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Sat March 10, 2007
Been there. Done that.
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"... marathon swimming is the most difficult physical, intellectual and emotional battleground I have encountered, and each time I win, each time I touch the other shore, I feel worthy of any other challenge life has to offer." Diana Nyad
Pride is a clich? from the first frame to the end. But I can't change the truth on which these stereotypes were built. In 1974 Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard), a former swimmer now janitor, coaches a rag-tag, sand lot group of talented minorities from the Philadelphia Department of Recreation to state-wide championships in swimming by invoking PDR (pride, determination, resilience). Been there, done that in movies. Within the last few years, several films were based on true stories told of coaches and players overcoming odds to become winners: Gridiron Gang, Glory Road, Coach Carter, and Invincible come to mind.
The difference from the usual fare is swimming, arguably not a strong sport for minorities. The real difference is Ellis, who slowly gains the trust of the lost young athletes at the local center. Ellis doesn't harangue like Bobby Knight or physically react like Woody Hayes; he just shows them how to swim precisely and focused while he also reinforces their need for education. Along the way, of course, is the hanging-about drug dealer/pimp with his alluring dollars and the nagging but attractive single mom, who reluctantly hooks up with Ellis.
All this usually formulaic film fiction-inspired-by-real events is made palatable by engaging actors and the spirit of this loveable coach, still working to this day, who never gave up on the students. Love and trust?sounds like an effective combo even for nations.
You've seen it all before, but you won't be bored because the truth about hard work and love is romantic and enduring.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com