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LIGHTS, CAMERA, CRUCIBLES 8: Hoosiers #129

Warwick Fairfax

August 24, 2022

Our summer series LIGHTS, CAMERA, CRUCIBLES: What Our Favorite Movie Heroes Can Teach Us About Overcoming Setbacks and Failure continues with HOOSIERS … and it’s the perfect film to end the series before next week’s wrap-up episode. Why? Because at its core the message of the film is what overcoming our crucibles is really all about: redemption.

It’s the story of Coach Norman Dale, who leads his team to an unlikely Indiana high school basketball championship in the 1950s. It’s unlikely because the Hickory Huskers are a small team from a tiny school. Coach Dale has to start from scratch by instilling in the boys the confidence and discipline and what he believes is the right way to play the game. Along the way, he extends grace and offers redemption to the father of one of the boys whose struggles with alcohol had made him a town pariah. And he’s earned redemption himself thanks to the second chances he was extended by friends and strangers – opportunities he met with humility, courage and character.

Highlights

  • A movie about redemption (4:03)
  • Norman Dale’s second chance (7:35)
  • The new coach’s awkward meeting with the small town’s fathers (11:37)
  • Warwick’s experience with others’ visions crowding out his own (15:10)
  • Coach Dale’s on-court crucible (18:33) 
  • The importance of living your values and beliefs (20:40)
  • When those you lead defy you  (27:32)
  • The redemption of Shooter (31:09)
  • The town’s failed attempt to remove Coach Dale (35:59)
  • Jimmy Chitwood saves Coach Dale’s job … and redeems the team (41:11)
  • Coach Dale’s inspirational speech (48:36)
  • Staying true to your values, even if it means losing something  (50:11)
  • The redemption of the worst player on the team … leads to playoff victory 52:39)
  • All the redemption arcs come to full fruition (55:51)
  • The Fairfax family’s connection to Indiana basketball  (1:06:05)
  • Key takeaways (1:14:52)
  • A question for reflection (1:19:58)

Transcript

Warwick Fairfax:

Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership.

 

Norman Dale:

We’re way past big speech time. I want to thank you for the last few months. It’s been very special for me. Anybody have anything they want to say?

 

Player 1:

Yeah. Let’s win this one for all the small schools who never had a chance to get here.

 

Norman Dale:

Okay.

 

Player 2:

I want to win for my dad.

 

Player 3:

Let’s win for coach. You got us here. Thank you.

 

Pastor:

With God of heaven, it is all one to deliver with a great multitude or a small company. For the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of hosts, but strength cometh from heaven. And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on the head and he fell to the ground.

 

Player 1:

Amen.

 

Pastor:

Amen.

 

Norman Dale:

I love you guys.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

We wrap up our summer series Lights, Camera, Crucibles, what our favorite movie heroes can teach us about overcoming setbacks and failure with Hoosiers. And it’s the perfect film to end on. Why? Because at its core is the condition that colors what overcoming our crucibles is really all about, redemption. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That clip you just heard is Coach Norman Dale, played by Gene Hackman, addressing his high school basketball team before their Indiana State Championship Game in the 1950s. It’s a small team from a tiny school, hence the David and Goliath reference from the team chaplain. And Coach Dale has done more than come to love his players by the time the team gets to this moment. He has instilled in them confidence and discipline, and what he believes is the right way to play the game. Along the way, he extends grace and offers redemption to one of the boy’s fathers, whose struggles with alcohol had made him a town pariah. And he’s earned redemption himself thanks to the second chances he was extended by friends and strangers. Opportunities he met with humility, courage, and character.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

There’s a lot of great movies that we’ve seen, like The Natural, obviously, there’s a bit of redemptive quality. But I guess for me having had my own challenges, as listeners know, $2.25 billion take over of a family business in Australia in media not working out. I love stories where your life isn’t over, and there’s a way back either from your own mistakes, or when things happen to you. And I think that’s why, for so many people, the movie that we’re going to talk about is so beloved because there is this theme of redemption, of second chance, of coming back from challenges. So that’s probably one of the reasons it’s so many people love this movie.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right. And I think more than any other movie that we’ve covered in this series, Hoosiers truly is a movie about redemption. And that’s a key concept that undergirds what we do at Crucible Leadership and here in Beyond the Crucible. And that is when we say your worst day doesn’t define you, when we talk about bouncing back from setback and failure by learning the lessons of your trials and applying them, what we’re really talking about at the most basic level is the word that Warwick used is redemption. That’s what we’re talking about.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And it’s interesting. I love to look up the definitions of words in Noah Webster’s first dictionary from 1828. And this is how he defined redemption in his first dictionary in 1828. He defines it as this, “Deliverance from bondage, distress, or from liability to any evil or forfeiture either by money, labor, or other means.”

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And that, in this movie, is the absolute story of the protagonist Norman Dale. That’s his story arc. But it’s not just his story arc. It’s the story arc of a bunch of other folks in the movie that we’ll talk about. But I was intrigued Warwick, and we haven’t talked about this in advance. This is the moment right here if this were a game show, this is when someone would come out with a big sign that says, “I’m surprising Warwick” because we didn’t talk about this in advance as we prepped. Noah Webster’s definition, the first word he uses as he talks about redemption, is deliverance from bondage, distress or from liability. Deliverance is the first word he used. And for me, that was an interesting word in the definition. Do you remember why that’s so interesting in the context of Crucible Leadership and you?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Maybe. Yeah. I mean, I often would think that what I went through was like prison, and I’m glad I’m out of it. But there was a time in, I guess folks will see this very soon, we did a speaking video. Shot it in Denver. And we prep and all, but in terms of the actual footage, I know roughly what I’m going to say, but that was the very first time that I said when the company went under, while it was a tragedy in so many ways for me and many others and in the company, there was a sense for me personally, deliverance. I might have even said deliverance from bondage. And we shot this a number of months ago. First time ever used that word. So sometimes the path of redemption, there’s a sense of deliverance from a path that was painful and wasn’t helpful. So yeah, that reminds me of that scene in my own little video.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And it reminded me too. I mean, I was like, oh my gosh, that was the word. And I still remember when you said it in this video that has not yet gone public, but will soon. When you said that it was the first time you’d ever said it. And you’ve been talking about your story, you wrote about your story, and you’d never used that. And I think what that says to us is is as we continue to walk out our journey in our life of significance, or toward our life of significance, things can shift and our perspective can change about what we have learned from the crucibles we’ve been through. So that was indeed your story, as you said, in the videos, as you’ve said, many times is one of redemption.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And that’s certainly the story of the protagonist of this film, Norman Dale. The first time we meet him, he arrives in Hickory, Indiana in 1951 to meet his old friend Cletus, who’s the principal of Hickory High School. Now Hickory, we see as he’s driving in his car, is clearly a farming town, not a big town. One of the scenes he sees as he’s driving in are a couple of boys shooting baskets on what looks like a makeshift backboard and rim affixed to a barn. This is not a big city. This is a small town.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And Norman Dale arrives there to see his old friend Cletus. And it’s been 20 years since they’ve actually talked to each other. And we learn in their conversation, which is the typical kind of conversation old friends have, that Dale has been hired as a new basketball coach of the Hickory Huskers, the basketball team, and also a history teacher at the school. We get the sense very clearly that Norman Dale has been through a crucible, but we don’t know what it is yet. Because Cletus tells him, as he welcomes him, “Slate’s clean here. We’ve got a job to do.” So there’s some slate that was not clean before. And now it’s clear for Cletus as Norman Dale arrives in Hickory.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And Norman Dale responds, “It’s got to work out this time or that’s it for good,” for him. So he recognizes, he says, again, we don’t know what it is, but we know that something has happened in Norman Dale’s life that changed the trajectory of it, as we say, here at Beyond the Crucible. And this is a key truth, I think, of what it is required of moving beyond a crucible, which is also expressed as being redeemed from errors or traumas of your past. And we don’t yet know, as I said, what Norman Dale has been through.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

