Suggested Answers to Discussion Questions for
Learning Guide to HOOSIERS
1. [Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film]. [No suggested Answers.]
2. Was the town's relationship with basketball healthy? Suggested Response: No. When a 17 year old can determine the fate of an adult coach; when a daughter feels that basketball is more important than anything she could ever accomplish; when what a man did (or failed to do) in high school basketball is the high (or low) point of his life; when the most important emotion that townspeople feel when their team does poorly is embarrassment (rather than compassion for the players), there are strong indications that something is amiss. The purpose of high school sports is to teach players about ethics and life and to give them an opportunity to mature without risking the destruction of their psyche. That is difficult in such a supercharged environment.
3. Why did Myra Fleener warn Coach Dale to keep away from Jimmy Chitwood? Suggested Response: She tells us. She didn't want Jimmy's life to be limited to his achievements in basketball; she didn't want his grieving process to be interrupted by a coach putting dreams of glory in his head. A follow-up question is why she felt so strongly about this and why she was initially so hostile to Coach Dale. The answer is that she resented basketball because her family loved basketball excessively and didn't appreciate a girl who couldn't participate (in the 1950s there were no girl's basketball teams); she resented being kept in that small town by her obligations to her mother (who was ill and alone).
4. Why did Myra Fleener's mother invite Coach Dale for dinner? Suggested Response: To get Coach Dale and her daughter talking and perhaps to begin to have a romantic relationship. This is shown by the fact that the mother insisted on looking for the firewood, leaving them together.
5. What did Coach Dale do (or not do) to win the trust of Myra Fleener? Suggested Response: He didn't pester Jimmy and he acted as a teacher to his players, rather than as a coach whose only interest was in winning. Examples: teaching the boys teamwork at the expense of winning (at least initially); taking Shooter's son out of the game when he injured himself and keeping him out even when he was needed on the floor; trying to help Shooter.
6. What is the message of this film about winning in high school sports and what is the serious structural flaw in the film? Suggested Response: The basic message is that winning isn't everything and that there are many things more important than winning. The structural flaw in the film is that the team wins in the end. Coach Dale's courageous actions in putting Shooter's son on the bench and keeping him there even when one of the other starters fouls out; in risking a game to allow Shooter to coach the end of the game; and in not pressuring Jimmy to play, are, in the end, not painful. Ethics is being willing to do something that hurts for a principle. To really make the point that winning isn't everything, the team would have to lose, but then the box office for the film would have been tiny.
7. What is the proper role of the desire to win in high school and college sports? Suggested Response: The desire to win sets a context in which the true beneficial lessons of sports can be taught. They are described in the ethical principals of Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Respect and Fairness; in helping the students mature; in allowing adolescents an area in which they can achieve something; and, for some, in providing rites of passage from adolescence to maturity (see Rites of Passages Questions in the Learning Guide to Remember the Titans) These are all undercut by an excessive interest in winning.
8. What is the importance of "impulse control" and how did a lack of impulse control affect one of the characters in this film? Suggested Response: The lack of impulse control can lead to tragedy, disgrace, prison, and many other very unpleasant results. Coach Dale lost his career by losing control for a few seconds and hitting one of his players. Another example of lack of impulse control occurs when Shooter's son starts a fight on the court.
9. The real life situation which inspired this film involved a state championship match-up between an all-white team from a very small rural high school (the Milan Indians, student body 161) and an all-black team from a large inner city high school (more than 2000 students). The filmmakers chose to ignore this fact and make the opposing team integrated in order to avoid setting the conflict up as white vs. black. The racial make-up of the opposing teams was also changed in the film Remember the Titans. According to the film, each of the teams faced by the 1971 Titans were all white and didn't have to deal with race. In reality many were integrated. Do you think that making these changes detracted from the truthfulness of either film? Suggested Response: There is no one right or wrong answer to the question. The following points could be made in discussions seeking an answer. In "Hoosiers", the inaccuracy as to the race of the opponents was to prevent a side issue from distracting the audience from all of the interesting and important issues presented in the film. It is neither important nor interesting that on this one occasion a team of relatively small white guys from the sticks beat a team of relatively large black guys from the city. Then again, the film could have mentioned this fact and the characters could have dismissed it as unimportant. After all, no one remembers the 1951 championship of the Milan Indians because they were white and the other team was black. This championship is remembered as showing that a small team can win. In "Remember the Titans", the purpose of the change was to highlight the story of the successful integration of the team as something unique. A strong argument could be made that the movie makers did not have to rewrite history in this way. The fact that other teams were going through the same process, but without a black head coach, perhaps without approximately equal representation of whites and blacks on the team, and perhaps without equal success, tends to show that the Titans had unique challenges without altering the historical fact. In addition, the fact that other teams were struggling with integration as well shows that the Titans' story and their success at integration was all the more important. The counterargument is that acknowledging integration of the other teams would have presented a fact pattern that was too complicated to present in the film and that it did not really bear upon the more important and interesting characterizations of the film, i.e., the interaction of the two coaches and the two players, both of which were strikingly accurate. These are not the only considerations and a stimulating discussion could be developed on this issue.
