Stars in stripes
The Tigers in the documentary "Go Tigers!" are the local football heroes in small-town Ohio, where the team is the most important institution in town.
By KRISTINA FELICIANO
In much the same way that 1994's "Hoop Dreams" did, "Go Tigers!" holds a
mirror up to high school athletes and produces a reflection of hopes and
ambitions that often have little to do with sports itself.
But while the former documentary looks at how basketball represented the
only future for the inner-city kids interviewed, "Go Tigers!" shows us a
middle-class town stuck stubbornly in the present, revolving around the
current high school football team, the current players, and the current
|Directed by: Kenneth A. Carlson.|
Featuring: Dave Irwin, Danny Studer, Ellery Moore, Frank Cicchinelli, Rick Shepas, Bob Rohrer, Al Hennon, Jacqueline "Tiger Lady" Rush, Tiffany.
Related links: Official site
Few of the Massillonans we meet here seem to think much about what
happens to the kids after graduation. One of the players even assures us
near the end of the film that we could return to Massillon years from
now and find it much the same rallying around the Tigers. It's
existentialism by way of football.
The conflict in the movie centers on ebbing funds for Washington High
School, home of the Tigers, and residents' opposition to a tax levy
proposed as a solution. Residents feel they pay enough taxes for the
school to get by, but school officials warn that, without a budget
increase, they'll have to lay off teachers (including one of the Tigers'
coaches) and cut programs.
|"You get a whole generation of kids that don't know what it's like to beat McKinley, and that's scary."|| |
| Adult fan in Massillon, Ohio|| |
It's up to the Massillon Tigers to win the season and, by extension, win
over the town on the school's behalf. Conveniently, the final game
against the Tigers' longtime rival, Canton McKinley High School's
Bulldogs falls right around voting day.
Of course, to some residents, losing to McKinley would have cultural as
well as monetary significance.
"You get a whole generation of kids that don't know what it's like to
beat McKinley, and that's scary," said one worried adult interviewed
for the film.
No doubt this fellow supports the common practice of Massillon parents
holding their boys back a year in school so they'll be bigger and
stronger when it comes time to try out for the Tigers.
We get to know the Tigers, cumulatively the Atlas of the world that is
Massillon, as they gird themselves for the challenge of the coming
season. We practice with them, party with them (we even get to see one
of the players chug too much beer, void it in the least appealing way,
and then happily drink some more), join them on the field, and hang out
at home with them.
And in the process we get to know a group of young men who are
uncommonly self-aware. If their parents, their fellow Massillon
residents, and their coaches don't see this life for what it is, at
least the players do.|
Whether or not they plan to go on to college or have any plans at all
for their future, most of these young men seem to understand that they
are part of a local phenomenon that will continue long after they've
graduated. Contrast that with the prideful football players you knew in
high school, who were confident they would continue to rank first in
their peers' and the public's affections when high school was over, and
you get a sense of how differently things work in Massillon.
If a documentary is meant to help audiences comprehend a slice of a life
other than their own, "Go Tigers!" achieves that. And it does so without
overtly taking sides. But don't expect to leave the theater feeling
cheered. Ambivalent and mystified are more like it. Whereas it was easy
to relate to the struggles of the kids in "Hoop Dreams," here the goals
have a hollow ring to them.
By the end, you may not agree with the female student (and rare
non-football fan) who says "the only sport more pointless than football
is rodeo," but you might come close.
|SEPTEMBER 21, 2001|
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Reader comments on Go Tigers:
Canton from Jeff Hixon, May 7, 2005
tigers from Pamela, Jun 29, 2006
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