Director Richard Linklater once went to Sam Houston State on
a baseball scholarship. He
always thought there was something unique about that experience,
that going off to college moment in time, when they were all young
and athletic and carefree and unattached.
And the fellowship among the players was being part of a team
like no other.
Because of overflow in the athletic dorm, the campus had two
neighborhood houses set aside for the baseball scholarship guys,
with the proviso, of course, that there would be no alcohol on the
premises, and the coach adds in his pre-season team speech, no girls
upstairs, either. Right.
And that's the last we see of the coach the rest of the
movie, which is about the countdown to classes starting, and how
much partying and male bonding we can do before we have to act like
real university students.
The freshmen get hazed, of course.
But not too much; just enough to make them feel they've been
through the initiation and they're now part of the group.
And the group, well, it's a unique atmosphere.
There's the philosopher guy, who always comes up with the big
words for any occasion, but gets his feelings hurt when they
overhear his pickup technique and make fun of him about it.
There's the super-athlete, who can swing an axe at a moving
baseball and cut it clean in half, but he's awkward in unfamiliar
social situations. There's
the raw-boned country boy, who likes to play some macho game where
you fingernail-flick each other's knuckles until they bleed, until
somebody says “Uncle.” There's
the country boy who sits around in his BVDs and his cowboy boots,
talking to his girlfriend back home on the phone, until he realizes
that you actually have to pay extra for long-distance.
Yeah, this was 1980, before the pervasiveness of computers,
smart phones, and social media like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat,
whatever. These guys
weren't spending time in front of their personal screens; they were
spending time with each other. Drinking
beer, mostly, but in between, competing at everything:
ping-pong, darts, nerf basketball, driveway basketball, any
game at all will do. They're
all hyper-competitive, or they wouldn't be there.
Sure, they were all the best in their high schools, but here
they're among peer competitors, and that's an adjustment, as well.
They all go out as a group to the local nightspots.
They'll boogie at the disco one night, then do the
Cotton-Eyed Joe at the Western bar the next night---and ride the
mechanical bull. When
one gets invited to the house party for the Theater and Arts majors,
they all go, and get into the role-playing creativity there, as
well. Though not all
the girls fall for the jock squad, there are plenty of young
lovelies who are ready and willing to party with them.
(Though Mr. Linklater could have gotten raunchy with this
part, he chose to include only one gratuitous flash scene, and that
only briefly.) Some of
the girls got drunk enough to chug from the keg tube while being
held upside down. A
couple of them were even willing to strip down to panties and bra
and mud wrestle. But
occasionally a guy would actually meet a nice girl, and his
restraint with her just gave the other guys something else to make
Were there problems? Sure.
One pitcher was so intensely competitive that he couldn't
relax enough to throw batting practice.
Another guy, it turns out, was an adult who had falsified
transcripts just to be able to play with the team.
So he was expelled---dang, he was the one with the weed, too.
But what Mr. Linklater is trying to convey here is a bonhomie
rarely matched. It will
propel you right back to your own fraternity/sorority house, as if
you'd never left, a kind of Never Never Land where you don't have to
grow up either----yet.