Pride, starring Bernie Mac and Terrance Howard, tells the true story of Jim Ellis, a black swimmer in the seventies. It’s in the same vein as Coach Carter and Remember the Titans, but this movie, for me, went beyond racial issues motivating sports stories. The movie starts with Jim Ellis, the main character, entering a college swim meet. The white crowd boos him has he warms up. As the official fires the gun to start the race, Jim is the only swimmer to dive in. The rest, all white, step off the blocks and watch as Jim swims in the pool alone. Jim soon realizes this and climbs from the pool embarassed and angry. A cop approaches him and, with racial slurs, yells at Jim to calm down. Jim beats the crap out of the cop and gets arrested.
Fast forward to current day 1974. That sounds funny, I wasn’t even alive then. Shoot, stop talking Jacobson. The movie continues with Jim inspiring a group of neighborhood kids to find hope and purpose in swimming. There’s a pimpin drug dealer in the film that tempts one of the boys. At one point, Jim sees two of his swimmers riding in the back seat of this guy’s car. Jim runs in front of the car. When it stops, he pulls “his kids” from the back seat and tells the drug dealer to never touch “his kids” again. The dealer tells Jim that this ain’t over, and drives off. A little later, Jim walks into the community center and finds the dealer and his goones vandalizing the pool. The dealer himself is peeing off one of the blocks into the pool. JIm loses it, and fights everybody there. He drags the dealer into the pool and tries to drown him. One of the swimmers jumps in, telling the coach it isn’t worth it.
Jim’s history of arrest comes out for all the community to see, especially since he lied on his job application about never being arrested. And this is what I liked most about the movie. Jim was a real character with real bright spots and real down falls. Fighting isn’t the answer, but he was tired of being pushed around. He fought for what he believed in–a safe place for kids to learn a sport free from the streets. His fighting blemishes his character, but his willingness to accept the consequences of his actions re-polishes it. He tells his team that he was out of line and he apologizes. But then he suspends himself from the state competition and puts the team’s best swimmer in charge. To me, this shows his true character. He wasn’t perfect, but when he messed up he tried to make it right, especially in front of the youth with whom he had committed so much.
The movie didn’t do well in theaters and overall has poor reviews. But I thought it was great. And Bernie Mac is flat out funny, no matter how you look at it. Check it out.