The Heart of the Game
This fascinating documentary, reportedly filmed over seven years, focuses on Bill Resler, a University of Washington economics professor whose abiding interest in sports compels him to moonlight as coach for a girls’ high school basketball team. Gradually, the energetic coach turns Roosevelt High’s perennially losing Roughriders into tournament contenders, mostly by treating his players as if they were males and driving them relentlessly.
Resler comes off as an intimidating figure — at one point he urges the girls, “Sink your teeth in their necks! Draw blood!” — but he genuinely cares for his youthful charges. The film shifts its focus in the second half to Darnella Russell, a gifted African-American player (one of the team’s few) who sees basketball as her best chance for a college scholarship.
Her self-destructive behavior and violent temper get in the way, and even Resler’s support isn’t enough to keep her on track. This part of the story generates unexpected drama and suspense, and makes an already compelling movie positively riveting. You don’t have to be a hoops fanatic to find entertainment in this film: There’s plenty of “game,” but even more “heart”…
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