Description: This film chronicles true events that occurred during1971 in Alexandria, Virginia, when the school board came under court order to integrate both faculty and students in the public schools. At the time, high school football was the city's most popular sport. The Titans become a model of integration for a city in troubled times.
The film combines four stories: (1) the time-tested formula of the triumph of an underdog sports team; (2) the friendship between the two coaches, the black head coach and his white assistant, despite the fact that many thought that the white coach's experience and years of service meant that he should be the head coach; (3) the friendship of two players, Gerry Bertier, the white team captain, and Julius Campbell, a talented black player; and (4) the story of a racially divided team coming together and playing as a unit despite the racial hatred roiling the community around it. The story of the underdog sports team is an invention of the filmmakers. Once the team coalesced at training camp, they were favored and had only one close game in their regular season. The important stories, those of the two coaches and the two players are true although many specific facts may have been supplied by the script writer. The two coaches were lifelong friends, as were the two players. The team pulled together despite the racial tensions.
-Reporter Ben Morris, Alexandria Gazette, 1978
Were all of the Titan players in the movie based on actual people?
The majority of the Titan players in the film are based on real people (). However, actor Ryan Gosling's character Alan Bosley is not a real person. The movie shows Alan giving up his spot to Pete (Donald Faison) during a game. This scene was added to emphasize the selflessness of the players. Ray Budds (Burgess Jenkins) is also a fictionalized character. The film depicts a bigoted Ray being kicked off the team by captain Gerry Bertier. This never actually happened. Former Titan players have stated that this type of player would have been kicked off the team during training camp, before the season ever started. -
In real life, did Coach Herman Boone integrate the buses before leaving for football camp?
Yes. This really happened. "I forced them on each other," Herman Boone says. "I forced them to learn each other's culture. I forced them to be a part of each other's lives."
Did the 1971 T.C. Williams Titans really go to camp at Gettysburg College?
Yes. This part of the film is true. The team spent a week at Gettysburg College where they practiced up to three times a day, as depicted in the movie .
Was the racial tension at training camp depicted accurately in the film?
No. Coach Boone, Coach Yoast, and many players have said that there was tension at camp, but it existed primarily because of competition for positions on the team. "I wanted to make the team," Ronnie Bass says in an interview. "I think that's where most of the kids' minds were. We were just trying to play football." In a 2000 USA Today article, screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard rejects the current position of the players, "Yeah, right," Howard says. "Who wants to say, 'I hated (black people)?' Who wants to say, 'I hated white people?' Who wants to say, 'We hated each other.' "
Did Herman Boone really wake the team up at 3 a.m. and make them run to the Gettysburg Cemetary?
No. This did not happen. The team did tour the battlefields on the Sunday they were at camp. The guide did most of the talking though, not Herman Boone. This isn't to say that Coach Boone never gave motivational speeches to his team. In fact, he delivered many speeches to inspire them. Often, his speeches were not about the importance of winning, but about the importance of playing your best.
In the movie, Coach Boone tells his team that 50,000 men died during the Battle of Gettysburg. Is this true?
Not exactly. There were approximately 50,000 casualties (killed/wounded/missing) at the Battle of Gettysburg. The actual number who lost their lives was much lower.
Did Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell become best friends in real life?
They were friends, but their relationship was not such a pivitol example of integration like it is in the movie . Gerry and Julius were friends just like many of the other players were friends. Theirs was not the only new friendship. -
Was Gerry Bertier's girlfriend Emma (Kate Bosworth) based on a real person?
No. The character of Emma Hoyt (Kate Bosworth) is purely fictional. She was created to demonstrate some of the negative traits and beliefs instilled in the youth of that time.
Did Ronnie "Sunshine" Bass really kiss Gerry Bertier on the lips?
No. In the movie, Sunshine (Kip Pardue) jokingly kisses Gerry Bertier (Ryan Hurst) on the lips. This did not happen in real life. The film also implies that Ronnie "Sunshine" Bass might possibly be gay. This is also untrue. In fact, like Ronnie Bass, most of the other players on the team had long hair in 1971, including Gerry Bertier. -
Was Ronnie "Sunshine" Bass really a long haired hippie from California?
Titan quarterback Ronnie Bass did come from California, but portraying him as a long haired hippie is a bit of an exageration. "I was never quite like that," Bass told the Greenville (SC) News. "But that's Hollywood. I'll say for the record my hair was never that long." Also for the record, Ron never did Tai Chi outside the school.
