‘Hoosiers’ What the film means to me


“This place doesn’t even appear on most state maps. The only thing that ever comes to Hickory from the outside is a train, and it’s here for about five minutes.” — Schoolteacher Myra Fleener, portrayed by Barbara Hershey in “Hoosiers”

In the summer of 1987, when I walked into the Scott Theatre in Scottsburg to see the movie “Hoosiers,” I had no idea what was about to happen … and here’s the story.

I saw the movie “Hoosiers” for the very first time, and I went back the very next night and saw it again. Since then, I estimate I’ve seen the movie no less than 200 times. I knew the night I saw it that it would always be the greatest movie ever.

The movie is a fictional story of the Hickory Huskers winning the 1952 Indiana state basketball championship, inspired, of course, by tiny Milan’s 1954 miracle season.

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Since then, the movie has become part of my life, and it always will be. It’s not hard to explain. You can’t watch the movie without feeling “all Indiana.” That’s the way I felt the first time I watched it, and that’s the way I feel now.

When I visit small ghost towns across Indiana to take pictures of an old gym, and because of the movie “Hoosiers,” it’s easy to visualize what basketball meant to a tiny community back in the 1950s and other early eras of high school basketball in Indiana.

Some of these communities were no bigger than 500 people, but they built gyms to hold 1,000 fans. There’s something about standing in a small empty old gym no longer in use and listening for a past that’s no longer there. That’s what “Hoosiers” gives me, that feeling. It’s what inspires me to travel all over Indiana to take pictures of an old gym or even an old basketball goal.

When Sandy and I got married in 1994, I told her what the movie meant to me and that I watched it several times a year. So we started a ritual to watch the movie the first Saturday of every November.

Our kids have grown up with that ritual. They know on the first Saturday of every November not to plan anything because that day is a festive sort of day to our family.

This past year, Christian made plans to come home from college that day to watch the movie. It’s a sure thing just as much as having Thanksgiving Day dinner and opening Christmas presents on Christmas morning.

Of course, I know most of the lines and scenes by heart, and the scene in the locker room where coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) tells his players “I love you guys” is just sacred.

As a family, we’ve been to the different movie locations, and of course, we’ve made several trips to the Knightstown gym, which was home to the Hickory Huskers. I’ve met people who were in the movie and own movie memorabilia. I love revisiting the places we’ve already been. I never get tired of going back to those places. It’s especially fun when someone goes with us that has never been before.

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