The best sports films aren't just about sports. They're about life. Few sports flicks in recent times might be more insightful than 'Push: Madison vs. Madison'. The documentary, which first hit theaters in New England in late April, focuses on the season-long struggles of an inner city Boston high school basketball team.
According to the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and ESPNBoston, the film has received significant critical acclaim both in New England and across the country. Push premiered at San Jose's Cinequest Film Festival, then debuted in the Boston area during the Boston Independent Film Festival in late April. Through the prism of the 2007 Boston (Mass.) Madison Park High basketball team, the film explores the natural tensions that emerge when students from a wide array of backgrounds integrate in a single, resources-limited setting, following the internal power struggles that result.
Throughout the film, a charismatic coach is able to keep a strife-ridden, stressed team together, with the goal of a state title on the horizon. To get there, the team has to overcome its own share of dysfunctional relationships and a host of limitations imposed by the struggling inner city communities that Madison Park serves.
Here's how ESPN Boston's Scott Barboza described a couple of the films more poignant characters and their struggles.
There is the story of Jakeen Cobb, who lost his mother at age 12 and relied on his eldest sister to lead the family. At another early point in "Push," one of Madison Park's players reports to Wilson in the middle of practice explaining his absence because his mother's boyfriend sent her to the hospital with a punch to the face.
Needless to say, the film is a near must-see tour de force for any fans of high school sports flicks. Yet it's important to note that "Push" is neither an inner city hoops version of Friday Night Lights, or a modern day team-based Hoop Dreams. Rather, it's a human interest story that unfolds under the guise of a basketball movie.
While the players chronicled across its three hours found themselves interacting through basketball, they were also leaving a blueprint on how to learn life lessons for those who would watch them from afar some four years later.