Book Review: Titans in Greek Mythology

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¶ … Titans

"In Greek mythology, the Titans were greater even than the gods. They ruled their universe with absolute power. Well, that football field out there is our universe. Let's rule it like titans." ~ Herman Boone, Remember the Titans

The film chosen is Remember the Titans. The movie was released in the year 2000 and distributed by Jerry Bruckheimer's production company as well as Disney. The film was directed by Boaz Yakin and starred Denzel Washington. This movie is based on the true story of a group of formerly racially-divided football players in the American South who are forced to deal with the racial tensions surrounding them, brought about by the attitudes of their community. The film portrays how the desegregation of a football team led to a winning season and the eventual acceptance of desegregation in the rest of the town as well. What makes the film so powerful is the way that the head football coach, portrayed by Denzel Washington, and his coaching staff, are able not only to effectively lead their team to victory, but also to use the unification of this team to change the racial perceptions of the people around them. Coach Boone, played by Washington, is the embodiment of a strong leader both on and off of the football field. The speeches Coach Boone makes in Remember the Titans can be taken out of the context of the film and applied to other aspects of the world other than football. This is the point of the movie, that the skills on the field are really life lessons. The lessons that a coach imparts to his players are intended for real-world application as much as they are to instruct the players in their sport of choice.

Remember the Titans is based on a true story, which means that the main events of the story are true, although certain aspects of the tale of the T.C. Titans were changed to enhance dramatic effect. Of the events that would inspire Remember the Titans, the real Coach Herman Boone stated:

The town decided to follow the team rather than those who wanted to tear the town and the team down. I believe the team did play a great role in keeping the city calm, focused, positive towards these young men who'd shown the city that you can get along if you just talk to each other. It was a powerful message that they passed on for generations, and it will be passed on for generations…At a time when the city was ready to burn itself to the ground, these kids stepped out and changed attitudes among themselves and their community (Maxwell 31).

There have been many who criticize the film, stating that Remember the Titans is nothing more than a Disney feel-good football movie. This is simply not the case. The story of the T.C. Titans and how these boys changed the perceptions of their town is inspirational as a tale of leadership and the lessons learned from the film can be used to instill ideas of cooperation and teamwork in today's world.

In the film Remember the Titans, three schools in and around the southern United States town of Alexandria, Virginia are combined at the end of segregation in 1971, forming the now- unified T.C. Williams High School. After the Supreme Court ruling of Swann vs. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education determined that bussing was a potential solution to the problem of integrating schools where diverse groups have difficulty accessing the location, the city of Alexandria was ordered to use bussing to bring more African-American students in from the further parts of town (71 Original). When the viewer first meets Herman Boone, he has arrived at T.C. Williams to serve as Assistant Coach, something then-head coach Bill Yost is not pleased with. Boone replies to this by saying, "Well, I came up here to coach at G.W. I didn't ask the schools to redistrict. I didn't ask to be assigned to your staff. So I guess we're both in a situation we don't want to be in" (Remember). Both coaches are to be further upset when the school reassigns the roles.

Further animosity between the team is incensed when Coach Herman Boone replaces former head coach Bill Yoast, a man on the way to the High School Football Coaching Hall of Fame, for the position of Head Coach. This adds a severe complication to the film. In order to placate the black community, Boone has been given the head coaching job over Yost, despite the fact that Yost has seniority and merits the job. Although Coach Boone is fully aware that Yost is being given unfair treatment, he still takes the promotion. This stops the character from being a cliche and gives the film more depth and more honesty. For the first time, the all-white football team in town, including the Titan's only All-American Gerry Bertier, had to play alongside the African-American players. If that weren't enough of a culture clash, they are also being coached by an African-American man, something they also have never had to experience. For the black players, they initially believe being led by an African-American coach will mean that they will get plenty of play time. This is immediately shut down when the players learn that Coach Boone has no intention of choosing players because of race, but will place them in terms of their athletic ability.

When the Titan players head to Gettysburg University for two weeks of practice, the boys initially segregate themselves, all the black students going on one bus and all the white students getting onto the other. When Coach Boone sees what is going on, he forces the buses to segregate, assigning each boy a seat mate of the other race. The real Coach Boone reports that he actually did this when he saw the boys segregating themselves from one another. "I forced them on each other. I forced them to learn each other's culture. I forced them to be a part of each other's lives" (Merron). All this happened very quickly. When Coach Boone saw what was happening, he immediately made a plan and took action to solve the problem. This is an important characteristic in an effective leader.

At camp, the black and white players are mostly still reluctant to cooperate and are far more concerned with their positions on the football team than in rectifying their prejudicial attitudes. In one of the film's most famous scenes, Coach Boone awakes all the players before dawn and forces them to run to Gettysburg, to the site of the battle during the Civil War. Coach Boone says:

Anybody knows what this place is? This is Gettysburg. This is where they fought the Battle of Gettysburg. Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fightin' the same fight that we're still fightin' amongst ourselves today. This green field right here was painted red, bubblin' with the blood of young boys, smoke and hot lead pourin' right through their bodies. Listen to their souls, men: 'I killed my brother with malice in my heart. Hatred destroyed my family.' You listen. And take a lesson from the dead. If we don't come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed -- just like they were. I don't care if you like each other or not. But you will respect each other. And maybe -- I don't know -- maybe we'll learn to play this game like men (Remember).

Through the influence of Coach Herman Boone, many of the players did reach out to their fellow players. They themselves became instrumental when they arrived at school in prohibiting racial attitudes and behaviors against their classmates. This shows how important a strong leader is in the formation of young minds. Those that are led by a strong individual will then themselves learn to become strong leaders.

It is important to note that not all students had racially-prejudicial opinions before they began playing for the Titans. One student, a Ronnie "Sunshine" Bass would go down to the "Burg" which was the most rural part of town. "Ronnie went down (to the Burg) every day, and he related to the kids there in the ghetto. This is one of the reasons they called him 'Sunshine'" (Merron). Another who was unbothered by the racial differences was Louie Lastik (portrayed in the film by actor Ethan Suplee). The real Herman Boone described Lastik as a bridge. "Louie grew up close to the black neighborhood, and he knew all of the black kids, particularly from G.W., and they knew him. He had played with them, and related with them" (Merron). These individuals were instrumental in bridging the gap of racial intolerance between the black and white players of the newly formed T.C. Williams Titans football team. After these few boys took the lead with regard to racial cooperation, the other players were far more willing to follow suit.

As it turns… [END OF PREVIEW]

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