Steve Eighinger

'When you talk to that individual, you learn to trust that individual'

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 9, 2020 3:30 pm

"People say that it can't work, black and white. Well, here we make it work every day. We have our disagreements, of course, but before we reach for hate .... (we) always, always remember the Titans."

– "Remember the Titans," 2000


One of the finest movies I have ever watched was "Remember the Titans," a 2000 film I originally saw in a local theater.

That was 20 years ago.

On the surface, the critically acclaimed feature starring Denzel Washington appeared it would be presented as a football film that used racial tensions as a backdrop.

Actually, the true-to-life account proved to be just the opposite, and considering the world in which we currently live it might be time -- for all of us -- to watch this film again.

Washington portrays the late Herman Boone, who in 1971 was named football coach at a Virginia high school during a time when racial tensions were running high, especially in the south.

Boone, an African-American, was named to coach a consolidation of three high schools as part of the district's desegregation plan. It was a position most thought would go to Bill Yoast, who was white. Yoast, portrayed by Will Patton, eventually agreed to be an assistant coach.

Together, the two coaches, plus their newly formed black-and-white roster, made history by being a part of history.

Ironically, or possibly fittingly, booth Boone and Yoast eventually passed away in the same year (2019), but what a legacy they left behind.

"No doubt, the beginning of our relationship was rocky ... we were as different as night and day," Boone said before his death. "But he and I found a way to talk to each other and trust each other. In the end, he was the best friend I ever had."

Washington and Patton were magnificent in their roles, so much so that even my wife, Kathy, who normally has no use for sporting events in any way, shape or form, thoroughly enjoyed the film. I remember having to twist her arm -- figuratively, of course -- to attend the theater with me that night, but to this day, we still talk about the impact of that movie.

The integration of that high school football team coached by Boone and Yoast was inspiring to watch. It was also inspiring to listen to, accented by a perfect soundtrack that featured songs by recording artists such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Hollies, Marvin Gaye, James Taylor, the Temptations and Cat Stevens.

There was one point in the movie I had to hold myself back from standing up in the theater and cheering. If you have seen the film, and remember when "Up Around the Bend" by CCR is played, I imagine you are agreeing with me as you read this.

"That movie is not about football," Boone once said. "It was about some incredible young boys in Alexandria, Virginia, who in 1971 became an integrated team and showed the world how one can overcome their fear of diversity. I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that every team should have one heartbeat."

In any successful relationship, Boone said two parties always need to be able to talk to one another.

"I think that's the formula for race relations throughout the world," he said. "People have to learn to talk to one another. You have to learn to talk to that individual, and when you talk to that individual, you learn to trust that individual, and that's the greatest gift God gave to man."

While Boone or Yoast are no longer with us, their powerful words -- and actions -- remain.