But it is a navigable road if others believe the best about you and give you a second chance. That’s the takeaway from Norman Dale meeting up with his friend Cletus. He’s got a second chance. We don’t know what the first chance was. We don’t know what happened. But that’s a pretty important point when he and Cletus are meeting and Cletus is like, “Yep. Slate’s clean.” That will prove very important, very critical to the journey that Norman Dale goes on, right?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely, Gary. I mean, redemption is the core theme of this movie, as you said before, not just for Coach Norman Dale, but for others that we will see here in a bit. But often, especially when maybe you’ve done something wrong, it’s easy for folks to write you off and say, yep, not giving that guy, not giving that woman, not giving that person a second chance. Their history, it’s almost like the Bible, leper, unclean, stay on the outskirts of town. You’re not acceptable in polite society anymore. Just leave. Your life is over. Just disappear, hide in a hole somewhere.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And it’s easy to feel like the whole world sees you that way. And it’s not often, unfortunately, that somebody will give you a second chance. Maybe you don’t even believe in yourself anymore. But somebody maybe sees a glimmer of something worth saving, something worthwhile, and is willing to give you a second chance. And it’s a powerful lesson in this movie. And it’s sad that it’s not as common as it should be.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So as we talk about this, just think about that whole concept of do you want a second chance? Are you willing to give others a second chance? It’s not easy to come back from the pit of despair if nobody’s willing to give you a second chance. It’s hard to get out of that pit alone. It’s possible. It’s vastly easier if somebody stretches their arm down and says, “Here, grab my arm. I’m going to help you out of the pit.” It makes it so much easier.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And it’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about it until you just said that. I hadn’t thought about this perspective, but we see in Hoosiers sort of a both/and in that regard with Coach Norman Dale in that there are definitely those who do support him like Cletus, and we’ll meet others as we talk. But there’s also a contingent of folks in that small town who aren’t big Norman Dale fans, even if they don’t know anything about him really. We find that out. He meets with a group of town fathers almost immediately coming into town. And when I say town fathers, I mean that in both senses of the word, the idea of that they’re sort of the elders of the town, but they’re also the fathers of the kids on the basketball team.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And we discover in a meeting that he has with these town fathers that he used to coach at college, but he hasn’t coached in 12 years. And the last time he did so was in Ithaca, New York. And because Indiana is so basketball crazed, the town fathers are suspicious of Norman Dale, and they’re pushy to offer their advice. I mean, they are, try this, do that. I’m running practice now because the previous coach had passed away. That’s why Norman Dale was hired. He’s got nothing but advice coming at him, being shot at him out of cannons from all of these town fathers about how to run the team. And they really, in a very real sense, these men become Norman Dale’s first crucible in Hickory. And it’s a common one for all of us, the expectation and vision of others interfering with our pursuit of our own vision. That can be very difficult to resist and it can feel very traumatic to go through, right?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It can. I mean, there’s some wonderful vignettes. I think one of the dad’s name is George, I believe, and he says, “Coach, here we play zone. We don’t play man to man defense. So what are you? Are you zone or man to man?” As if there’s a right answer. And Coach Dale is smart enough not to answer the question, because I’m guessing, you more about basketball than I do, probably it depends on the other team and a variety of circumstances. And this guy George says, “Hey Coach Dale, why don’t you just basically sit down, relax first few weeks, and we’ll ease into it.” It’s like they’re not willing to hand over the keys of the kingdom. I mean, it’s just kind of crazy.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So it is all too common when you have a vision that you’re trying to pursue, that others will say, “Well, that’s great, Warwick, Gary, but kind of here’s how I think you should do it. And actually your vision is not really meeting our expectations.” And it’s like, well, and that should matter why? It’s my vision. It’s your vision. It’s like, why should other people get the right to interfere? Why do we have to fulfill others’ expectations? Why do they get to tinker with it? But that’s often real life is you don’t have too many people saying, “Hey, any way I can help you or encourage you with your vision?” Rather than, “Let me tinker with it and get my wrench out and start unscrewing stuff.” That’s not helping. That’s messing. It’s a fine line between messing and helping. And we all know what it is. You know it when you see it. But it’s all too common that people want to kind of mess things up.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And in your own story, Warwick, in your own crucible that you’ve talked about on the show, and you unpack in detail in your book, Crucible Leadership, in your own story, it wasn’t even so much I think that people tinkered with your vision, as you’ve said many times, your vision was sort on the shelf. It didn’t matter. So you know a bit about what this feels like. This idea of the expectations and vision others have for you can interfere with your pursuit of your own vision, right?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. It’s a good point. I mean, in my case, it wasn’t even that my vision was on the shelf. It’s like I didn’t even know I had a vision. I didn’t know that I had a right to have a vision. That wasn’t right to have your own vision. That was morally wrong almost. I mean, that’s an extreme case. But it’s like my vision, which was not my vision, was to kind of inherit the mantle of my great-great grandfather, John Fairfax, who came out from England in the late 1830s, and founded this great newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, in 1841. Grew to be a $700 million multimedia company, newspapers, TV, radio, magazines. It was massive.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And so my “vision” was to be the next generation to help perpetuate, improve, bring it back to the ideals of the founder, help restore my dad’s vision who was thrown out by some other family members in ’76. I launched this $2.25 billion take over in ’87. But it was all to live to the expectations of my parents, to the ideals of the founder, John Fairfax, my great-great grandfather. None of it had to do with me and my vision or what I wanted to do or my beliefs. It was an extreme case of living somebody else’s vision.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And I honestly felt like to do what I wanted to do was “selfish” and almost morally wrong. I had no right to my own vision. That was wrong. I was here to serve somebody else’s vision. It’s a warped concept, but at the time it made perfect sense. I have no right to my own life, my own vision. I’m here to serve, not even my dad’s vision, my great-great grandfather’s vision. Like 100 plus years before. That’s crazy really.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And there are beats of that to Norman Dale’s story. This idea of you don’t have a right to your own vision. It’s not your job, even though you’re the coach, to decide what kind of defense we play. It’s not your job to decide who… I mean, one thing that was interesting about this movie, it’s funny, the high school sports cliche of parents of athletes on the team that wasn’t explored at all in this is parents being mad that their son isn’t playing. That was an interesting thing. I thought, okay, they avoided that one. That’s good.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

But in a very real sense, although your crucibles are much different, and your visions and the wrench that was tossed in your pursuit of vision is different, it is true that Norman Dale had to struggle through this idea of his vision wasn’t worthy. People thought they got to judge his vision of how he wanted to coach the team. And as we’ll discover, he was having none of that.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

