Commentary by Kevin Miller
“Do we really need another sports movie?” That
was my initial response upon seeing the ads for Coach
With Radio, Miracle, Wimbledon, and Friday
Night Lights all coming out within the last twelve months or so, it
seemed like the genre had reached a saturation point. So
the question is, is Coach Carter worth watching? Does it
contribute something to the genre that other sports movies
terms of character and plot, Coach Carter is hardly innovative.
You’ve got the hard-driving coach who
struggles to win the community over to his unorthodox tactics;
the group of misfits who he transforms into a winning team;
the “tough case” who is really just crying
out for attention; and the token sub-plot—in this
case, a player whose hoop dreams may be dashed by his girlfriend’s
pregnancy—that attempts to deepen the story through
not plot, then how about message? Once again, Coach
Carter has all the subtlety of a pipe organ at full volume,
blaring familiar themes like “believe in yourself,” “teamwork,” and “winning
isn’t everything.” Not exactly the brightest
light on the tree, but not the dimmest one either. In fact,
I was all set to commend it for going beyond the norm by
addressing the structural issues that created the personal
struggles each character faced rather than merely repeating
trite, self-help rhetoric. But affirming this film’s
positive message became increasingly difficult, seeing
as that message was contradicted in the end.
central theme is simple: We all have the ability to live
extraordinary lives. However, working
against that potential is our tendency to believe the lies
people tell us. As the saying goes, belief is reality.
Thus, if we hope to realize our potential, we need to cast
off the lies and start living the truth. So far, so good.
moment in the development of this theme occurs when Coach
Carter is confronted by the “tough case,” who
has finally found the answer to Carter’s oft-asked
question: “What is your deepest fear?” The
player responds by quoting poet Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens
us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You
are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve
the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born
to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s
not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as
we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other
people permission to do the same….”
appears these boys are finally getting the message. They’ve been “playing small.” Now it’s
time to show the world what they’re made of, to dream
It looks like all systems are go. Cue the big game, the
slow motion shots, the post-game speech, and the “Where
are they now?” epilogue.
But wait a moment: We still have a sub-plot to wrap up.
Remember? The one about the player and his pregnant girlfriend?
struggling through how to make the baby fit into their
plans, the guy arrives at his girlfriend’s
house one day to inform her he has found a solution: Not
only has he won a full basketball scholarship, the college
is even willing to help them support the baby.
responds by telling him they needn’t bother.
She has found her own solution: abortion. With the baby
gone, now they are both free to “do their thing.” Upon
hearing the news, he is mildly upset that she didn’t
allow him to walk through the experience with her. But
after that, it’s all hugs and happily ever after.
the father of three young children, this scene almost
made me cry. It wasn’t so much the couple’s
decision that bothered me. That was sad, but it was also
understandable given their situation and the obvious lack
of a social support system. What really troubled me was
the fact that this film—which had just finished telling
us, “We are all meant to shine, as children do”—did
not even take a moment of silence for the death of this
unborn child. It just moved right along with the story.
No remorse, no consequences.
your stance on the legal and moral implications of abortion,
is not one to be taken lightly. Abortion remains among
the most loaded decisions a person can make, and the
with which it's treated in Coach Carter fails
to give it the weight it deserves. It is more of a footnote
to the story than a major turning point. This seems to
directly contradict what Ken Carter says to his son at
one point in the film-- something along the lines of, “Part
of becoming an adult means making decisions—and living
with the consequences.”
we ignore the impact of the choices we make and treat
moral dilemmas with an offhandedness that disregards their
true implications, we are left with shallow preferences
and no moral core. In other words, we become exactly the
opposite of what Ken Carter was striving to help his players
to become. Important decisions require time for prayer
reflection, time to ask God for direction, and time to
appreciate the full consequences of our actions and whether
or not we are willing to live with them.
of this reflection was apparent in this subplot. This
is surprising, seeing as director Thomas Carter was
obviously striving to create a movie with a message of
life and hope. Instead, all we get is yet another example
of people refusing to think in terms greater than themselves.
The worst part is; this subplot is completely extraneous
to the story. It’s not just a bad message; it’s
is Coach Carter worth watching? That all depends on what
message you take away from it. If it inspires you
to follow Ken Carter’s example, to let your light
shine so that others will be encouraged to do the same,
then by all means, yes. But if all it does is add to a
heap of lies, then I fear this film is simply a waste of
@ 2005 Kevibn Miller.