1. Achieving not only mandated racial integration, but attaining true
inter-racial harmony and cooperation: building a team -- and a
community -- that learns to mend divisive issues and pull together.
2. The "Us vs. Them" mentality can be overcome through striving toward
shared goals. Disparate groups can be transformed into one group when
they partner to attain goals, and when they bond to resist and defeat
anything/anyone that threaten the group.
a. How building inter-racial friendships, one-by-one, then
group-by-group, can steadily transform an atmosphere of racial
hostility within a surrounding community.
b. Sports as a metaphor for life: Learning to cooperate, drawing on
each others' strengths to overcome individual weaknesses, are lessons
that can be applied to other aspects of life.
c. Subjugating the needs and desires of the individual for the greater
good of the team AND the community.
d. This film can also be interpreted as an argument in favor of
This can be summed up as: "And a child shall lead them."
In "Remember The Titans," a rowdy group of young teenage football
players end up setting an example for their entire city by actively
working to heal racial tensions and work together. Black and white
youths build a successful team, while developing real and lasting
Disparate, even warring, groups can become unified; can be merged into
one group, living and working in concert, IF they bond around a shared
cause or goal. A greater cause; a greater good, motivates individuals
to put aside individual wants and fears.
In the case of "Remember The Titans," the subject, thesis, and
conclusion were thrust upon screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard and
director Boaz Yakin, as this film is based on a true story.
A court order forces Alexandria, VA's black and white students to
integrate. The high school's football team teaches the city how to go
beyond merely mixing races and how to vanquish mutual mistrust and
prejudice, thus achieving true unity.
The team takes its lead from the example of their two coaches: one
white, one black, who put aside their considerable personal conflicts
in order to work together in the best interests of the team. As the
Titan teammates learn the value of putting the greater good ahead of
individual needs (and bias and resentments), the players become not
only peaceful, productive coworkers, but real friends. In turn, the
players set an example for their classmates, encouraging them to also
put aside their apprehensions regarding race and build friendships
across racial lines.
As the team flourishes and approaches the state championship, the city
of Alexandria follows the team's example: overt racism yields to the
realization that whites and blacks have common goals and dreams and,
by working together, can achieve those dreams together.
Like the players, residents who were initially angry about
integration, begin putting those resentments and differences aside
and, ultimately, forge a successful, harmonious community.
This film is based on a true story: In 1971, the Alexandria, VA,
public high school system, which was then comprised of a white high
school and a black high school, was ordered to merge into one
integrated high school -- T.C. Williams.
During the summer of 1971 -- the summer leading up to the opening of
the racially integrated T.C. Williams High -- a young black man was
shot and killed by a white storeowner, setting off riots and protests,
and heightening the already considerable tension over the impending
Exacerbating racial tensions, Bill Yoast, Alexandria's white high
school's long-time winning coach, is told he's been chosen as the
sacrificial lamb: the school district's football conference officials
have conceded to pressure to give one head coaching job within the
conference to a black man.
Since T.C. Williams is newly integrated, this seems like the perfect
place to install a "token" African-American coach, Herman Boone, who
will nudge Yoast out of his seemingly rightful place as the leader of
the Titans football team.
The appointment of Boone as new head coach is greeted with outright
hostility by the white coaching staff and players, and by the
Yoast, whose pride is understandably injured, declines Boone's request
that he stay on at Williams as an assistant coach. Yoast instead
accepts an offer to move away to take another head coaching job.
Yoast is about to pack his bags when the white players threaten to
quit the team rather than play for the black man who has (unfairly, in
their view) displaced *their* coach. Yoast unselfishly reconsiders and
accepts Boone's offer. Yoast's decision compels white players to
report to the first day of practice under Coach Boone. However, Yoast
and the white players show up late for that practice, causing
considerable disruption. Boone takes Yoast aside and assails him for
undermining his authority.
The dramatic pivot or question point is set: if these two men can't
get along, how will their players be able to work together? Yoast and
Boone must build an equitable relationship if their players are to do
Yoast and Boone take their players off to Gettysburg College for
training camp. There, Boone orders white and black players to spend
time together and even interview each other to learn about each other.
A hotshot young quarterback soon arrives at camp. The player's dad is
a military officer, just transferred from CA to VA, who brings his son
to Titans' camp, telling the coaches, If these boys can fight a war
[Vietnam] together, they can play football together.
