“We Are Marshall”

“From the ashes we rose.”

I’m not a big football fan.  I’d rather watch paint peel than a “football movie” – until I stumbled upon We Are Marshall (Warner Brothers, 2006).  Powerful and poignant,  We Are Marshall is more than a “football movie.”  Much more.  I watched it three times in two days.

We are Marshall is the heart-wrenching, hopeful, agonizing, and inspiring story about the tragic loss of a school’s entire football team and coaching staff in a 1970 plane crash.

“Lay it on the line until the final whistle blows, and if you do that, you cannot lose.”

– Coach Jack Lengyel

Set in Huntington, Virignia We are Marshall is the  extraordinary true story of a school and a town steeped in the rich tradition of college football. For decades, players, coaches, fans and families have come together to cheer on Marshall University’s “Thundering Herd.” For this team and this community, Marshall football is more than a sport.  It’s a way of life. But on November 14, 1970, Marshall University and the entire community of Huntington experienced the greatest air tragedy in the history of collegiate athletics when 75 members of the Marshall football team, coaches, university staff, community members, and crew die in a plane crash.

The town’s grief is palpable, overwhelming.  And Marshall?  In this small town, the loss is devastating, effecting mothers and fathers, fathers, siblings, spouses, fiancés.

“Clocks ticked, but time did not pass.  The sun rose and the sun set, but the shadow remained.  Once there was sound, but now there was silence.”

As those left behind struggle to cope with the immensity of the tragedy, the grieving families find hope and strength in the leadership of Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey), a compassionate young coach who’s determined to rebuild Marshall’s football program and helps heal a community in the process.

My favorite character is Marshall University President Dr. Don Dedmon.  This guy won’t take “No” for an answer.  And don’t let that soft-spoken, mild-mannered Southern charm fool you.  This guy’s a bull dog.  There wouldn’t have been any MU team – start-up or otherwise – without the Herculean efforts of Dedmon, who remains self-effacing and humble to the end.

We Are Marshall has everything.  Overwhelming tragedy.  Immense sorrow.  Selflessness. Hope.  Healing.  Grit.  Refusing to quit even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  We Are Marshall isn’t the greatest movie ever made, but it has something seldom seen in cinemas these days: heartIf you’re not on your feet by the end of this movie, better check your pulse.

As for me?  Well, I’m still not a big football fan.  But the next time Marshall U. takes the field, I’m more than a little likely to tune in.  And applaud.

Warner Brothers, 2006.  Rated PG (Note: Some mild language –  may not be suitable for young children.)

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