A friend of mine recently hauled me over to watch McFarland, USA (Disney, 2015)*.
If you’ve never heard of “McFarland,” don’t worry. Neither had Jim White. He wound up teaching at McFarland High School cuz he couldn’t keep a teaching job anywhere else.
Located near Bakersfield, CA, the farming community of McFarland is one of the poorest in the country. It’s also the setting for one of the most inspirational movies of the year.
Originally hired as an uber reluctant life sciences and P.E. teacher and high school football coach in 1987, White was swiftly relieved as a football coach. Watching some of his students run to and from the agricultural fields to work before and after school, White got a crazy idea: how ‘bout a cross-country team? (By the way, cross-country season is now. Just so ya know.)
Never mind that McFarland had never had a XC team. Or much else. Or that White didn’t have the first clue how to coach any running sport. Never mind the skeptical principal. Untrained runners. Lack of resources, equipment and personnel. Pretty much everything. The only things McFarland was rich in was community support and guts. And that’s about it.
“McFarland, USA” is the true story of how one coach and seven kids from this out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere school took on the best XC teams in the state with little more than sheer grit and determination.
And ran them off their feet.
“What’s hard is losing when you haven’t done enough.”
“You don’t back down. They won’t either.”
“We wear ‘em, you wear ‘em, Ese.”
“Is that Danny Diaz?”
The “Barbie bike.”
“We don’t even got a K-Mart.”
“This is gonna come down to which runners can handle the pain.”
“Who’s tougher? My money’s on you.”
“I got five bucks and seven kids who’ve never seen an ocean.”
“Don’t say to me ‘no.’”
“Let’s go show ‘em how it’s done.”
“Nowhere that I’ve ever lived has felt this much like home.”
“This ain’t golf.”
McFarland, USA “ain’t golf.” You’ll get that if you’ve seen it. The film has spunk. Heart. And one heckuva final kick. (Wait till you see what they use for hill training.) Kevin Costner turns in another solid performance as the taciturn White.
You don’t have to be a runner to get this movie. You just have to love a humungous underdog. Two thumbs up.
Find out more at McFarland’s Family of Champions.
* She didn’t have to haul that hard. She had me at “Ghirardelli’s,” “movie,” and “pizza.” Not necessarily in that order.
Photo credit: CC BY-SA 3.0,