“Glory Road”–A Little Too Glorified?

While we’re on the subject of “teetering on the edge of falsehood,” I thought I would point out George Will’s latest column in which he critiques the recently released film “Glory Road.” The film relates the story of Coach Don Haskins and his five black starters on the Texas Western basketball team and their victory over the all-white, Adolph Rupp-coached Kentucky Wildcats in the 1966 NCAA Final. Will takes issue with the impression left by the movie that the Texas Western team was the first to feature black players and that the game with Kentucky was a classic “David and Goliath” confrontation (Texas Western was 27-1 and ranked third in the nation going into the final game).

It’s true that Haskins was the first to start five black players and that black players were a rarity in the South at the time. But as Will points out, black players had been making an impact on the game at both the collegiate and professional levels for some time prior to the 1966 NCAA championship:

“A decade before the game that supposedly changed basketball, the undefeated 1955-56 University of San Francisco team won the NCAA championship with a team that played four blacks–Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Hal Perry and Gene Brown.

In 1958 the coaches’ All American team was all black–Wilt Chamberlain of Kansas, Oscar Robertson of Cincinnati, Bob Boozer of Kansas State, Guy Rodgers of Temple and Elgin Baylor of Seattle.

In 1962, the University of Cincinnati started four black players when it won the NCAA championship, and Loyola University of Chicago started four when it won in 1963.

Frank Deford, a distinguished writer, covered the Texas Western-Kentucky game for Sports Illustrated and did not mention the fact of five black starters. Neither did the New York Times nor the Washington Post.

Already the ascendancy of blacks in basketball was such that the four best players in the NBA were Chamberlain, Russell, Baylor and Robertson.”

Wills goes on to point out that Haskins stated goal at the time was to win, so he started his five best players who happened to be black. This is in contrast to the movie’s contention that Haskins started the five blacks “in order to make a social statement.”

I love sports movies like “Remember the Titans” and “Miracle,” and I’m sure I’ll enjoy “Glory Road” as well when I get around to seeing it. However, Will’s commentary does serve as a sobering reminder that historical events portrayed through a 21st century camera lens often appear different than they did at the time they actually occurred, and that a little extra salt with that $7 Godzilla-sized tub of popcorn might be in order.

  1. Ed

    Agree that movies of historical fact tend to embellish the story line to make it more appetizing for the general audience. Otherwise, it may only appeal to those directly involved or familiar with the story. I’m guessing if we looked hard enough, we might find some of our favorite movies that are “based on a true story” may stray significanlty from the mark. I’m content to leave most of that alone and focus on the entertainment value.

    My real comment is about those shorts! I used to have some of those. When are they bringing those back into style?

  2. mike

    I agree. In fact, the two movies I cited are good examples of entertaining movies which got it mostly right. I think “Glory Road” will probably fall into the same category.

    I think Will has a good point, though, and that is that Haskins and crew had a remarkable season in 1966, but at that particular point in time they were already standing on the shoulders of Russell, Chamberlain, Robertson and Baylor. It’s basically a matter of giving credit where credit is due.

    As for the shorts, these remind me of the ones that I used to wear in 8th grade gym class. It’s interesting that you see styles cycle back in from time to time (to wit, bell bottoms recently), but no sign of these yet. Maybe we should get together and start something, eh?

    No, on second thought, we might get arrested and embarrass our wives and children.

  3. Ed

    Speaking of standing on the shoulders of others … did you know Al Gore invented the internet?

  4. Hoots Musings

    How dare you point out Mike that there are no longer absolutes!

    Tongue in cheek… 🙂

  5. mike


    If that’s the case, then I guess we better “give credit where credit is due.” 🙂

    Now in all fairness to Al, I believe the actual quote may have been that he helped “create” the internet which may have been his awkward way of saying that he had some role in legislatively supporting the development of the “information superhighway.” I don’t know how to even begin judging the veracity of that, so I’ll just utter a postmodern “whatever” and offer my thanks since the internet has had more of an impact on my life than global warming ever will!

  6. mike


    Understood. I’m really not trying to rain on the parade, though, because like I said I fully anticipate that I’ll love the movie. I just think practicing a little discernment is always a good idea whether you’re munching on buttery, oversalted popcorn at the movies or trying to get a true read on current events from the evening news.

  7. Ed

    Yeah, I knew that was out of context. Al was a big supporter of the information super highway and helped push through policy to help further establish it when he was a Senator (more so when VP). However, the internet was around before Al Gore stepped into Washington.

  8. mike

    How about a movie commemorating Al Gore’s role in creating the Information Superhighway!

    We could call it “Gorey Road…”

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