time, we learn, college basketball teams had been integrated, but there was an ‘informal rule’ that you never played more than one black player at home, two on the road or three if you were behind. After Texas Western won the 1966 NCAA title with an all-black group on the court, overcoming an all-white Kentucky team managed by Adolph Rupp, the rules were changed, and present day school and professional basketball began

Glory Road has some main themes are particularly concerned with racism in sports. The racism is firstly highlighted by the atmosphere surrounding the players from Texas Western. As Don Haskins goes to recruit, he looks at primarily white players, but then is forced to recruit black players because they are given little opportunity in the predominantly white sport. The white players were dominant; white athletes were considered to be smarter and black athletes were considered unable to win at the highest levels. This is further exemplified by the fact that there were unwritten rules limiting blacks’ participation in college basketball, and also reflected in the African-Americans’ notions that they would not have the opportunity to play in college.

Whites are given the upper hand in society and this is reflected in college basketball. The White people were offered more opportunities for scholarships and playing time ahead of blacks regardless of talent. It was not until after Haskins beat him that Rupp recruited the first black player at Kentucky. This is indicative of the notion of white privilege as whites at Kentucky. Whites were afforded greater opportunities in sports than blacks. And while Haskin’s helped to break down the colour barrier in major college sports, this does not instantly change people’s minds and end white privilege, and therefore, the racial overtones of the movie have greater implications on the long-lasting issue of white privilege in sports and also in society. Racism relating to sports is also a key issue in the film as sports help to overcome racism, but they also help to re-enforce it. Basketball separated blacks and whites along social lines in ways which helped to keep racism in sports as it existed in society. Yet sports were also a way for a group of black individuals to make progress by defeating an all-white team, and thus helping to break down the barriers of racisms. Sports offered a non-violent way of competition between blacks and whites, but it was also used as a way to limit the opportunities afforded to blacks. Thus racism was a key aspect relating to sports and racist attitudes within society carried over to amateur athletics as well.

The main characters are coach Don Haskins and basketball team stars Bobby Jones, David Lattin, Moe, and others of the team. The leadership skills are mainly observed in Coach Haskins, Bobby Jones and Lattin. The coach does the right thing while the assistants are supposed to do things right. The coach followed his vision, of composing a team with a majority of African-American players to play. While his assistants were mainly attempting to put things together for the team and help with the recruitment process.

If we compare the two coaches of the teams that were in the national championship final, a difference is to be noted between both coach’s methods of motivating their players. Coach Haskins had an ability to transform the team into a strong entity by find the right position for every player illustrate technical skills and experience in procedures of basketball, he used his expert power smartly. To motivate his players, he used to say: “Play smart, with big heart”, while the rival coach says: “We’re going to win this game, go out there and make me a prophet”. While coach Haskins attempts to bring out the inner talent in the players, the rival coach’s choice of words indicate a self-interest in the win, rather than a concern with a more important vision for his team or players, lacking human skill.

Characters with less spotlight in the movie show leadership as well. Before the final game, the players who aren’t African-American were able to grasp the coach’s vision of a game for all with starting and playing with an all African-American team.

In other instances, we see the coach affirming the values of the team and emphasizing the goal when he reminded his players of their priorities and what’s at stake with every single practice.

The director of the movie James Gartner chose to direct Glory Road not because it was a sports movie, it was that the other layer of racism and the time period. The reality of the story and the importance of it forced the director to make it. The director once mentioned in an interview that, “I went to one of the sneak previews of Glory Road and someone in the

theatre came up to me and asked me, “What has taken 40 years to tell this story?” And that was my initial question and what appealed to me was just getting this story out there.”

At that time the director thought that he has achieved his purpose.

The movie is beautifully written and portrayed. The actors also did a commendable job. It is very well acted however two people steal the show: Jon Voight, who plays the extremely racist Kentucky State coach, and Derek Luke who steals the show as the outperforming star of the team. The music of the movie adds cherry to the cake, the sound effects grabs the attention of the viewers and easily make them able to visualize the hardships the characters go through. The sound effects during the game make the viewers curious and make the story gripping.

What makes this film work is the struggle the blacks go through. This film is inspiring. It is a great triumph for first time director James Gartner. It is more than just a sports film as the main character is more than just a basketball coach. The director of the movie also did a great job, it is portrayed in a way that anyone can related to.

The film does have some weaknesses. There seems to be too many characters and not enough development for each character. The sports commentator in the film feeds the audience a narrative of the games as it is unfolding, assuming that the viewers won’t be able to figure it out.

I found the movie very inspiring and there is a lot we can learn from it. no matter what kind of obstacles you face and against any odds no matter how offensive, these are things you can overcome. By watching coach Haskins’ methods of recruiting, it showed me how vital it is to think outside the box in order to be ahead and more importantly to have a spot at the table. Additionally, sometimes, it is okay to go to extreme levels to motivate someone, as long as it will not cause negativity. So, I believe I will definitely try to find better ways to motivate people I work with in the ways that work for them.

I would not recommend this movie for children as some scenes depicting racism may be too frightening. There is a scene where one young man is assaulted and of course racist comments are voiced throughout the film. Other than that I would recommend this film to any person. Many important lessons about teamwork and the importance of the leader in a team can be learned from this movie. You will applaud the ending and feel good about yourself. I can whole heartily recommend this film to anyone.

Glory Road showed that enough exposure and bonding can defeat racism. A team formed out of nothing stood against all challenges and triumphed. The self- discipline and importance of hard work and team work imposed on the team by coach Haskins was portrayed. This marked the beginning of new things to come in the history of USA college basketball. Many doubted, others ridiculed and laughed at the team and coach but I guess you could say they had the last laugh.

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James Gartner’s Glory Road: More Than a Sports Movie. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from
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