Turns out Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) ability to preach and sway his disciples comes in pretty handy. The high-school coach behind the remarkable, record- breaking streak of 151 wins accomplishes by the De La Salle of suburban Concord, California.
Coach Lad doesn't so much give pep talks as deliver soul lifting lessons. He underplays the importance of collecting trophies and beating opponents and instead he develops a brotherhood between them, having your tea,mates back and pushing yourself to the limit and beyond to achieving your goals. His approach to the game is best summed up in a quotation from Matthew 23:13 that is recited, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled. And whoever who humbles himself shall be exalted.” In other words, it means that it isn't about you, it's about others.
The problem with this particular sports story is the difficulty of presenting De La Salle as an Underdog. Which is why producer David Zelon and director Thomas Carter decided to focus in on the year 2004, when Coach Lad suffered a life threatening heart attack (it turns out he was a secret smoker) and one of the team's brightest stars is killed in a random shooting. Soon, they lose their focus but most important they start to lose their brotherhood, and with that they lose their 151 game streak. But “It was never about the streak in the first pace” -Coach Lad.
After losing the first two games of the season, Coach Lad is given the OK to resume to his duties. Coming back from a two game slump doesn't exactly make his comeback any better.
The actual turning point that prevents “When the Game Stands Tall” from being totally insufferable, arrives when the kids go on field trip to visit wounded veterans in a recovery facility. The heartfelt interaction between the players and the wounded warriors who braved through their disabilities and the films first of too-few emotional parts.
But does Coach Lad know how to be a dad? His kids grew up wanting a dad but they got a coach, but when they need a coach they got a dad instead. Coach Lad has missed out on precious family time. He doesn't even know how to grill a burger correctly. Watching him throw the charred hockey pucks into the bushes.
Just as any coach would tell you, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game. But even tho “When the Game Stands Tall” comes alive occasionally, it's basically a dropped ball.