It was one of those magical nights.
Last Friday night I joined a sold out crowd at the Kay Meek Theatre (one of two sellouts of close to 500 people each that night) to see the premier of Longshot: The Brian Upson Story. It was like a community reunion – for one night our community was transported back in time to 1982.
The Brian Upson story is hard to believe. It feels like a script for a Hollywood movie, the kind that people would read and say, this is not believable enough. With the premier of the movie, it has been told several times recently. The short version of the story is that the West Vancouver Highlanders won their only provincial basketball championship in their history in 1982. They won the final game defeating their league rival Argyle by a single-point, after losing to them three times earlier in the season in-front of a capacity crowd at the Agrodome in Vancouver. And it is far more than just a story of winning a basketball title, as the Highlanders were coached by Brian Upson, who, battling colon cancer had not been expected to live long enough to make it to the championships. He coached the team to the title, and passed away two weeks later. This does not fairly tell the story – it is worth reading the full story. In 2012, Len Corben described it as the most memorable sports story in the 100 year history of West Vancouver. Recently, in anticipation of the film Rosalind Duane did a wonderful feature in the North Shore News and Steve Ewen did a feature that ran in both the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province.
This post is not about retelling the Brian Upson Story – others have told it far better than I ever could.
I have seen many student films. This was different. I thought I was watching an ESPN 30for30 documentary. It was a professional film. I have a vision in my mind what a school project film looks like. But this blew me away. Teacher Dave Shannon and his students had taken on an incredibly challenging project and done an amazing job. And what a great reminder – when students do real work for a real audience they will rise to the occasion. I realize they didn’t have much choice – they had to do a great job. They were telling the story of the greatest sporting event in our community’s history. They had interviewed Upson’s wife and children and the players from the team – they were all going to be in the audience. And the students delivered. This is one of those great reminders about school. We too often don’t do real world work, but when we do it is magical.
And the power of real work was not the only reminder from the movie. The movie reminded us of the power of high school sports. All of the players, now 35 years later, spoke to the impact of the team and being part of the experience. The crowd footage from 1982 was amazing – as 5000 people cheered on the teams in the final – many of them students. It was something that connected the school. Schools are more than just taking courses in the same room together, they are communities.
And the film also reminded us of the power of a teacher. The players spoke about the profound impact Mr. Upson has had on their lives. He helped make them who they are today. Teachers and coaches have an enormous impact on young people and the movie serves to remind us of that. It also reminded us that it is very often those connections outside the class that are most significant – for teachers and students.
Even though everyone in the room knew how the story would end – they cheered along. When the buzzer sounded and the game ended the crowd in the theatre madly applauded. We were all transported back thirty-five years. Thanks to the students of the Rockridge film program.
Friday night was one of those special nights. It showed the best of community. And reminded us of the power of teachers, coaches and schools. Pretty impressive.
Here is the Official Trailer for the movie: