“Undefeated” Wins at Oscars

Going into Sunday night, a little known, little heard of documentary based upon a high school football team in Memphis was up for the Oscar on Best Documentary.  Oscar or no, this documentary shows that team has already won.

The documentary is named “Undefeated” and documents the extraordinary concern and passion of a white football coach for his team of African-American players, whose chaotic personal lives threaten to undermine their talents.  It reflects an entire season and how they deal with everything that comes between them and the game.

“Undefeated” is a movie that keeps you enthralled in the pace and concern for these kids who just want someone to care for them longer than 15 minutes.  These players come from the inner-city and most are without fathers or mothers, sometimes both.  They just want consistency and discipline in their lives and football shows it to them.

The movie follows this Memphis Manassas High School football team, which, in its 110-year history, has never won a playoff game. After six seasons, leading up to 2009, Coach Bill Courtney has finally produced a contender through sheer guts and fortitude. Courtney is white and his players are all African-American. After a while, this fact no longer matters.

What does matter is the extraordinary empathy Courtney experiences with the kids, who treat him with respect even when he is lambasting them.  What is also amazing is Courtney spent 6 years as the coach of this team, all on a volunteer basis.  The school could not afford to pay a salary and he accepted that just to help these kids.

The co-directors of this documentary, Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin, focus on Courtney.  During the day he runs a lumber company and has four kids of his own.  During the movie Courtney fears he is neglecting them and how he deals with those emotions.

They also center on three players.  They are Chavis Daniels, a gifted athlete with severe anger-management issues; Montrail “Money” Brown, an offensive lineman and top student; and O.C. Brown, an imposing right tackle who needs tutoring to make his grades.

As it turned out, “Undefeated” won the Oscar for Best Documentary.  But that’s not all.  The coaches and players already proved they are winners.

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