Prejudices begin to crack, and then fade, as black and white teens
spend time together at camp. Friendships are made as a team is forged.
As the players get to know and -- to their amazement -- like each
other, so do Boone and Yoast. Boone learns to trust Yoast; Yoast
learns to appreciate the terrible pressure and tremendous prejudice
Boone is continually subjected to. Each man begins to appreciate just
what the other has sacrificed for the good of the team and the
The audience, like the black and white players on the Titans team,
begin to realize just how alike Boone and Yoast actually are: both are
devoted dads; thoroughly honest and moral; passionate about winning;
and committed to helping their players realize their full potential on
and off the field. Both men continually put service to their community
above personal desires.
As the friendship between the two men deepens, their daughters:
football-crazed Sheryl Yoast (who serves as the film's narrator), and
the very ladylike, non-sports fan Nicky Boone, also form a close bond.
The Yoast and Boone families begin spending more time together -- to
the consternation of some of the other white coaches.
The team returns to Alexandria in time for opening day of school,
which proves to be even more hostile than everyone had feared. The
players take the lead in setting an example to fellow students by
demonstrating their new friendships in front of classmates, some of
whom respond with disgust.
The Titans kick off their season with a win -- and keep on winning.
This is problematic for Boone's detractors. A plot to rig a game is
set in motion to assure that the Titans finally lose, which will
result in Boone's dismissal. Thanks to Yoast, and a white player,
Gerry (who at the beginning of the film had been vindictive toward
Boone and the black players), that subterfuge is thwarted -- and the
team keeps winning. (Meaning Boone will retain his job as head coach.)
Victories on the field, and inter-racial player friendships off the
field, slowly erode the community's racial tensions. Busing protestors
disappear as the Titans rack up victories and eventually claim the
state championship. In the midst of the town's euphoria over this
landmark achievement, tragedy befalls the team, inspiring teammates --
and the residents of Alexandria -- to pull together even more tightly.
Alexandria becomes a community united by shared goals, shared
achievements and, ultimately, shared pain.
How The Writer/Director Make Their Key Points:
Since you're currently re-thinking and revising your approach to your
essay, this would be a good time to sit down and re-watch the film,
taking very careful note of these scenes and moments I've highlighted
for you. Think about them and then re-read your essay with these
moments in mind.
Then ask yourself, are there any sub-points you feel you missed or
failed to properly address?
Let's look at how the writer and director underscore their key points
throughout the film:
* Practices get off to disastrous start, with white players accusing
blacks of not playing up to their potential, and blacks accusing white
players of failing to block for Pete, the running back, who is black.
(If you don't know football, running back is second only to
quarterback as the most vulnerable position in this violent sport.
Protecting QBs and RBs is a major point of pride among offensive
linemen, so the criticism that a lineman isn't trying to protect a QB
or RB carries a powerful sting.)
*Gerry, an overbearing white player, who is also a team captain,
disrespectfully informs Coach Boone "the defense is set." Gerry seems
to be pulling power plays as a proxy for Yoast who, at this point, is
clearly unsettled about just what his position and authority are now.
There is still a white team and a black team; they are not merging.
* Boone orders black and white youths to spend time together,
interviewing each other about their families and, in one amusing
sequence, playing their favorite music for each other -- to very mixed
* During an early morning jog, the players come upon the Gettysburg
battlefield-turned cemetery. Boone tells his players to take a "lesson
from the dead. Hatred destroyed" the men who fell here. "We need to
come together on this hallowed ground -- or be destroyed, like they
* A California Army brat who has just transferred to Alexandria, is
sent up to camp at Gettysburg. "Sunshine," (as he's derisively
nicknamed) is an obvious "hippie." His sudden presence at camp
automatically deepens the burgeoning sense of togetherness among
blacks and whites; they become united in their distrust of this
The Newly Integrated School Opens:
* Team members have come back from camp transformed from their near
street-gang warfare mentality to budding friendship. Seeing their
classmates' fear and hostility at being forced to integrate, the
players immediately make an example of their new friendships. They
openly talk with each other and cooperate with each other, setting a
surprising, but ultimately invaluable, example for their classmates.
*Even Gerry, who was openly (and loudly) contemptuous of his new black
teammates and coach early on, finds himself becoming close friends
with Julius, a black player. To his mother's horror, Gerry even
welcomes Julius into their home.