The second crucible that Norman Dale has while he is in Hickory follows quickly after. And that’s that his team is undisciplined and they’re small. Not just in size, they’re all pretty short, but also in number of players. When he gets there, there’s only seven people on the team, seven kids on the team. And two of them quit within minutes of the first practice. Now one of them comes back, that leaves him with six. But with basketball, having five players that doesn’t give you a lot of rotational depth, as they say. And then even worse, from everybody in the town’s perspective except his fellow teacher at the school, at Hickory High School, Myra Fleener, the best player in town, Jimmy Chitwood has refused to play since his previous coach, who he must have loved, passed away.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So here’s the great thing about Norman Dale as an example for us to look at and follow, as we navigate beyond our crucibles. Despite those setbacks, he remains committed to his task and his vision for achieving it. Teaching the boys on the team basketball’s fundamentals and building them into a single minded force on the court. His philosophy, which he says to them, is this, five players on the court who function as a unit. Team, team, team.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And what all this leads me to conclude, and this is an enormous point for listeners in their own walking beyond their crucible, is Norman Dale’s a great role model for the perspective we need to move beyond a crucible. Believe in yourself and your vision for a life of significance, no matter who may disagree with or even oppose you. He’s not arrogant, but he’s confident. He is, as you’ve said many times, your phrase, off the charts passionate about the way he believes basketball should be played. And he does not allow his detractors to bump him off course. He truly is a good role model for us as individuals trying to move beyond crucibles, isn’t he?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. One of the things I love about Norman Dale is he is confident in his own vision. And there’s a difference between humility and confidence in your vision. It’s not arrogance to believe in, not just his method of playing basketball, but he has a set of values. He has a set of beliefs about how kids should play basketball as a team. It’s not about one person, about basketball’s fundamentals, it’s a set of beliefs about the way the game of basketball should be played the right way.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And so the confidence in his vision is grounded in the confidence in his fundamental beliefs about what the game of basketball should teach young kids. That is beyond basketball, it’s lessons for life. I think the great coaches, whether it’s basketball, baseball, football, they have a belief and a set of values, especially in high school. I mean, how many high school kids are going to play college, let alone professionals? Like one in a million.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I mean, coaches realize that, even if the parents often don’t. Every parent thinks their kid’s a future star, and it’s often not the case. But the coaches realize it’s not just about winning and losing, it’s about molding young kids to be great men and women when they grow up. And so that’s what Norman Dale believes. And so it’s not arrogance, it’s confidence in his vision and the beliefs and values that undergird that vision. That’s what Norman Dale is really fighting for. He’s really fighting for the character of these kids in a sense.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And remove the word basketball from everything that you just said, take it out of a sports context. That’s the kind of thing that leaders everywhere need to have, leaders in the home. My favorite phrase that we don’t use nearly enough from the boardroom to the living room, right? Leaders all over the place. That is the perspective. That is a healthy perspective to have. Lean into your values, lean into your passions, and then march those out, despite the shots that might get fired at you from those who don’t believe.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

The other thing that Norman Dale does, he doesn’t go for the “easy fix” in turning around the fortunes of the team. He meets with Jimmy Chitwood, the kid everybody says they got to have on the team or they’re not ever going to go anywhere. And because Jimmy’s always shooting baskets around town. And Coach Dale tells him he’s not going to try to woo him back. He’s not going to be like everybody else, and say, “Oh, please, please, please come back.” He actually tells Jimmy Chitwood this, “Your talent is yours to do with what you choose.”

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That is a truth that applies to all of us when trying to chart a course to a life of significance. Our talents and passions are the building blocks of our vision, but we have to be the builder. We have to be the builder. No one else can force us to take on or take on the construction for us. It’s our responsibility. And Norman Dale says to Jimmy Chitwood, “Your talent. Do with it what you will.” That is a perspective we can encourage in others, but we have to adopt ourselves. We have to believe that’s true about us too, don’t we?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s a great point, Gary. I mean, this is really one of the high points, and there’s quite a few of them, of the movie in which Coach Norman Dale lives his beliefs. He has fundamental beliefs in his own vision and values, but he is not going to foist and impose his vision on somebody else. And as we’ll see, if Coach Norman Dale’s vision was all about winning, Norman Dale’s buddy Cletus who’s the principal of the school and is an assistant coach, at least for part of the season on the team, Cletus says to Norman Dale, “Jimmy Chitwood is a standup basketball player.” The best he’s seen in 40 years. That’s a long time. He has just got this special talent, this gift, that in this small high school, where early in the movie, they say there’s like 64 boys in the high school. So they got to pick five, seven, however many they can get out of 64. It’s a small school.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So if he was all about winning, it’s like, look, if I’m going to have this successful season, it all rides on Jimmy Chitwood. If he plays, we’ve got a shot. If he doesn’t play, we’re doomed. So therefore, however I’ve got to manipulate, coerce, force, bribe, whatever it takes, if I’m about winning, I mean, if Jimmy plays, maybe we win. If Jimmy doesn’t play, we’re doomed. And that’s probably an accurate assessment. It’s probably that simple.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But what I love about this is that Coach Norman Dale is not going to impose his vision on Jimmy Chitwood. He realizes, and he says to him, not so many words, is you have the right to do with your life what you will. I’m not going to force you to play basketball. And he doesn’t. That’s an incredible stance to take. And it’s really tantamount to Coach Norman Dale is really living his values and beliefs in an area where it potentially could cost him his job. It could cost him a successful season. It’s not a small thing. It’s a big statement. And it’s a really incredible moment of shining a spotlight on a great moment of character for Coach Norman Dale.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And it’s in particular because we know from the beginning of the movie, he’s been through a crucible, and it was a big one. He hasn’t coached in 12 years. He tells Cletus, “This is my last shot.” Cletus tells him, “The slate’s clean.” Something bad happened before that forced him out of the game for a very long period of time. And yet he doesn’t go for what looks like the easy fix. He won’t put his need to succeed ahead of whatever Jimmy needs to do, wants to do, or pursue with his life, which shows a tremendous amount of character, which is interesting for the movie goer in watching the movie. Because if you don’t know anything about this film, and listener, if you’re one of the folks who’s like what is Hoosiers about, I’ve never seen it, we haven’t told you yet what his crucible was. And you might be thinking, geez, I mean, this guy sounds pretty good. How could he have gone through it? He knows a lot. How does he need to have the slate wiped clean. Hang tight. We’ll get there.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

The perspective with Jimmy that Norman Dale shows begins to thaw his relationship with Myra who she says she looks after Jimmy, she’s taken an interest in him. She’s also a teacher at the school, and she doesn’t want him forced to play like everybody else in town wants to do it. She wants something better for him than small town Hickory. She’s not sure what that is, but she wants something better for him.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And then Norman Dale moves on and continues to wrestle with executing his vision. And here’s an example where the opposition comes from his players. After telling them, again, trying to teach them how to play basketball right, as you said, he tells them, “Pass the ball four times before shooting.” Clear instruction before the game. But one defies the order as the team is losing, figuring passing the ball four times, you got to make up a lot of score. I’m just going to start chucking the ball at the basket. And he makes most of his shots. But Norman Dale takes him out of the game anyway. He then plays with only four boys on the court when another one fouls out.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

It’s an important truth here for us all to remember. Our visions may face opposition, but we can’t abandon them if we want to achieve them. It could have been easy, if Norman Dale was all about winning, not about building the proper way to play the game in these boys entrusted to his coaching, it could have been easy to put that guy who was draining all those shots back in the game, but he doesn’t do it. He goes with only four players. That takes a lot of grit to pull that off, doesn’t it?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It really does, Gary. I mean, it’s another important point that really one of the keys to this movie is a vision needs to be supported, undergirded by our visions and by our beliefs and values. And it really is here is Coach Norman Dale is like winning or losing is not as important than playing the right way of passing four times. It’s not about selfishness and shooting. It’s about by moving the ball, you increase your chances of playing well. It’s the right way to play. And he would rather lose with just four out of five on the court than maybe win the wrong way. Yes, he wants to win, but more important, he wants to win the right way and teach kids about teamwork and the right way to play the game of basketball.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Time and time again, his vision is anchored. We all talk in Crucible Leadership all the time, your vision has to be anchored by your visions and beliefs. Well, in terms of the way to play basketball and how to teach young boys character, there’s a rock solid anchor in that sense with Norman Dale’s coaching philosophy. Really, it’s so impressive. He doesn’t compromise his beliefs about the right way to teach character to boys in high school and the right way to play basketball. He will not compromise that win or lose. Time and time again, he makes that statement. It’s just so impressive. And it’s just a great lesson for all of us is just don’t lose sight of what your values and beliefs are. If you want to make sure your vision stays true and doesn’t get sidetracked, the more it’s anchored to your beliefs and values, the less chance it’ll have of going in directions that you don’t want it to go.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And he sticks to it, Coach Dale does, sticks to it. Even as the withering criticism just keeps banging against him. He reveals at one point that his vision for the team, the way he wants to coach them, his vision is to, as he says, break them down and build them back up. To break stuff down, it causes the little mess, and some messes are happening there as he’s trying to impart not just the wisdom of how to execute passes and shots and plays, but how to do it in a way that builds cohesion with the team. That’s his big, big thing.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

