“The Comeback Kid”
I’ve got an idea for a Hollywood screenplay. The script goes
There’s a character representing the indomitable human spirit.
He’s a wholesome long distance runner at a Catholic high school. Since the story takes place in South Louisiana, we’ll
give him a common French surname; let’s call him Brett Guidry.
In the grand tradition of major disaster epics, we’ll concoct
a scenario in which Brett’s hometown is wiped off the map. There’ll be scenes of indescribable carnage, massive
devastation, shock, outrage, and hopelessness. There will be dire news reports depicting the total destruction of a major
American metropolis. The event will be called “the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.”
Brett, however, manages a harrowing escape, evacuating to a Texas
city (say, Houston) along with the two young Guidry twins, Cory and Chad. There they encounter the kindly headmaster of a
Jesuit school who welcomes them with open arms, evoking comparisons to Spencer Tracy’s role as the beloved Father Flanagan
in the 1930’s screen classic, “Boys Town.”
Via flashbacks, we learn that Brett had once been a state champion
cross country competitor, earning the title as an athletically gifted sophomore. However, the following year, Brett had been
defeated at the championship meet, coming in second to a senior from a school in the northern hinterlands. For the next year,
Brett had trained fanatically, dreaming of the day when he could regain his lost glory. Now, with his displaced status and
his school reduced to rubble, Brett is unsure if he’ll ever have that chance.
Cut to bureaucratic wrangling among Texas officials, resulting in
a decision to allow Louisiana evacuees to compete in high school athletics with no restrictions. Brett enters a major track
meet in Austin, and achieves statewide recognition after the media lists his name among the event‘s “elite performers.”
The irrepressible Guidry twins, competing for the school’s JV squad, come in with the two fastest times on their team.
However, Brett’s achievements are somewhat empty, since it’s presumed that he will never regain his cherished
Louisiana state title.
Show scenes of earnest discussions among parents and community leaders
concerning the fate of Brett’s old high school, resulting in plans for a temporary campus in Louisiana. The miraculous
news spurs a migration home for many of the students, including the Guidry boys. Brett’s dream of a championship season
is resurrected. Running in his first Louisiana event, Brett sets a course record.
Move to the film’s climax, the November state championship meet.
Brett’s crosstown rivals prowl the grounds as an aggressive posse, waving a crimson and gold banner. Their leader, who
we’ll call Andy, is generally recognized as the state’s #2 runner. The 5A race is the last one of the day. At
the starting line, all of the schools are present, except for Brett’s team, the Blue Jays. Moments before the starting
gun, the Blue Jays seem to materialize out of thin air, and the sight of the boys in their familiar blue and white is like
the sight of a phoenix risen from the ashes. Brett radiates confidence and charm, basking in the respect of the athletes around
him. Brett completes a quick practice run with Cory and Chad, and from a distance they look like triplets. From the extreme
right of the assemblage, Andy paces like a caged panther, exuding a burning desire to finally extricate himself from Brett’s
shadow. Andy’s need to win this race is almost palpable in its intensity. At one point, Andy strides out from among
his teammates and stares in Brett’s direction. Brett plays it off but the twins scowl. The personal rivalry kicks the
event up to a dramatic level far above any mere athletic competition.
Then there is an inexplicable delay in the beginning of the race.
The coaches move to huddle with event organizers, wearing worried expressions and speaking in hushed tones. The words, “tornado
warning,” are overheard. Indeed, the sky on
the northern horizon is nearly pitch black, and one of the ominous clouds even appears to be funnel shaped. The kids all start
to chant in unison, “Run, Run, Run,” but the adults are oblivious to their cries. The race is postponed and everyone
dejectedly files off the bleak landscape.
Lightning flashes and thunder rolls. A torrential downpour sends the
weary stragglers scattering for cover. The severe weather continues for half an hour. Movie goers are left on the edge of
their seats, wondering if the film’s message hinges on a cruel irony, a belief that nature will continue to crush our
hopes. Then the rain tapers off, the skies begin to clear, some spectators even report seeing a rainbow. The athletes return
to the field.
In reality, the brief storm was a blessing to Brett, creating course
conditions which do not affect him, but serve as a major impediment for his rival. The rain soaked field causes one observer's
memory to hearken back to 2003, when a mud covered 15-year-old outran every other high school boy in the state.
The 2005 race begins, and Brett breezes through the first mile with
Andy in close pursuit. The few individuals who were unfamiliar with Brett's prior accomplishments begin to learn his
name. Soon there’s talk that Brett is “running away with the race.” Sure enough, when Brett crosses the
finish line, there’s no other competitor in sight. Brett accepts compliments and congratulations with class
and grace as flashbulbs illuminate the scene. As Brett receives his first place certificate at the awards ceremony, a gentle
rain, in stark contrast to the previous deluge, begins to fall. The audience experiences a slight pang of regret when it is
reminded that this is Brett’s last hurrah as a high school athlete. However, their disappointment is soon ameliorated
by a close-up shot of Cory and Chad, who appear poised in the wings, ready to carry on the proud Guidry/Jesuit tradition.
Pan out to an aerial shot of the venue, then roll the credits with
background music. Maybe use something buoyantly optimistic like Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing,”
or something cloyingly sentimental like Harry Connick, Jr.’s “Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans),”
and there you have it. A guaranteed blockbuster to inspire and uplift the entire Gulf Coast, just in time for the holiday
season. Someone should contact Disney’s story development people, even though...
...we all know that such an improbable, contrived storyline could
never happen in real life.