Did protesters stand outside of T.C. Williams on the first day of school?
Unlike what is seen in the movie, there were no protestors outside of the high school on the first day. Nearby George Washington Junior High School did have some fights and a rock-throwing incident. -
Was the racial tension in the community depicted accurately in the film?
No. Although racial tension did exist in Alexandria, Virginia in 1971, it was significantly embellished for the movie. For example, T.C. Williams High School saw the integration of black and white students when it opened in the fall of 1965, not in 1971. Former students state that many of the racial barriers had been broken down by 1971, when federal pressure resulted in the consolidation of three high schools, one of which was T.C. Williams. In an interview with the Greenville News, the real Ronnie "Sunshine" Bass said, "They (the movie) had a community divided down black and white, and it really wasn't like that in 1971 Alexandria." In a Washington Post article, Bill Yoast's friend Patrick Welsh commented on the movie's position, "My friend Bill Yoast ... told me Disney had taken liberties with the facts, suggesting an overheated atmosphere of racial animosities and fears at the school and in the community that just hadn't existed." Yet, it was clear that the Titans championship run did help the community to further come together.
Before the first game, Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) tells his players, "Like all the other schools in this conference, they're all white. They don't have to worry about race. We do."
In reality, all of the other schools that the Titans faced during the 1971 season were integrated schools. -
Did Coach Herman Boone really toss a banana to rival Coach Tyrell at the end of a game?
No. This scene was fictionalized for the movie, as was Coach Tyrell (Brett Rice).
Did a plot really exist with the referees to ensure that the Titans would lose a game?
No. In the movie , we see Coach Yoast (Will Patton) confront a crooked referee, telling him to call the game fairly or else he'll expose the whole plot to make the Titans lose the game, resulting in the firing of Coach Boone. Coach Yoast also tells the ref that he'll personally see to it that the ref never works again. This incident never really happened. The real Coach Herman Boone referred to it in the DVD Commentary by saying, "We got our share of bad calls, and I'm not sure, to this day, that some of it was not racism," Boone says. "But it was not as overt as appears in the film."
Is the part in the movie about Coach Bill Yoast not making the Virginia High School Hall of Fame true?
No. There was no Virginia High School Hall of Fame in 1971, although it does exist today.
Was Coach Yoast's daughter Sheryl really a football fanatic like she was portrayed to be in the film?
Sheryl wasn't as deeply intense about football as the film depicts. "She was not quite the football fanatic they show here," says father Bill Yoast. "(But) she was at all the ballgames, watched them and ... was always the first on the field after the ballgame."
Did Coach Yoast's daughter Sheryl really go over to Coach Boone's house to play with his daughter?
No. In the movie we see Bill Yoast take his daughter Sheryl Yoast to Herman Boone's house to play with Boone's daughter. Sheryl ends up watching game films with Boone instead. In reality, this never happened. Boone said the following on the DVD commentary, "Sheryl never visited my home. I wish she had spent any time with my children. Unfortunately, that didn't happen."
In real life, was Sheryl Yoast really an only child who lived with her father?
No. Unlike in the film, the real Sheryl Yoast had three sisters and lived with her mother. Bill Yoast did convey to producer Jerry Bruckheimer that he wasn't happy about this. "I said, 'I have four daughters. I don't like to look like I only have one daughter,'" says Yoast of his conversation with Bruckheimer. Sheryl's three sisters, however, were okay with the storyline, which was part of the reason it made it into the film (). In 1996, the real Sheryl Yoast passed away from a heart condition that had gone undetected for years. She was not alive when the movie was made.
Did the racial incident in the restaurant actually happen?
No. In the film we see Petey Jones (Donald Faison) and Ronnie Bass (Kip Pardue) enter a restaurant where they are refused service. As reported on the '71 Titans Web Site, this did not actually happen. Even though the attitude portrayed by the restaurant may have been similar to existing establishments in the United States at that time, this scene was a fictional device created to help emphasize the racial tension in the movie's storyline.
Did someone really throw a brick through Coach Herman Boone's window?
No, it was actually much worse than a brick. It was a toilet commode. Boone spoke about this durning the DVD commentary, "There wasn't a brick thrown through my window," Herman Boone says. "It was something far more devastating to any human being than a brick could be. I guess Disney, being the family movie production company that it is, felt that to depict a toilet stool coming through your window was a bit much ... I've never gotten over that incident that particular night, because I could never understand how anybody could feel so bad about another human being as to throw a toilet commode through a window."
