Remember The Titans – The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same
Remember the Titans is one of my favourite movies. Based on a true story in 1971 Virginia, when two high schools were desegregated. As a result, the football team (T. C. Williams High School Titans) is forced to play with students from other races, which hadn’t been done before.
Through the power of sport, the team and coaches overcome their differences to bond and play football. Its amazing to see the teams ability to overcome their differences in the face of societal pressures to stay divided.
Black Lives Matter protests, recent riots in the United States and the enormous African American incarceration rate shows there is still much work to be done. As it is the 50th anniversary of that team, I thought I would look and showcase the things that a high school football team could overcome, while society 50 years on still hasn’t.
One of the first instances in the movie where the racial divide is noticeable is on the first team bus trip of the year. On a trip for their first camp of the year, there are two buses. The team all hop on the buses, and Coach Herman Boon (Denzel Washington) immediately recognises something. The boys had split up according to race. Whether they had done this consciously or unconsciously, Coach Boon wasn’t going to let the season start on this foot.
Coach Boon immediately enters one bus and orders them off, then the second one. The team are then told they will be divided on to buses depending on whether they are offence or defence, mixing the entire team up.
Right from the outset coach Boon makes it clear that this team will not be divided. This illustrates the impact that authority can have on young people when used in a productive manner. Coach Boon was the key figure in uniting these boys and I admire the way that he went about achieving that.
“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”.
The pivotal moment in the movie comes when coach Boon wakes the players up at 3am to take them on a run while on their training camp. The team at this point was still fighting, and this was getting in-between the team bonding and playing together. The team, and some of the other coaches, were less than impressed to have to go on a long morning run through the woods.
After a long run, the team gets to a field in the middle of the woods, still pitch black. This is when coach Boon informs the group that they are in the fields of Gettysburg, the site of the turning point in the American Civil war. Trying to illuminate how childish and senseless their differences are, coach Boon states, “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”. After this scene, the team comes together and put their differences aside in the name of progress, teamwork and unity.
I love this scene as its very impactful as well as probably the most memorable scene of the movie. They’re just young men, and at this point you can see that they recognise that their differences are not worth dying over.
Another example where racial segregation is apparent is when the boys want to go to a restaurant to celebrate a victory and the African American players are barred from entering. The African American contingent didn’t want to even try entering, knowing the outcome. This exposes how naive the white player’s view of the world is and how they don’t understand the racism their teammates face.
This illustrates the time and country that this team was living in, and working against. It becomes apparent how much of an effect outside influences can have on the dynamic of a any group however much they attempt to remain united.
America today is polarised, there is no mistaking that. Social media has given everyone a voice, from your average day American to elite sports people taking a stand (or knee) for what they believe. This movie illustrates the power of sport and how much a positive effect it can have on society. This has been shown in recent times by the likes of Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James and the effect they can have on society and public opinion.
We could be at a cross roads as we speak, and change will come for the rest of society, maybe it wont. The Titans were ahead of their time, maybe its time for many people in the US to follow their lead.