The film’s theme of redemption that we’ve talked about isn’t just in the case of Coach Dale. It’s also shown vividly in Shooter. Shooter’s the name of the father of one of the boys on the team who lives in this ramshackle cabin in the woods. And he seems to spend most of his time inebriated. But he knows basketball. He shows up in a fun scene at Coach Dale’s house with a scouting report on an upcoming opponent. And the way he talks about basketball. He’s played by Dennis Hopper in the movie who’s a very unique actor. And he plays it in this kind of hip way of talking in all this basketball lingo, but he has good intelligence. What he’s saying, his intel proves pretty good to the coach so much so that Coach Dale asks Shooter to be an assistant coach, sit with him on the bench and help guide these boys.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

The offer comes with some strict requirements though. He’s got to stop drinking. He’s got to become more presentable. He’s unshaven and kind of unclean a lot of times. He’s got to clean up his act physically and also in his drinking in order to do it. Shooter’s son who’s on the team thinks it’s a bad idea because he’s embarrassed by his dad whom he dismisses as just a drunk. But Norman Dale asks the boy a penetrating question, “When’s the last time someone gave him a chance?”

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And that’s what so many of us need in the aftermath of a crucible, right? A chance. The opportunity to prove that our worst moments don’t define this. We say that all the time on this show. Your worst moments don’t define you. But we need the opportunity to prove that. If no one gives us that opportunity, we can’t live out that truth. It’s a doorway to redemption that Norman Dale offers Shooter, right?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It really is. I mean, what’s fascinating about the scene is it’s the redeemed paying it forward and try to redeem others.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Good point.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s a beautiful vision. Just as coach Norman Dale’s old buddy Cletus gave Norman a second chance 12 years after he coached basketball in college in New York. It’s so bad that he left basketball completely and was a petty officer in the Navy for 10 years. That’s about as far away from basketball as you can get. That’s how bad things were, and we’ll find out later just why it was so bad.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But some people, when they’re given a second chance, they don’t pay it forward. Says, well, that’s good. I think I deserved a second chance. I’m glad they gave me a second chance. That’s great. Other people, well, they’ll have to earn it on their own. Not everybody thinks of paying it forward. But Coach Norman Dale does. He sees in Shooter somebody who knows a whole lot about all the other teams and the intel that could be redeemed. Even his own son, Shooter’s son, doesn’t think his dad can be redeemed. Pretty much everybody has given up on him. The townspeople, nobody thinks it makes sense having him on the sidelines. Everybody’s given up.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And obviously getting over an addiction is never easy. But I would imagine if somebody gives you a second chance, and somebody gives you a reason to keep on living a good way, to use your gifts and talents to help others, I think maybe it was a bumpy road back, but it gives you Shooter to a reason to come back from alcoholism. It’s like, I’ve got my son, I’ve got the kids on the team, I can rehabilitate my life. But somebody doesn’t give you a chance, again, it’s like trying to get out of the pit all by yourself. It’s possible, but it’s so much harder.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I have to believe the fact that Coach Norman Dale is willing to give Shooter a second chance, it won’t be easy, but it gives him a better shot at beating his own demons and alcoholism. Just somebody willing to believe when nobody will. It’s just remarkable because all this will do is make his life tougher. Yes, it might give him better intel. But if you did a cost benefit analysis, it’s like, gee, maybe he can help me. What is the chances of him being sober reliably on the sideline? Probably not high if one wanted to be cynical. Is this going to tick off parents in the town? Absolutely. So if you look at a cost benefit scenario, the smart play would be not to bring him on as assistant coach. That’s not a smart play. But again, it’s not about winning and losing. It’s about values and beliefs. And Coach Norman Dale believes it’s the right thing to do to give Shooter a chance at redemption. It’s a wonderful moment.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And in that belief, he’s kind of a party of one, or two if you probably count Myra in there. The townspeople don’t like it. And that they add it to their list of problems with Coach Dale. They don’t like the way he coaches. They don’t like the fact that he brought Shooter on board. And so much so they don’t like this, that they call a town meeting to vote him out. Apparently in Hickory, Indiana, the townspeople, the town fathers can come together and vote out the high school coach. And that’s what they aim to do.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And Myra’s the one who tells him. She’s the acting principal because the principal who was a coach had a heart attack because he was overworked on the bench. So that’s one of the reasons why Coach Dale needs Shooter to be an assistant coach because he lost his other assistant coach. Myra is the acting principal. So she comes to Coach Dale and says, “Hey, they’ve called this meeting.” But the other thing that she tells them is that she has discovered, she doesn’t use these words, we’ll use our words, she’s discovered what his crucible was.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