The Season Starts:
*An early game is going badly for the Titans. To his shock, Boone sees
Yoast race over to Pete, the running back. Yoast tells Pete he is
going to play linebacker on defense in order to help cover a speedster
on the opposing team. Boone panics that Yoast is trying to sabotage
him. What happens after Yoast makes that brash decision is pivotal to
the relationship between the coaches -- as well as to the team's
* To celebrate a victory, white players invite black players to join
them at their favorite hangout. The white owner refuses to serve the
black teens. Watch this scene again carefully: the expressions on the
white players' faces bespeaks a remarkably changed attitude. This
scene is crucial: blacks who thought they were on the verge of
community acceptance, are instead insulted and humiliated. To use an
over-used cliché: their white comrades now truly feel their pain.
*The Titans are now the only integrated team in an otherwise all-white
conference. Re-watch the scene in which the Titans turn what appears
to be a generic game introduction into a funny, but bold, statement of
unity -- to the utter bewilderment of the nearly all-white crowd. This
scene denotes that the team's group mentality is changing. Not only
that, the team is making a statement of that new-found unity to the
crowd in the bleachers and to the community at large.
Individuals Changing Their Attitudes/Changing Group Dynamics:
*Gerry, a stereotypical racist when the film began, now approaches
Coach Boone telling him to cut Ray, another white player. Gerry, who
initially spoke and thought only in terms of white players and black
players as separate entities, is convinced that Ray is trying to
undermine the team. Gerry insists Ray be cut from the roster for the
good of the team.
* A brick is tossed through a window at Coach Boone's house. The
players -- white and black -- go ballistic, vowing to protect "their"
Note the change in psychology: along with a common goal, a common
threat -- in this case, a threat to the coach -- can compel
individuals to deepen their identification as members of a group. The
"us vs. them" mentality is changing. It is no longer white players vs.
black players, but Titans vs. anyone who tries to hurt any Titan --
white or black.
*Yoast is given a chance to get his job back. How he handles this
moment, the choice he makes, determines not only his future, but the
future of Coach Boone and the future of the Titans and what seems to
be a championship season.
*Tragedy strikes Gerry, and Julius comes to his aid. How Gerry
responds to this crisis, even more than the glory of the Titans' state
championship, will cement his teammates' friendships, and Alexandria's
newfound commitment to overcoming obstacles of all kinds.
Director Boaz Yakin has used a straight-forward, ultra traditional
approach to tell this story; which is just the right framework: the
story progresses in easy-to-follow, classic narrative manner. Yakin
has enough confidence in the strength of this real-life tale to let
the story fly on its own merits.
As a sports film, it's analogous to, say, "Hoosiers." What happens on
the playing field illuminates issues far more meaningful than the game
that's being played, and the glory the game brings is shared by an
Yakin also does a nice job of zeroing in on several key inter-racial
friendships that show how racism can be overcome. This "close-up"
approach is more effective than endless scenes of protests. By
watching these relationships evolve one-on-one, the audience can see
-- as a backdrop -- the city of Alexandria evolving and learning
mutual tolerance and respect.
The director does a nice job of getting out of the way and just
letting this inspirational story unfold.
The Film's Value:
This film fits nicely into a legacy of films about teens learning to
put aside divisiveness and work together; and life-changing growth
experiences that teens will carry into adult life.
From that perspective, "Remember The Titans" fits neatly alongside
such other popular classics as "The Black Board Jungle" (teens in
conflict) and "To Sir With Love" (white teens learn to respect and
love a black authority figure).
This film is also an excellent history lesson for younger people who
never experienced racial segregation. In that respect, "Remember The
Titans" is an excellent primer for learning how the more overt racial
divisions of the past were overcome. (We've come a long way since
1971, though, admittedly, there's still a long way to go.)
This film is also a valuable reminder of how the efforts of previously
unheralded heroes, like Boone and Yoast, helped America conquer such
strife and prejudice to become an increasingly more equitable, more
tolerant, and more cooperative society.