After his house was vandalized, did Herman Boone really get his gun?
No. Herman Boone did not own a gun. -
Did the T.C. Williams Titans ever dance on the field during warm-ups like in the movie?
No. The Titans never did a song and dance routine on the field during warm-ups.
Were the Titans often the underdogs, as the film implies?
No. In fact, by the end of the 1971 season (including playoffs) the T.C. Williams Titans were 13-0 and ranked second in the nation. They dominated almost every game that they played, shutting out their opponents in nine of their thirteen games and outscoring them by a margin of 338-38. The championship game was a blowout as well, unlike what we see in the film. Below is the Titans 1971 schedule showing the scores of each game.
Was Gerry Bertier really paralyzed in a car accident before the championship game?
In real life, Gerry Bertier was paralyzed in a car accident, but it happened after the season ended, after the Titans had already played the championship game. On December 11, 1971, Gerry was coming home from the T.C Williams High School football banquet, where he had been honored with the Most Valuable Defensive Player Award. After stopping at a local fast-food restaurant and dropping off some friends, Gerry continued home in his mother's new Camaro. Only six blocks away from his house, the car went out of control striking both a fire hydrant and a flashing school sign, the latter of which sent the car tearing across the road into a ditch (). It was later determined that the accident had been caused by a mechanical failure in the motor mount of the Camaro's engine ().
Did Gerry really tell the nurse, "He [Julius] is my brother, don't you see the family resemblance?" so that Julius could stay and visit him in intensive care?
As stated on the '71 Titans website, many of the players were stopped by the nurses at the desk on the floor of the intensive care unit. They all replied that they were immediate family, not just Julius Campbell. ()
How good of a football player was Gerry Bertier?
As a nationally ranked defensive player, Gerry Betier was Alexandria's first high school All-American football player. Following the 1971 season, he received accolades which included First Team All-Region, All-State, and All-American honors as well as being named the Alexandria Sportsman's Club Football Player of the Year. He had been approached by elite college football powerhouses, such as Notre Dame and Alabama. Many believe that the movie failed to accurately depict the true significance of his talent.
How did Gerry Bertier deal with the fact that he was paralyzed?
"You achieve everything you ever wanted, then it all gets cut down in one night," Bertier said in an early 1970s' Washington Star article. "It's really hard for you or I to really believe we could be paralyzed. You say, 'Well, I've got an all-star game to play.' I thought I'd be out the next week." After his accident, Gerry confided in Coach Bill Yoast, while keeping up a strong front for his family and friends. "It took him two years to accept the fact from the time of the accident that he would be crippled for life," said Yoast, who remained a close friend of Gerry's, coaching him to a gold medal in shot-put at the Wheelchair Olympics.
Did Gerry Bertier really die 10 years after the '71 season?
Yes. This part of the movie is true. On his way home from a business trip on March 20, 1981, Gerry Bertier's 1980 Oldsmobile was struck by a drunk driver who crossed over the center line. Bertier was pronounced dead two hours later at the University of Virginia Hospital. Like in the film, many of the 1971 Titan players and coaches attended Gerry's funeral. At the time of his death, Gerry had been working as a sales manager for Abbey Medical, a company that manufactured walking braces for the handicapped. He had also been attending Northern Virginia Community College where he had been working toward a degree in business. The rest of his time had been spent traveling the country speaking on behalf of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped. Gerry strived to help make the world accessible to the disabled.
Gerry Bertier was paralyzed after the 1971 highschool football season, but his life was far from over. Here, Gerry's mom Jean Bertier recounts her son's accident, his recovery, and the inspiration that he was to her and so many others. (Be sure to visit the Gerry Bertier Foundation web site at to learn more about Gerry and to discover how you can contribute to spinal cord injury research)
The black and white students who would like to play on the team all attend football camp where they clash due to racial prejudice, particularly captain Gerry Bertier and player Julius Campbell.
They are all invested in ensuring the team has a successful season meaning they all have a common interest.
The relationship that develops between Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell is crucial to the movie and is an example of a positive relationship.
Dismayed at the prospect of the students losing their chances at scholarships, Yoast changes his mind and takes up the position of defensive coordinator.
The Black and White athletes of the football team frequently clash in racially motivated conflicts at their football camp; including those between captain Gerry Bertier (Hurst), and Julius Campbell (Harris).