He had coached Ithaca Warriors to the NCAA College Championship, she discovers in an old newspaper story. But he was fired and suspended for life from coaching in college because he physically assaulted a player on his own team. Myra tells him not to attend the meeting of the town because it’s not going to be pretty. But he does anyway. The possible crucible of being dismissed from his job and for his past being revealed. Remember this is set in the 1950s, folks. There’s no internet where you can type in Norman Dale on Google and find out what happened to him. She had to go to a big city and look it up on microfilm or something to find out what had happened to him. She tells him don’t come. It’s not going to be pretty. But he shows up. Even that possible crucible of having his darkest, most embarrassing crucible revealed doesn’t keep him away. It doesn’t keep him in bed under the covers. That’s pretty remarkable and says a lot about the character of Norman Dale, doesn’t it?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It really is. I mean, this was an incredible crucible. Where there are some beats later, we learn more about it. But he loves the game of basketball and he gets banned. Not only does he get banned for life from the NCAA, from coaching college basketball in Ithaca, New York, but the New York High School Athletic Association bans him for life from coaching high school basketball in the state of New York. Which is why there’s no chance of redemption in high school basketball in New York. It’d have to be somewhere else, in this case, Indiana. So things were pretty dire.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And there’s some interesting moments as this town hall meeting is happening. It’s about to go to a vote, as we’ll see. And one of the things that happens is that he tells the town meeting, he says he’s made mistakes and he takes full responsibility for it. Now, the key lesson is sometimes you make mistakes in life. Sometimes we’re our earn worst enemy. Sometimes our crucible, our worst day, is 100% our fault. Not always. In this case, it was 100% Norman Dale’s fault. And he realizes that, and he admits that in a later scene when he is chatting with Myra in the fields, we learn kind of a little bit more. And he said, he looks back at that scene where he sort of punches this kid out, and he wishes he could not do it. He sees himself doing it. You replay your worst moment in your life and just wish you could stop what you just did happening. But you can’t.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And he said the funny thing is the kid that he punched was the best kid that ever played for him. He was a good kid. He wasn’t a nasty kid. He said he was tough, stubborn, and willful. And then Myra says, ironically, “Sounds like somebody I know.” So it was almost like he was punching himself. So that’s what made it so hard. He wasn’t punching this troublemaker. Maybe the crime didn’t deserve it, that the kid was a bad kid. In this case, this was a good kid. He was one of the best players he ever had.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And so it just made that fall from grace so much tougher. But he was willing to own up to what he did and to live with what he did, and admit his mistakes and say it was wrong. And that’s one of the key steps we always talk about in Crucible Leadership and Beyond the Crucible, you’ve got to learn the lessons from your crucible. And if that’s your fault, a big part of it is saying, “You know what? It was my fault. I made a mistake, I blew it, and I’m sorry.” And you begin to find ways of moving forward from it. And in some cases, atoning, if that’s what you need to do. So it’s a very moving moment. He’s up there speaking before the town hall.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And two unexpected things happen during that meeting. One, you’ve teased a little bit in that he had a scene with Myra later where he reveals that the player that he punched was someone who was the best kid on the team. Myra’s perspective on Coach Dale changes during the meeting. She goes up there with the intention of reading the story that she found in the big city and she doesn’t. Her view of him has changed. She sees the character in him. She sees something in him in the same way that Coach Dale sees something in Shooter. She sees something in him that’s worth giving him a chance and not reading the thing that would’ve been his absolute dismissal warrant if she would’ve read the story of what happened. And you picked up on something. When she goes back to her seat in that meeting, how she is emotionally by that moment, right?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. I mean, as at this point, she is the assistant principal. I think it must have happened earlier, Cletus has a heart murmur. Something happens. He’s laid up a bit. And so normally it would be Cletus as the principal getting up in front of the meeting to represent the school. Well, now it’s Myra. And you could see, as she’s talking about Coach Norman Dale, she kind of tears up a bit. And you’re right. She can’t get into all of the stuff that’s happened.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And so you begin to see that her view of Norman Dale has changed. She has empathy. We learned earlier that she doesn’t really like basketball a whole lot. She has a brother that played basketball, and her whole family idealized her brother. And oh, look, what’s happening at the game. And he’s so good. And it’s like what about me? So she just sees these kids with this shining moment in high school, that that’s their shining moment and then it’s over. So she’s not a great lover of the game of basketball.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So it’s just amazing how you see her empathy for Norman Dale really growing there. Maybe she learns not just something about him, but maybe she learns about the game of basketball, when done the right way, what it could be in this case to young boys, young men, with their character. She learns lessons that I think she never understood before meeting Norman Dale. It’s a fascinating and sort of complex scene.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And the other thing that was unexpected that happens during the town hall meeting is that, lo and behold, Jimmy Chitwood comes in. And Jimmy, shy kid, great jump shot, shy kid, Jimmy says to the assembled town folk that he’s decided he’s going to play basketball for the Hickory Huskers. He’s coming back to the team. One of the parents who had just voted to get Coach Dale out, screamed something like, “See, I knew as soon as we got rid of this coach, he’d be back.” But Jimmy has a surprise for him. Jimmy says he’ll only come back if Coach Dale stays.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And this is an appropriate time to reveal that I am indeed wearing a Hickory High School, not jersey, it’s a shirsey, they call it. A shirt. This is Jimmy Chitwood’s number. So I am representing right here Jimmy Chitwood. I had to, not hide, but behind my microphone, you couldn’t tell what number I was wearing, but that’s what number I’m wearing. I’m wearing Jimmy’s number. Because Jimmy comes back to the team, and I didn’t want to give that away too soon.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

From that moment, when Jimmy comes back, the trajectory of Hoosiers changes. The team starts winning. In a sense, the team has redeemed itself. Coach Dale, trying to help Shooter gain confidence after he froze in an earlier game when the coach was kicked out for arguing with the refs, this time gets kicked out again on purpose because he wants to give Shooter another chance to do it. And Shooter does it. He leads the team to victory.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

But a few games later, Shooter relapses, and he ends up in a rehab hospital. And that I think is a good reminder that redemption is a journey. It’s not a one and done scenario. When moving beyond our crucibles, we often maybe even usually encounter or cause other ones. Here’s the critical point. That’s when it’s important to have people around us who believe in us, and it’s also important to be a person who believes in those going through crucibles. For me, Warwick, that was perhaps the biggest aha moment in this movie is what happened to Shooter, and realizing perfection is not required even on the road to redemption as you’re walking that road, right?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It is a great scene and a great moment. Coach Norman Dale, he’s not a fair weather friend. It’s not like, okay, I’ll have you as assistant coach if you clean yourself up and stay sober, but hey, it’s one strike. One strike and you’re out. You make one mistake and you’re history. At least not the way he treats Shooter. He has relapses. Life back from the bottom of the pit is typically not smooth. Stuff either happens to you or you tend to make mistakes. I mean, not that many people have just a completely clean slate when they’re trying to climb back from crucibles, whether it’s alcoholism or whatever other crucible. Sometimes there are relapses. And what’s important is having somebody like Coach Norman Dale that’s in your corner and it’s like, they’re not going to just abandon you because you make a mistake or you have a relapse.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s what’s the trajectory? Are you moving forward? And somebody that believes in you the way Coach Norman Dale did, it’s incredible. It’s just like he’s not going to give up on his team and the young boys on that team, he’s not going to give up on Shooter. It’s amazing. We need to be like Coach Norman Dale and not give up on people. And we also want to have people like Coach Norman Dale in our lives that won’t give up on us when maybe we have a bit of a relapse. You want people that’ll stay with you. And that was part of his values and beliefs. It’s really impressive.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah. There’s a really sweet scene that happens after that when Coach Dale visits Shooter in the hospital. And Shooter is going through withdrawal from alcohol, and he’s just emotionally distraught and he’s almost crying, and he’s kind of frantic. And he keeps apologizing, and he keeps saying he’s no good and I mess everything up. And Norman Dale says to him, “Nothing could be further from the truth.” Again at his lowest moment, when Shooter wants to just literally stay in bed with the sheets pulled up over his head, Coach Dale gives him a word of encouragement. A word of here’s a perspective on who you are that’s different from your perspective right now. That you’re more than your worst day is basically what he’s telling Shooter. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So the Huskers make and advance in the playoffs. And Coach Dale, when they’re in the playoffs, gives a speech to the team making clear how much he believes in them. I want you to listen to the words of this speech, listener. Because I think this is the kind of thing that you could type up, stick on your wall as you encounter your own crucibles. No, it’s not 1950 at the moment. You’re not a high school basketball player, perhaps. You’re not a basketball player at all, perhaps. But what Norman Dale tells his team before this playoff game is exactly the kind of perspective we need as we’re looking to move beyond a crucible and aim at a life of significance. Here’s what he says.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