Information On The True Story Behind "Remember The Titans":
"Remember The Titans Online":
Black Athlete Sports Network's "An Interview With Legendary Coach Herman Boone":
Reviews/ Essays/ Analyses of "Remember The Titans"
Sept. 29, 2000 issue of Salon, review written by Andrew O'Hehir:
"Beneath its veneer of wholesomeness, "Remember the Titans" is a weird
film about a weird sport and a weird country. . . .Of course we know
exactly where this story is going . . . . Whether or not it's true
that the remarkable season the T.C. Williams Titans had under Coach
Boone in 1971 saved Alexandria from white flight and racial violence
really isn't relevant. Believing that such things are possible,
however, is a key article of our national faith. For most viewers of
'Remember the Titans,' the issue will not be how the movie is going to
end but how Howard and director Boaz Yakin will get us there. For the
most part, it's a colorful, eventful ride, just bumpy enough so it
seems like a real journey, told with vigorous humor and style."
Kennebunk (Maine) Journal: "Remember The Titans: A Mess Of Clichés,"
by J.P. Devine:
"Denzel [Washington] brings in a flock of black footballers and
proceeds to take the mixed team (all with the requisite 1970s attitude
problems) off to a summer football boot camp to learn his way of doing
things and to get to love one another like brothers. Does good triumph
over evil? Do the players come to admire and respect one another? Ask
Walt Disney, did Pinocchio become a real boy? 'Titans' is more
never-never land than Peter's hometown. From the outset, Gregory Allen
Howard's script is awash in who-cares sentimentality and clichés. We
get the sweet, dumb black guy, and his twin, the sweet, dumb white
guy. There is the kid who comes off the bench to win the game. There
is the noble black, the noble white, and that inevitable auto accident
that changes the course of history. . . ."
The Chicago Sun-Times review, Sept. 29, 2000, by Roger Ebert:
"Still, the story sweeps certain obvious questions under the rug: (1)
We see that the whites don't want to play with the blacks, and are
afraid of losing their starting positions. But what about the blacks?
Weren't they in a black high school last year? Aren't they losing
their team, too? Aren't some of them going to be replaced by white
starters? The movie shows the whites as resentful and possessive but
assumes the black players are grateful for the chance to leave their
old school and integrate the other team. Maybe they are, and maybe
they aren't. The movie doesn't say. . . . In the real world, such
questions would be what the story was all about. But then we would
have an entirely different kind of film. 'Remember the Titans' has the
outer form of a brave statement about the races in America, but the
soul of a sports movie in which everything is settled by the
obligatory last play in the last seconds of the championship game.
Whether the Titans win or lose has nothing to do with the season they
have played and what they were trying to prove. But it has everything
to do with the movie's sleight of hand, in which we cheer the closing
touchdown as if it is a victory over racism."
Movie Habit's review:
" 'Remember the Titans' follows the path of so many sports movies
where a coach must take players with seemingly little in common and
build them into a team. Unlike 'The Replacements,' the Titans are
playing for more than fleeting glory. The bonds between the teammates
grow into friendship and eventually, the whole community is cheering
for them as they head to the state championship. . .
"[Boone] lays down the law right away by desegregating the buses
taking the boys to football boot camp. If they're going to be a team,
they have to train together, room together and take punishment
together. 'I don't care if you like each other or not,' Boone tells
his players, 'but you will respect each other.'
"One could easily label Remember the Titans predictable and
message-heavy. It is meant to be a feel-good movie, and it succeeds at
that. With a good story and strong performances by Washington and
Patton, 'Titans' does not come up short."
Detroit News, Sept. 29, 2000: "Winning ?Titans? uses sports as
metaphor for Life," by Susan Stark:
" 'Remember the Titans' may have its origins in truth, but from start
to finish, it is clearly, often obviously a very simplified, orderly
version of reality. There?s not a raw moment in it. Even so, it
recalls a truly encouraging moment in modern American social history,
a moment that no one of goodwill can deny. Thirty years later, we
still need to applaud such moments."
The Role Of Sports in Building Inter-Racial Relationships:
See the Toronto Globe & Mail's Nov. 2001 series: "Canada's Apartheid:
The Healing Power of Hockey":
About how a hockey team helped heal community tensions between
aboriginal (Cree) and non-aboriginal members of a community.
"real story Remember Titans"
"Remember The Titans reviews"
"Remember The Titans analysis"
"Remember Titans AND sports psychology"
"sports AND 'metaphor for life ' "
sports "healing racial tensions"
"group psychology team sports"
Directory of Sites for "Remember The Titans":
I also recommend that you watch the film on DVD if you haven't
already, so that you can see the special feature on the real life
story of the Titans, hosted by former Steeler, Lynn Swann.
I hope my research is of help to you in determining how you wish to
revise and polish your essay.