Remember the Titans was the real-life, feel-good story that taught us exactly how football can help this country get along.
And when you watched the movie, with its fantastic soundtrack of 1970-era tunes, we all were “the Titans, the mighty, mighty Titans.”
It premiered on this day, 21 years ago. Outsider’s Instagram account used a snap of Denzel Washington, who played legendary high school coach Herman Boone. And Boone said: “This is no democracy. It is a dictatorship. I am the law.”
Although Remember the Titans premiered in 2000, it told the story from almost three decades before. That was when T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., integrated. The story was told through the eyes of the Black and white football players who needed to bond and build a team. For decades, high school teams helped build such bonds in communities. People came together with the common goal of cheering on their sons and daughters. And football represented where folks could find common ground.
When Williams High School was integrated, the school board hired Boone to be the head coach, hoping that it would help ease racial tensions. Bill Yoast, who was the highly successful football coach at the white high school, finally accepted the defensive coordinator position on Boone’s staff. Initially, Yoast (Will Patton) didn’t want to be part of the program, but did so when the white players announced they’d boycott.
Key Part of Remember the Titans Came in Team’s Training Camp
Boone brought all the players to a special preseason training camp in Gettysburg. It was as much to bond as it was to learn his system. And Boone was tough, but one who said he didn’t care about skin color.
In a key scene in Remember the Titans, Boone told the team: “We will be perfect in every aspect of the game. You drop a pass, you run a mile. You miss a blocking assignment, you run a mile. (And) you fumble the football, and I will break my foot off in your (butt) and then you will run a mile. Perfection. Let’s go to work.”
And he also kept telling his team “I don’t care if you like each other or not. But you will respect each other.”
It took team captains Julius Campbell (Wood Harris) and Gerry Bertier (Ryan Hurst) getting along to show everyone that Black and white players could be friends. Ryan Gosling and Donald Faison portrayed players on the team. And a very young Hayden Panettierre played Sheryl, Yoast’s daughter, who knew football better than most players.
In Remember the Titans, the team wins the state championship. But after the semifinal, Bertier is injured in a car wreck. He ends up paralyzed from the waist down.
The movie actually is set in 1981. At the end, you find out everyone came together for Bertier’s funeral. He died in a car wreck caused by a drunk driver.
Julius holds the hand of Bertier’s mother, as Remember the Titans closes with everyone singing Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.
The movie, which was based on a true story, made almost $137 million worldwide. And no doubt, Remember the Titans is one of the top football movies ever made.