“Remember what got you here. Focus on the fundamentals. Don’t get caught up in thinking about winning or losing this game. If you put your effort and attention into playing to your potential to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says. In my book, we’re going to be winners.” That applies to pretty much every situation in life that we can go through, where we get the wind knocked out, our breath taken from us, and we feel like we’ve been knocked off balance. Those are words, it’s not about grabbing the brass ring all the time, it’s about effort and significance and pursuing your vision and values. And that to me was an extremely powerful moment in the film.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely, Gary. It is one of the greatest lessons that I think Coach Norman Dale has learned. I mean maybe the old one who coached the Ithaca Warriors college basketball, maybe he was all about winning. I’m guessing, he probably was. Maybe that kid that was such a good player, maybe he was making mistakes. Maybe he wasn’t having a good game. The old Norman Dale was probably all about winning. But here he learns, as we often say, success in and of itself is not very rewarding. It’s success, hopefully, and significance. And of the two, you always choose significance.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So for Coach Norman Dale, as you said, it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about how you play the game, playing the right way, giving it your all. If you’ve given it your all, what the score board says is not relevant. You’ve given it your all, you’ve done your best and that’s what matters. It’s your character. It’s how you play it, how you treat others. And he genuinely believes this. He is giving these young men, these boys, incredible life lessons, character lessons that will serve them well in their business careers and their families in the decades to come. These are invaluable.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And he’s living one of the most important games in the season, this playoff game that will determine who gets to the state championship. For a small team in Indiana, this is huge. But he says, “It’s not about winning. It’s about how we play the game. It’s about the fundamentals. Being the best you can be.” It’s hard to think of a better life lesson that he could have taught those boys, those young men, at that moment. Clearly he was living his beliefs and his vision. And you have to believe he’s a very different Norman Dale than last coached the Ithaca Warriors in New York in college. It’s an amazing metamorphosis, amazing transition for Norman Dale.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah. And what happens almost immediately after that makes me think of my journalism career, and what I used to always tell reporters. When you’re writing a story, show, don’t tell. Show me something rather than just tell me. And Norman Dale has the opportunity to do that very thing. And he almost messes it up in the game that follows.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

A player who had been injured earlier in on court altercation, he got knocked into a trophy case, glass cut him on the shoulder. He gets fouled in this game, and his stitches opening up and he starts bleeding. And the trainer comes over and says, “Okay, well, we got to get him out.” And Coach Dale says, without really thinking, right, it’s just sort of his reflex says, “Stitch him up, get him back.” Because it’s one of the better players on the team. So as the player’s going off with the trainer, the camera, it’s a great shot, the camera shows Norman Dale walking away. And he stops and you see him from the back and he kind of drops his head and he realizes that he’s responsible for these boys in ways that have nothing to do with what the scoreboard says. He just said that to them.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So he reconsiders his stitch him up and get him back in the game. And he realizes also that he’s lost sight of his responsibility. In the same way, not as aggressively or as destructively as when he punched his own player, but he realizes he was betraying his values by putting an injured player back in just to win. He would be betraying his values. And he calls that player back. Even if it means he’s not going to win, he’s going to live by his words. That’s the first time we see him almost crossing the line again, but he doesn’t do it. And it’s a powerful thing for us to look at and see that we’re going to be tempted sometimes on the road back from a crucible to cut a corner, or to do something the old way that we used to do things. And this is very instructive for us and gives us hope that we too can make the right decisions.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, absolutely, Gary. I mean, we’re all human. From a faith perspective, you might say we’re all fallen. We’re all going to be tempted. And the issue is not the temptation. The issue is what do you do about that? Do you say no to temptation. And yes, for a second he was tempted to say, hey, I’d like to win this game. It’s a big playoff game. If the kid can stand even on one leg, with one arm, let’s play him. But it was a pretty significant wound. He thought about it for a second, and he self-corrected. And he says, “You know what? That’s not right. Kid, you need to sit on the bench. We need to put in somebody else.” And so one of the big lessons in life is we’re going to be tempted. The issue isn’t the temptation. It’s what do you do about it? And if you can begin to self-correct, and say you know what? That’s not in line with my values and beliefs. I’m not living what I just told the kids that we should be doing. That’s not right.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I’m a hypocrite, right? He’s a hypocrite if he does that.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. Sometimes you need other people to help you and call you on it. And it’s good if you listen to those folks. Even better, I mean, it’s good to have people helping you, it’s one step even better if it doesn’t even get to that point because you correct yourself before somebody else needs to or before you do damage. So it’s a powerful lesson: live your values and beliefs. And if you suddenly feel like, well hang on, that’s probably not a smart play, then pull it back. Don’t make the mistake. And that’s what Norman Dale does. It’s really impressive.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And in that moment, I think his redemptive arc is complete. His path to redemption, he’s reached that destination. He puts significance, caring for others entrusted to his care, over success, which would be winning a playoff basketball game. And that’s what we talk about here all the time. Significance is far more valuable than just success. Success with significance, great. Norman Dale decides significance is what I’m aiming for. That’s what I’m preaching to these kids. That’s what I’m going to live by. And if success happens, great. If not, so be it.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

But success does happen anyway. And it happens in a very unlikely way that involves another sweet redemption story. Ollie, when we first meet him, he’s the shortest guy on the team, and he’s really only the equipment manager, and he doesn’t play hardly at all. Ollie ends up having to go in the game because they have a short bench, literally. Not a lot of players and not a lot of height. And Ollie who doesn’t ever get to play has to go in. The other team recognizes Ollie’s not probably very good. So they foul him a couple times thinking he is never going to make the free throws.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And what I loved about this, Warwick, is that it’s set in the ’50s, and that was when it was more common to shoot free throws underhanded. And so the first free throw that Ollie throws after he gets fouled is like 10 feet short of the basket. So you’re like, oh gosh. And you can see the wind coming out of all the Hickory fans in the stands. But he’s got to make two shots to give them the lead. And he actually does it. It’s the redemption story of the “least valuable member of the team” who’s given the chance and he leads the team to victory. He seizes that chance when he is given it. And that is the belief, and even putting him on the team.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

If we go back to the first scene, when Ollie says, “I’m just the equipment manager,” and Coach Dale who just met the players minutes ago, says, “No, okay, you’re going to play.” He says, “No, you’re a player.” So the very fact that, sure, Coach Dale probably wouldn’t have, if he had the ability to not have to put Ollie in, he probably would’ve chosen not to do so, but he was the last player on there. But the only reason Ollie’s on that bench is because Coach Dale believed he could contribute something, believed he deserved to be a player when he first met him at the start of his journey. Which is again, another way of how coach Norman Dale’s character shines through and helps the team achieve significance and success together.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, there’s so many examples of redemption in this movie, and that’s another great example. Nobody believes in Ollie. He’s the shortest player, the least athletically talented. Critical times in the game where he just dribbles the ball out of bounds. He gets the ball stolen. I mean, if you were a cynic, you’d say Ollie is single-handedly trying to help us lose this game. If you were a parent of another kid, you tend not to be charitable because you’re all about winning. But it was just a wonderful moment in which somebody believed in Ollie. They carry him off on their shoulders when they win. That’s a story he’ll have for the rest of his life, irrespective of what he does. So having somebody believe in you like that, that’s huge. It’s a small part of the movie, but there’s so many examples of somebody like Coach Norman Dale believing in folks that could have a big impact on his life. We don’t know. But it’s a wonderful, another redemptive arc on, in this case, not a big character in the movie. But it’s pretty impressive.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah. It’s a great cinematic moment because you sort of forget Ollie’s even there. And then all of a sudden these things happen, and Ollie has to go on the court. And it’s like, oh, my gosh. Yeah, that’s Ollie. Oh no. Even as a viewer, right? You’re going, ooh. I know that this is one of those movies that the team probably wins in the end, but ooh, Ollie. How’s he going to do that? But he does. He does do that.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

