Cross-country isn’t a popular sport in the United States, particularly at the High School level. Neither myself, or anyone I knew became a “big man on campus” because we could run a 2 mile race between 9 and 10 minutes. The only people I can remember seeing at the meets were coaches and some hardy parents, willing to stand around in the rain and cold at the start and finish lines. There were no cheerleaders. Running is a sport that I would reluctantly agree is closer to a cult than a big time sport like Football (both the American and World versions), basketball and baseball.
Ask anyone, running is painful. It’s not “fun.” We trackmen used to laugh at football players and tell them that their sports punishment was our sport. Still, that was more to make ourselves feel better about the suffering we all endured. So, why would people be willing to spend their money on watching a movie about a bunch of high school kids running cross country?
Because whether or not people are willing to admit it, there are few things in the United States where the game isn’t rigged. Whether its Congress passing laws written by lobbyists for Corporations who will reap the benefits from that law to Haliburton making billions from the wars in Iraq and Afganistan and the blood spilled by our military, this is a corrupt nation.
Running is pure. It’s objective. It doesn’t matter where you live, what kind of clothes you wear, what your politics are or if you are popular. And it doesn’t matter if you are poor kid that picks produce from McFarland, California. What matters is what is the time on the clock. Fastest, wins. PERIOD. Growing up, I loved running because even though I wasn’t strong or popular, I had a chance to win.
As I see it, the magic of McFarland U.S.A. is that the makers of this film show non-runners the purity of being a runner. The film properly shows the suffering and the sacrifices runners go through in order to compete. It also shows the unbreakable bond that runners share who’ve been through the TRIAL OF MILES. It can’t be faked. There are no Cliff Notes or friendly counselors to help you get through the tough times. It’s just you facing your pain and overcoming it. The makers of this film do a fantastic job showing this side of running.
I only have two minor issues with this film. First, the animosity between the teams was something I never experienced as a high school runner. Whether there were racist comments made by the Palo Alto coach and his runners, I have no way of knowing. It may have been something put into the screenplay for dramatic effect. The second issue also deals with the Palo Alto team and that is the smug and racist coach for Palo Alto. I never met a coach like that in all my years of running. The people who’ve I met are coaching runners because they love the sport and they are often doing it with little or no pay.
Aside from these two minor issues, I loved this movie and found it inspiring. Kevin Costner did an able job of portraying a man swimming against the tide of despair. The other actors were authentic and believable. Best of all, it’s a true story. I believe that every runner or anyone thinking of becoming a runner should see this fine film. Well done Disney!