If somebody just gives them the boost, kids can forget what “other people think.” It’s one of those “messages” that comes blaring out of the newest “kid as sports phenom/role model to America” films to hit DVD just in time for Christmas.
“The Longshots,” based on the true story of the Jasmine Plummer, the first girl to lead a boys Pop Warner football team to the national championships, got so-so reviews when it was making the rounds of the theatres over the summer. But I’ve always had a thing for those stories of the girls playing “boys” sports, and when you’re talking the real deal . . . a shy, smart girl who simply has physical talents . . . who cares that the director used to bounce around a stage telling the world he did it all for the “Nookie?”
The movie puts Keke Palmer in the role of Plummer, the now teenaged Illinois high school student who told a Chicago-area paper over the summer, “I was always taught to go after
what I wanted and to be the best I
could be. To me, it was just me doing
what I loved and having fun with it.”
Palmer as Plummer is the kind of kid you root for – even through the somewhat predictible plot points that these girl playing a boy’s game films have to hit (getting blitzed by a pissed off male teammate during practice until she shot the ball right at his nuts? come on, you sort of saw that coming). Her uncle, played by Ice Cube, comes out of his shell from the dopey layabout with a fondness for forty-ounce cans of beer from the local convenience store into the guy who finds himself again by helping a child change her life. Preditable? Aaaach, it still made me weepy.
But what really makes “The Longshots” worth watching – and the story worth hearing – is the fact that this story came to light in 2003. Remember – the real Plummer is still a teenager in 2008. The film tells a story of her as a pre-teen, with Palmer sporting sweet braids and getting stood up for a game of double dutch by the class mean girls.
It took until 2003 for a Pop Warner quarterback at national levels not to need a jock strap.Why? Because Title IX isn’t working? No, girls have to be allowed on the teams of their male classmates these days, and as a reporter for the local paper, I’ve written about them. Girls on the wrestling team. Girls on the football team. In both of the cases here in my area, the coaches were from the old school (one was my father’s assistant football coach in high school people . . . it doesn’t get much more old school). Those coaches’ biggest concern? Making sure EVERYTHING was equal – equal playing time, equal training time. They weren’t that concerned about coaching girls. So, no, I wouldn’t put the blame on the coaches anymore – at least not all of them.
In the special features of “The Longshots” DVD, Plummer’s real uncle revealed the people making the biggest fuss about his niece making directions from inside the huddle were the other mothers. This wasn’t part of the movie or manufactured by Fred Durst to move his story along. We’ve still got the Mommy police out in full force, making parents second guess what they allow their kids to dream and do.
Remember the “what will the neighbors think?” argument from your mother, when you wanted to stay out until midnight on a Saturday night? It’s alive and well, and holding back our kids for no reason other than the jibber-jabbering that parents love to do about other parents. We can give our little girls trucks and send our little boys to twirl around the backyard with tutus, but someone else can always make them question it.
It’s our job to help them ignore it.