One of the things that Norman Dale does throughout the movie, and you were struck by one of the things when they go… Hickory, small town. In fact, the Hickory Huskers is actually based on the true story of Milan High School in Indiana, which won the state tournament, state title in 1954, over a school that had 10 times the number of students that Hickory had.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So they’re not accustomed, this place that they’re going to go play in now for the championship game, that Ollie wins the semifinal, and now they’re going to go to the finals, this field house they’re playing, this enormous field house in Indianapolis is unlike anything… I mean, Coach Dale tells somebody in the press, “My kids haven’t even seen a two story building, many of them.” And there’s this three, four story, huge field house. But one of the things he does, again, the character of Norman Dale, trying to ease the path forward for his kids, you were struck by the way that he kind pulls out a tape measure and teaches them something that drops down their anxiety level.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. It’s sort of a wonderful scene. Here they are in what they call Butler Fieldhouse, which I’m assuming maybe Butler University that happens to be in Indianapolis. At least one would lead you to believe that. But it’s a massive cavernous place. And so he gets the tape measure, measures the sidelines. Has somebody get on somebody’s shoulders and measures the height of the hoop. And it’s indeed 10 feet. And he says, “Funny, the measurements of this court are the same as our court back in Hickory. Huh? That’s interesting.” Obviously the place is much bigger, but the court’s the same. It was a powerful way of telling his students, telling his kids, hey, I know this seems pretty scary. It’s just a basketball court. It’s the same as we have. Just really trying to settle their nerves down. And yeah, it’s an amazing moment.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So this will come as no surprise probably to anybody who’s listening here. But Hickory does get to the finals. They get into that big fieldhouse. A small school from the sticks playing a big city powerhouse. It is, as we heard in the clip at the top of the show, it is a David and Goliath story that they would even be there to play. A group of boys no one thought could reach such heights led by a coach whose failure almost robbed him from ever reaching such heights again. Each needed the other to get there. That’s what makes Coach Dale’s final words in that clip we heard at the outset so poignant. When he has the huddle and says not any rah rah statement to get them motivated. He just looks across them, his eyes pan across the boys in front of him, and he says, “I love you, guys.” Such a poignant moment that speaks to the importance, the value of significance over mere success.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. I mean that whole David and Goliath metaphor, it is true. I mean, we hear the commentators say that the school they’re playing from South Bend, Indiana, it’s a massive school. It has an enrollment of 2,800. 2,800 kids. Earlier on in the movie, we learn that Hickory has only 64 boys in the high school. Well doing the math, assuming it’s roughly 50-50 boys and girls, that means it’s like a pool of 1,400 boys from South Bend High School to 64 at Hickory. I mean you do the math, and it’s nuts.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And it turns out that they are a lot bigger. They have a starting lineup with kids there were 6’4″, 6’5″. Back in the early ’50s, that’s big. I mean, it’s more commonplace now, but high school basketball in the early ’50s, 6’4″, 6’5″, I mean, wow. It’d be very easy to look at that and say, okay, they’re probably more athletic. They’re bigger than us. Our chances of winning is one in a million. Let’s give up. It is truly a David and Goliath moment.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But obviously, as we’ll find out later, it doesn’t deter Coach Norman Dale. You heard the speech in the clip. He is going to go in there. He loves these guys. They’re going to do their best, win or lose. It’s not about the scoreboard. They’re going to play the game of basketball the right way. And they give it their all. But certainly before the game starts, you would think the chances they have of winning is close to zero, given the size of the school, the size of the other players. You would say, maybe it’s not zero chance, but it’s about as close as you could get. It really is a David and Goliath moment, that game.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And David, who in the biblical story has a slingshot and a stone, in this movie, Hickory has a Jimmy Chitwood and a basketball. Because here’s my guy, Jimmy Chitwood. Here’s my jersey again. Jimmy Chitwood ends up taking the last shot, wins the game. And Hickory becomes the unlikely state champions in the state of Indiana. Which being state champions in general, I mean in Wisconsin, that would be a big thing to be state champions in Wisconsin. The football team in my high school won a couple of football championships in the state when I was in high school. But it’s not quite the same.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Basketball is everything in Indiana. And that’s where Larry Bird is from, right? To be state champions in that state, to be that small a school, enormous accomplishment. And again, based on a real accomplishment of a high school, Milan High School, in 1954 that did the same thing. That’s who Hickory is based on. But the beautiful thing about the movie, it ends, Hickory wins, Shooter is fully reconciled with his son. That scene, Warwick, when that happens, the reconciliation of Shooter and his son. I know that moves you seeing that play out on screen. Talk a little about how that was so moving to you.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. Again, obviously you have the redemption of Norman Dale with Cletus, the high school principal, longtime buddy of Norman Dale’s believing in him, giving him a second chance. And you’ve got Coach Norman Dale believing in Shooter, giving him second chances, even when Shooter kind of falls back and is drinking again. Coach Dale doesn’t give up on him. And at first, Shooter’s son is like, “Well coach, why are you doing this?” It’s hard for the son to believe in the father. But in some ways I think you have Coach Norman Dale modeling a redemptive spirit, modeling redemptive character. And in a sense, he disciples and teaches Shooter’s son about forgiveness and redemption.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And so there’s a wonderful scene where you’ve got Shooter still in rehab in the hospital. And his son goes to see him. And Shooter is just feeling very bad, and says, “I’m so sorry. I was drunk again.” And he’s feeling really bad about himself and very contrite. And his son says, “You know what, Dad? It doesn’t matter. It’s okay. And when you get out of here, let’s get a house and we’ll be a family and live together.” And I think this is before that last game. And Shooter says he wishes he could be there. And obviously he listens to it on the radio. And you can imagine the elation that he has. TV wasn’t quite widespread back then, certainly not in hospital wards.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

He had a little Philco radio that was doing the job for him.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Exactly. So that sense of redemption not only is Shooter feeling like people believe in him, at least Norman Dale does, and he’s assistant coach on the team. But to get the belief of your son, it doesn’t get any better than that to have your son believe in you again. My gosh, that is just turbo charging your sense of redemption. And at that point, we don’t know what happened, but at that point, I don’t know what more motivation Shooter would need to sort of stay on the straight and narrow, having his son believe in him. I mean, all of those helps you come back when you have the belief of somebody like Norman Dale, and then finally the belief of his son, it’s just a wonderful redemptive moment.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And to close up all the storylines, Coach Dale and Myra wind up kind of becoming romantically linked at the end. And it truly is, by the time the movie ends, it’s kind of lives of significance all around it. It’s a great example. All these narrative arcs that we’ve talked about in terms of success plus significance over just success, and pursuing significance as you’re aiming at whatever, however, it might turn out. Like Coach Dale said, “Whether win or lose, if you give your best, you’re winners in my book.” That is a great message to take away.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So there’s lives of significance for everybody here. And it’s funny, Warwick, speaking of lives of significance, I know that one of the chief areas of significance for you is your family. And as happens sometimes on the show, what we’re talking about, there’s a little bit of a connection to the Fairfax family in some way. Explain that to folks, how Indiana basketball and the Fairfax family go together like peanut butter and jelly maybe a little bit.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. You would think how can that possibly be? I grew up in a big city in Sydney, very cosmopolitan. But yeah, all my three kids, Will, Gracie, and Robbie, they all went to a small Christian college, about 2,000 odd undergrad. And it’s in Indiana. And so we’ve been there often over the years. And it is kind of like the movie, in the beginning of the movie, when you see Coach Norman Dale drive over these country roads. Taylor University is in Upland, Indiana. And it literally is in the middle of nowhere, cornfields and fields for miles. I mean, if anything, Hickory, I think is a bit more densely populated than Upland, Indiana. It’s a little bit more remote than Hickory.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I mean, you and I went there for a speaking engagement because you spoke at Taylor, and we got blocked from our hotel room in the middle of nowhere by some construction that was going on. We had to go 10 miles out of our way to get there. So you’re right. It is in the middle of nowhere, and it’s not easy to navigate.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But one of the reasons that, I mean, I loved this movie even before my kids went to Taylor, but there’s this iconic moment. It’s in December every year, the Taylor basketball team, they play this game, and it’s called the Silent Night Game. And what’s fascinating is this moment at Taylor has been on ESPN, Fox News, and other networks more than once. Now, how could a small Christian college get on ESPN? You would think that’s kind of impossible. Nobody’s really heard of Taylor outside of maybe Christian education.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So there’s a moment when the whole people in the stands, all of the fans are silent until the 10th point is scored. And when the 10th point is scored, all pandemonium breaks out. You have kids dressed up in everything from gorilla suits to, I mean all sorts of weird and wacky costumes. And they all run onto the field and music’s playing and all of this. The poor opposing team realizes this is going to happen. They played Taylor in their conference. They know at the 10th point, stuff’s going to happen.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Then after the mayhem ends, and the fans go back in the stands, the fans sing Silent Night. The game of basketball is going on. And so you’re playing the game while people are singing Silent Night, and they’re moving back and forth. And so you won’t see it in the audio version, but we’ll try and put a clip in. There’s a YouTube clip. You’ll get a feel of when people yell when the 10th point is scored, and then Silent Night is being played. And you’ll see in this clip, a close up of my oldest son, Will. He’s got a green hat on, no shirt. He is part of another group of guys in his dorm. And not quite sure how we’ll point him out, maybe an arrow. We’ll figure out something so that you can figure out who he is.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

