Even a Category 5 hurricane can’t stop a revered coach and his championship high-school football team.
Popular historian Thompson (Driving with the Devil, 2006, etc.) begins in the locker room of New Orleans’ John Curtis Christian School on August 26, 2005. It was the night of the “jamboree” scrimmage that opened the season, and members of the Patriots were hoping to win another state championship for their school. Nationally recognized coach J.T. Curtis, also the school’s headmaster and son of its founder, knew that his hardworking, enthusiastic squad couldn’t compare to last year’s lineup. Many key players had graduated to college ball, and he needed to mentally and physically condition a young, unproven team with efficient, college-level practices consisting of “equal parts Broadway musical and football drills.” The 2005-6 Patriots included an anxious new starting quarterback, a Harvard hopeful, a spiritual heavyweight and a star linebacker whose religion forbade him to play on Friday nights. John Curtis School favored community building and happiness over flashy exteriors, and Coach Curtis reflected those values in his broadminded teaching style and paternal approach to his players’ personal lives. Hurricane Katrina confronted him and his team with the ultimate challenge. Returning to the drowned city, J.T. found the school in miraculously good shape and set out to reunite his squad and get them on the field again. Some players were tempted to join teams in other school districts, and Hurricane Rita tested them once again, but the devoted coach kept on plugging. Thompson deftly profiles a generous selection of players and families torn apart by the disaster and considers the contagious obsession for football shared by participants and fans alike. In a somewhat meandering fashion, he delivers a fully realized interpretative portrait of a coach and a sports organization willing to sacrifice all in the name of football.
Longwinded though affecting tribute to resilience and solidarity.