So it is late in the day–almost midnight–and I haven’t made my required post.
I have found that there is a different kind of pressure under the requirement to post every day. My mind goes blank—almost panic mode—as I try to think about something to write. I suppose it is partly because I don’t think I have the time to write in complete enough terms about some of the things I want to write about.
Here is a try at something incomplete and short. But it probably doesn’t deserve much more than the incomplete attention that I can give it here:
I was flipping through the movie channels, and I stumbled across a movie that I have stumbled across before, called “Chasing a Dream.” It is a track movie. The main character is a high school football player, with a demanding football coach father, played by Treat Williams. I loved Treat Williams in that show in which he was a high powered New York City brain surgeon who moved to Colorado and changed his life—“Everwood.” Anyway, the football player is such a good football player that the father is counting on him to get a football scholarship to pay for college. Then his best friend, a runner whose goal was to break the four-minute barrier for the mile, dies tragically in an accident. The football player feels survivor’s guilt. So he decides to quit playing football in order to complete his best friend’s dream.
The movie is terrible. It has to be even worse for anyone who knows anything about running. (There is already a thread on Letsrun.com about how bad it is.) All one really needs to know in order to evaluate the movie is that the football player does complete the task, which of course at the time of the film’s release would make him only the fifth American high school runner to break four minutes for the mile (as Lukas Verzbicas fans know). In fact, when he runs his sub-four mile, he finishes second, behind another high school runner. This is something that has never happened ever–two high school runners under four minutes in the same race.
They do this on a cinder track in a 2009 movie. There’s a scene where a machine is painting the lines on the cinder track as they get ready for the big race. Where did they even find this track? The track is apparently located right behind the high school. There are fewer people in the stands at this meet than we have at our Ignatius home track meets. The football player’s mother and father stand in the middle of the football field during the race, with the mother jumping up and down mechanically for four minutes clapping her hands. They stand next to the track coach who shouts out the quarter-mile splits from the middle of the football field. The football player pointedly runs the race in training shoes. When the dead boy’s mother brings a pair of her son’s track spikes for the football player to use in the big race, he leaves them on a bench as if they are going to watch the race. Maybe he just prefers running a four-minute mile in his training shoes. As the laps go by, the film shows somebody holding up a small six inch pad of numbers that get flipped lap by lap. It is just plain silly.
But finally, the worst thing is that the football player is played by actor Adam Lawrence (who plays a character now in “United States of Tara”). In this movie Lawrence must be about five foot six inches tall and about 160 pounds—way too small to be a great football player, but way too big for a runner capable of running a five minute mile, much less a four-minute mile. He looks so funny in the running scenes, in which the other athletes actually look like real runners.
Just as a comparison, Brad Pitt once starred in a track movie, “Across the tracks,” in which he plays a talented and troubled high school runner. This is not a great movie, and I haven’t seen it for a long time. But as I remember it, especially as track movies go, it isn’t bad. The running scenes are at least realistic enough. Pitt and Ricky Schroeder (from “NYPD Blue,” among other things), who plays his alter ego brother, also a runner, at least look like they are runners when they run. I’ll write more about that movie sometime.
I suppose one could make some of the same complaints about another old track movie that I have always loved, “The Jericho Mile.” In “The Jericho Mile,” the unlikely runner is played by Peter Strauss, who won an Emmy Award for the 1979 movie. Strauss’s character “Rain” Murphy has been sentenced to life in prison, where he starts to run around the prison yard. Other prisoners make fun of him. Long story short, he gets so good it looks like he could contend for the United States Olympic team. But of course they won’t let him out of prison for the day to compete. I know it sounds silly, but it is a way better movie than “Chasing a Dream.” It is at least a guilty pleasure, and I have to admit in honesty that I even own a VHS copy, which I picked up at a going out of business sale at a video store–or maybe I bought it off Ebay, which is even more of an admission of guilty pleasures and even a recommendation. Patrick McHugh blogged about it, too. He also posted a Youtube link to the movie’s final scenes, set to the soundtrack of “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Anyway, I don’t know what I am complaining about in more general terms, other than this: If people actually think that someone could quit his high school football team and then run a four-minute mile, what is the world coming to?
Edit: Just a few minutes after I posted this, a friend on Facebook (and actually an old friend from high school) asked if there are any track movies about high school girls. One came to mind quickly: A young Nicole Kidman plays a talented high school runner in a 1985 Australian television movie, “Room to Move.” Her dad wants her to be a track star, but she wants to be a dancer. She ends up doing both–but not at the same time. There are clips on Youtube. I remember watching this movie with my older daughters Mairead and Hanna, neither of whom became runners or dancers. But I bet they remember the movie.