Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
This biopic focuses on the relationship of Ernie Davis (1939-1963), a gifted African-American athlete, and his coach from 1958 to 1962 at Syracuse University, Ben Schwartzwalder (1909-1993). Schwartzwalder recruits Davis with the help of All-American running back, Jim Brown. The civil rights movement is gaining steam; Davis experiences prejudice on campus, in town, and on the field, sometimes from teammates. How he handles it and how he challenges Schwartzwalder to stand up for his players provide a counterpoint to several great seasons that lead first to a national championship and then to the Heismann Trophy. Written by
Loosely based on the life of the first black football player to win the Heisman Trophy, this follows a chap named Ernie Davis -- a name most viewers are unlikely to be familiar with -- throughout his school years. When he reaches Syracuse College, he finds he is one of two black players on his team. His coach is played by Dennis Quaid. The period was just far enough back in time that there were very few black football players, and in some states, blacks could not stay in the same hotels or attend social functions with whites. All of this is dealt with in a forthright manner, although some facts have been slightly altered to punch home the drama of the era. Quaid's coach is a gruff old man with a heart of gold, a role Quaid likely will be playing more and more often as he ages. You may not recognize many of the actors in this, but they are uniformly excellent. Worth a watch, even if you dislike football.
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