Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

December 10, 2013

Basketball team, small town struggle with defeat


The film explores the stories of other players: Rusty Rogers faces homelessness as his mother battles alcoholism. Robby Armstrong wants to be the first in his family to graduate from high school. Chaz Cowless, arrested on a gun charge, seems to spend much of his time trying to avoid the law.

Watching this movie, you must remind yourself that its dialogue is from actual words spoken by teenage boys, not crafted by a scriptwriter. Hearing their stories, one wonders how the players survive in a place described by one as “a meth-head town full of drug addicts and a bunch of drunks.”

That comment strikes at the movie's theme - a defeated town versus a defeated team.

It wasn’t always that way. Once Medora, Ind., was seen as a prosperous community where jobs were plentiful and people lived the American Dream. In the days before school consolidations became popular, the Hornets were competitive, winning more than their share of games.

Then the day came when the plastics plant and brick factory closed, terminating workers and their livelihoods.

Rothbart said “Medora” isn’t a politically driven movie, but there is a salient scene in which a family watches President Obama discuss the challenges facing the country. In the movie, his words were framed against images from around Medora - a view that depicts more past than future.

It makes one wonder if there's a future for small-town America, once described as the soul of the country, and if anything could reverse the downward trend.

Unlike the 1986 classic “Hoosiers," which portrays an Indiana high school team destined for greatness, "Medora" ultimately depicts only a glimmer of success that is celebrated with a late-night ride through town on a fire truck - just like in the old days.

It is doubtful this scene signals a reversal of fortune, however. More likely it is one last happy hoorah for a team and community struggling to stay relevant.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at "Medora" is available on demand on iTunes and at

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