10. Myra Fleener said, "Gods come pretty cheap these days." What did she mean? Do you agree or disagree? Suggested Response: She thought that being good at a sport was not a sufficient reason to be treated as a hero. A follow-up question would be, "What would you consider to be a good reason to treat someone like a hero?"
11. Why did Coach Dale give Shooter a chance to be an assistant coach? Did he really need him? Suggested Response: Coach Dale recruited Shooter to give Shooter another chance. Coach Dale knew from personal experience that people sometimes need a second chance. Coach Dale did not need Shooter's expertise.
Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:
1. Why, at the beginning of the season, does Coach Dale require the team to pass four times before shooting? Why was this only necessary at the beginning of the season? Suggested Response: The four passing rule was to build teamwork. By the end of the season, when teamwork was strongly in place, the rule was not required.
2. Why does Coach Dale insist that the players obey him without question in matters relating to basketball? Suggested Response: Actually, he doesn't. At the end, after they have learned to obey him, in the last play of the championship game, they ask him to allow Jimmy to take the shot and he agrees. A good leader will take suggestions from those that he leads. However, before Coach Dale could allow this to occur he had to establish his authority as unquestioned.
ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE
3. When Shooter asked for handouts, were his friends doing him any favors by giving him the small change that he sought? Suggested Response: No. They were facilitating his alcohol addiction.
4. Given that Shooter was an alcoholic would the second chance that Coach Dale had given him be the push he needed to stop drinking? Suggested Response: Probably not. As shown in the film, it usually takes more than another chance for almost all alcoholics to overcome their disease, no matter how good that chance is. For example, Shooter's love for his son couldn't keep him off alcohol. Was an opportunity to be an assistant coach more important than his son's love? Most alcoholics require a twelve-step program such as Alcoholic Anonymous, treatment in a residential facility, or something similar. It appears from the film that Coach Dale's action helped Shooter decide to try in-patient rehabilitation.
5. Shooter appeared to blame his failures in life on the fact that in the key game of his high school basketball career, he had what would have been the winning shot, but it went in and out. Is there any basis for this? Suggested Response: No, it was just another excuse by a drug dependent person.
6. Shooter appears to blame his lack of self-respect on the fact that he missed a crucial basket at the end of his high school basketball career. As he explains, the shot went "in and out." Is this reasonable? What is the real reason for Shooter's lack of self-respect? Suggested Response: One can't reasonably blame a player for a shot that goes in and out of the basket. That can happen to anyone. There are other, deeper reasons for Shooter's lack of self-respect.
MALE ROLE MODEL
7. Think about the characters in this film. One of them could be classified as a male role model. It's not the coach, although he is a man who has learned lessons from life and has become a nurturing, caring individual. Who was it? Suggested Response: It's Shooter's son. Growing up with a father who is the town drunk, always asking people for two bits for another drink, is very difficult. Maintaining a loving and caring attitude toward such a father, trying to help him, giving him not a second, but probably a thousandth and ten thousandth chance, takes a maturity beyond most 17 year olds and a capacity for forgiveness that eludes many adults. After all, for a child, an important message of a parent's alcoholism or drug addition is rejection, i.e., the drug is more important to the parent than love for the child. At the beginning, the son "didn't see" what the coach was doing for his father, didn't think it would work. But he always acted toward his father in a gentle, nurturing way. The only thing that the son did in the film that was wrong was to start the fight in the game in which his father had just appeared drunk, but that is understandable. Note that the film doesn't deal with the issue of codependence and it does not appear that the son was facilitating his father's alcohol use in any way.
Last updated February 5, 2008.
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