He’s got a T painted on his chest, is that what he is got painted on his chest?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

A T and a green hat. So you’ll see it. But it’s a wonderful moment and a great tradition. And it’s Indiana basketball. I mean, of all the states in the country, basketball is synonymous with Indiana. Small town places that brings people together. And yeah, it’s a wonderful tradition. And they’ve been doing that for many years of 10th point, it goes silent, and then they go crazy, and singing Silent Night, packed stadium. It’s pretty amazing. Even the opposing team, it’s hard not to get swept up in the moment when those sorts of things happen. So yeah, Indiana basketball, it’s a special place and they’ve got special traditions.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And it is even in that moment, as rambunctious and Mardi Gras-like. I’ve seen the clip, you showed me the clip of all of the… I mean, once that 10th point is scored, it’s Mardi Gras. It’s New Year’s Eve in Times Square. It’s crazy. But then to sing a Christmas hymn of significance at that time, again, I think speaks to what’s really important in the heart certainly of the students at Taylor.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And backing up into the movie, we see what’s important, right? We’ve been talking about in this episode, what’s important to Coach Norman Dale, and the way that he pays that forward to some people. He’s been given a second chance. And in that second chance, he gives other people a second chance. And that’s really kind of a beautiful way of living beyond your crucible.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So this is fun because I’ve never asked you this question in any episode that we’ve ever had a dialogue. And it’s appropriate for this, the final episode of Lights, Camera, Crucibles. You ask guests often on the show, the last question is, what’s your message of hope for listeners? I’ll reframe it a little bit. What is your perspective message of hope that you believe, big picture, 30,000 foot level, this eight part series on what movie heroes can teach us about overcoming setback and failure? What’s your message of take this away folks, here’s your hopeful nugget, as you consider all eight episodes of this series?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I’d say we took a lot on Beyond the Crucible and Crucible Leadership that your worst day doesn’t have to define you. It could be from something that was horrific done to you. It could be from your own mistakes. And we’ve had a lot of different examples. In an earlier movie, The Natural, you had Roy Hobbs not seeing this sort of psycho woman that shot him, and he believes he should have seen it. And maybe he should have. Maybe he shouldn’t have been with her in the first place.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Ironically, sorry-

 

Warwick Fairfax:

He had a part to play. Yeah?

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Ironically, she’s played by actress, Barbara Hershey, who plays Myra in this movie. So look at that symmetry. Sorry to interrupt you. But that is interesting.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

No, not at all. That is such a good point. I was thinking about that, but such a good point. But yeah, I mean, in various of those movies, or in Iron Man that we did very recently, you have just a guy who’s just egotistical. It’s all about him. And he goes through a redemptive arc where he realizes maybe it’s not about me. Maybe it’s not all about Tony Stark. Maybe it’s about redeeming and helping others. So I think one of the messages of hope in the series is your worst day doesn’t have to define you. Part of it is learning the lessons of your crucible. It’s realizing what matters in life. What do I really want my beliefs and values to be? In the case of Tony Stark, it went from narcissistic self-centered, it’s all about power and money, to maybe I can use the technology we develop rather than making weapons to help others in sustainable energy.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So this is a great capstone with Norman Dale. It’s redemption after redemption. Life doesn’t get much better than when you can use your crucible as a force of redemption. Your crucible, rather than being one of pain, maybe turns into a crucible of redemption where you can help others come back from their worst days. You can pay it forward. You can give a second chance at redemption, a second chance at life to others. So we talk all the time about, at Crucible Leadership, is your worst day doesn’t have to define you. Learn the lessons of your crucible. And instead of living some hedonistic, it’s all about me and success and fame life, live a life of significance, a life on purpose dedicated to serving others.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

That’s what Coach Norman Dale does. It’s not about winning. It’s about helping kids learn about how to play basketball the right way. And more importantly, help kids learn how to win in the game of life, help them learn lessons of character and teamwork and selflessness. So really, I guess the message of hope from the series is your worst day doesn’t have to define you. Redemption is possible. And you can pay redemption forward by being a force of redemption in other people’s lives. Helping other people live lives of significance. Help other people live lives of redemption.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Here Coach Norman Dale helps to redeem Shooter’s life, Ollie, maybe his life wasn’t in turmoil, but little some grains of redemption is if you can use your redemption as a force to help redeem others, to me, that’s about as good a life of significance as you can get that will lead to joy and fulfillment at a level you’ve probably never experienced. So to me, that’s what life should be is helping to be a force of redemption in the world, and helping yourself and others lead a life of significance. So yeah.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

You know what I love about what you just said? You’ve just described your arc, right? That’s Warwick Fairfax’s arc. That’s exactly what your life has been. That’s what you’re doing through Crucible Leadership. That is an appropriate place listener for us to tie the bow. I’m going to leave you with this reflection question about specifically, yes Hoosiers, but also in general, about what Warwick just talked about the series, and that is this.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

We talked a lot about redemption here. So ask yourself this question. How can your own journey of moving beyond your crucible be viewed as a story of redemption? Think about that. Warwick said at the top of the show, he had not thought of his moving beyond his crucible in terms of deliverance until we were recording a video, and then it just popped out of his mouth. So reflect on those things. How has your journey that you may have concluded the journey of a crucible, you may still be walking it, how can that be looked at as a story of redemption, and what can you do to continue this? What can you do to pay it forward, to help other people? The old shampoo commercial, and I told two friends, and so on and so on and so on. I paid it forward. And what kind of redemption revolution might we be able to create if we do the kinds of things that Norman Dale did, and I’ll embarrass him, and that Warwick has done.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So listener, thank you so much for spending eight weeks, two months with us, as we’ve gone through this series, Lights, Camera, Crucibles. We appreciate your interest in what we do at Beyond the Crucible and at Crucible Leadership. And we will be back next couple of weeks with another episode that will talk about this truth that we’ve talked about in all eight of these episodes, and we’ve talked about in all 120 plus episodes of the show, and that’s this. Your crucible experiences are painful. We know that. They’re difficult. They knock the wind out of your sales and they can knock you off course where you think you’re going in life. But they’re not the end of your story. Your worst day doesn’t define you. If you learn the lessons of that crucible, if you apply them as you move forward, where you’re going to get taken to is on a journey toward the best end point that you can get. And that end point is, that destination is, a life of significance.