Coach Bill Courtney did not spend six years as the volunteer football coach at Manassas High School in order to win football games. He dedicated those six years to reaching the hearts of inner-city Memphis high school boys through something they loved. He spent six years trying to build their character and trying to make them better. Winning football games was the cherry on top.
He saw something in this particular group of boys, from this particular school in his city, that few of us would have eyes to see. He saw past circumstances – jail time, violence, failing grades, a different skin color, no parent support, no budget, no equipment, a long history of losing seasons – instead seeing an opportunity to build a foundation in an overlooked, hopeless place.
Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin, now Academy-award winning directors, saw something, too. They saw a story about people (of both races) who were willing to put aside their baggage in order to be a part of something bigger than themselves. And they told the story beautifully. So beautifully that you forget there aren’t professional actors on screen. You forget there is no script and no guaranteed happy endings. There’s just real life, real hopes, real failures and successes lived in front of a camera.
There are a lot of great documentaries out there. There are also a lot of great sports movies based on true stories.Undefeated excels as both a documentary and a sports film. It is honest, inspiring, and well deserving of its Oscar.
Coach Courtney reminds his players that the things they carry with them are the things that they’re taught.Undefeated will open your eyes and (re?) teach you about character, about doing the right thing, and ultimately about what it means to win on and off the football field.