On November 14, 1970, the Marshall Football team, less the freshmen and four starters, were killed in a plane crash while returning from an away game. It was my fourteenth birthday. The Detroit Free Press had a picture on the front page the next day of a helmet adorned with an “M” in the foreground, and the wreckage in the background. Its image forged into my memory by the unimaginable tragedy.
It is impossible to imagine a wound as deep as instantaneously removing seventy-five members of a community. It produces a scab so fragile that the wound itself is in jeopardy of remaining into perpetuity. It is a scab that is torn at by the simple living of life, by the fragilities the mind, and by the mere breathing of air. It is a pain that is deep and lingering. It produces sorrow, lethargy, apathy, confusion, listlessness, and bitterness. It is impossible to envision a time when such a wound may be healed.
Tragedy is a unique human experience. It is usually mortal and created by the unexpected. This combination of factors challenges the human spirit, which is what makes tragedy a classic literary form. It is a compelling human experience, yet it produces myriad of results…some sad, some compoundingly tragic, but sometimes tragedy produces glorious redemption, a strengthening of will, a shaping of character.
Such it is with the town of Huntington, West Virginia; Marshall University; and the Thundering Herd Football team. We Are Marshall is a powerful, yet gentle, retelling of their stories. It is a story of grief, of coaching, of personal growth, of overcoming challenges, of losing, of winning, and of football.
I don’t pride myself in being a good movie critic. In fact, I am probably a lousy one. I get too caught up with the characters in most movies…I fail to notice artistic flaws, cinematography shortfalls, lack of avant-garde scene sculpting. I fail to notice the actors have the wrong accents, or that costumes are slightly out of sync with the period of the picture…I miss all that. But I don’t miss when a movie pulls me into its considerable substance. I don’t miss when a movie artfully exposes the nature of life, complete with its maddening unfairness. I don’t miss when a movie gently handles the fragile psyche of a town still in scab from a tragedy thirty-six years in the past, and shows us the glory of all things that make us human…our fragility, our toughness, our resiliency, and our indomitable spirit. I don’t miss that.
You shouldn’t miss We Are Marshall.
What you’ll find is a superb movie that puts you on the path, via football, to discover that We Are all Marshall.
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