The Junction Boys

The Junction Boys, starring Tom Berenger ★★★★
This movie was recommended to me by a doctor friend of mine, who was one of the star players for one of the winning seasons of the LSU football team. This movie presents a brief episode in the life of coach Bear Bryant, one of the winningest coaches of all time. Bear already had many successful seasons with Kentucky and was recruited to coach the Texas A&M team. He started by forming a 10-day boot camp for the players at a place just outside of Junction, Texas. During the next 10 days, he thoughtlessly drove many players to total despair, having 2/3 of the team walk out on him. He did some exceedingly foolish things, such as deprive the players of any fluid replacement in spite of 114 degree Texas heat, causing some star players to collapse of heatstroke and exhaustion. Players remained in practice with acute lumbar fractures and other serious injuries. The final toll was his only losing season of 1-9 wins-losses. The redemption of the movie was a brief 5-minute scene of the Junction Boy reunion at the practice camp, where he apologized for his total stupidity. The players who stuck with Bear had some sense that they benefited from this hell-hole experience and appreciated their time with coach Bryant. This is akin to kidnapped captives or abused children having a psychological affinity to their oppressor — in some ways, it is a sick sort of devotion to an equally sick person. Sadly, even in the year that the Junction Boys camp took place, it was quite well known that fluid replacement was imperative for best performance in heat and that over-practice can be as harmful as no practice at all. For coach Bryant to learn that at the cost of many young aspiring football players is nothing but a shame. There was a beautiful quote in the movie when coach Bryant was explaining to a parent whose son was thrown off the team because he had a heat stroke that football was “war”, the parent, who was missing his left arm and spent two years with bilateral hip fractures and recently lost an arm in a Japanese prison camp, responded, “You don’t need to tell me what war is like, as I know it all too well. Football is not war, football is a sport” (rough quote as I remember it). This quote summarizes the theme that makes the movie worth watching. It is a good movie, very well done, but also a reminder for sports players to never forget that their sport is nothing but a sport.