With the commercial for The Express playing as I type this, I feel a little bad that I'm even typing this. The story of Ernie Davis is a great one, and quite honestly a movie should have been made about him a long time ago. The problem isn't with Ernie Davis or Syracuse or any of the actors. The problem is that the makers of the movie needed to express the racial hatred that Davis confronted his Heisman year. Unfortunately, to do that they had to tell a lie.
A movie about the first African-American to win college football's Heisman Trophy includes a dramatic scene from Morgantown, WV where fans hurl garbage and racial epithets at the player and his Syracuse teammates. However, the ugly incident did not happen, according to players on both sides.
In fact, Syracuse and West Virginia didn't play in Morgantown that year. Maybe the thinking was that West Virginia is one of the least populated states in the country, and if you have to play off a stereotype of a group of people, might as well be West Virginians. Because there are a lot of stereotypes about West Virginia and Mountaineer fans. Right? Who wouldn't believe it?
A review in the show business publication "Variety" says the movie's "most electrifying sequences portray Schwartzwalder's unbeaten 1959 Syracuse U. team playing West Virginia and Texas -- not exactly two bastions of racial tolerance -- with a level of racist vitriol pouring out of the stands that is a topical reminder of America's racial heart of darkness."
Well, when you make a movie about a man that had to fight through stereotypes and racism, you ought to at least be factually correct about it. Otherwise you run the risk of lessening the impact of the Ernie Davis story. That would be and is a real shame. Because I have been looking forward to seeing this movie since I heard about it. But being a West Virginian and a Mountaineer fan, I find myself less and less interested in seeing the movie as time passes. Thanks a lot Mr. Producer man.
Hat Tip: Sports By Brooks