The Long Green Line

Joe Newton is to high school cross country as Bob Hurley is to high school basketball. As the coach of a suburban school in a large metro region, he’s been there forever and, in the words of DJ Khaled, all he does is win.

As the 2008 documentary about his York (IL) cross country team The Long Green Line shows, though, Coach Newton cares much more about winning. As he shows many times throughout the documentary, he has the intensity and fire of Bobby Hurley combined with the love and compassion of Dick Vermeil. The Long Green Line follows Joe Newton and the York cross country team during the 2005 season as they attempt to win the school (and Newton’s) 25th state title.

The stars of the movie aren’t necessarily the top 7 (out of 221) boys on the team who wind up runner at the state meet. In fact, John Fisher (an autistic kid with a lot of love for his cross country team) and Connor Chadwick (one of the slowest kids on the team who suffers from cerebral palsy) are as important to both the team and the movie as the fastest kids.

In the middle of the season, Coach Newton kicks off one of his top 7 runners. Shortly thereafter, two of his top 7 runners are arrested (and, of course, kicked off the team) for causing millions of dollars in damage in a starting a house fire the past summer. His top two runners, twins Matt & Eric Dettman, contract a viral infection late in the season and are running nowhere near their best.

The movie has everything you want from a documentary. A great central character, an interesting storyline, and an unforeseen plot twist make this story worth watching for sports fans. Created by first-time director (and former York student) Matthew Arnold at times looks really professional, but has a few sequences that look rather shaky and/or amateurish. Given the lack of budget and lack of experience, it’s probably to be expected (I, for one, have made a movie on a low budget that at times looks less than ideal). As a whole, though, he’s done a fantastic job of conveying an interesting story about a legendary coach.

7.5

out of 10

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05

10 2012

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