I know the story of the De La Salle football team pretty well. I was a cub reporter for this newspaper during the latter years of the Concord high school's famed streak. So I was surprised to find myself getting choked up during a recent screening of the soon-to-be released movie "When the Game Stands Tall."
I was not alone, though. Vin Scully had tears streaming down his face.
Yes, I saw the movie with Vin Scully, the legendary voice of the Dodgers and witness to so many historic sports moments. Jerry West was there too. And Raiders owner Mark Davis, former Warriors all-star Baron Davis and baseball pioneer Don Newcombe.
All of us were guests for a private screening at the Beverly Hills home of Peter Guber, the Warriors' co-owner"who also serves as chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment. His company made the film based on a book by former Contra Costa Times columnist Neil Hayes.
"I found the book while packing up some stuff for my son," producer David Zelon told me at the screening party. "It was still unopened. When I read it, it was like 'Wow!' I couldn't believe how great it was. We had to make this."
Guber has produced such classics as "The Color Purple," "Rain Man" and "Batman." He's also produced several sports movies, including "Rudy" and "A League of Their Own."
And the Hollywood big shot and best-selling author, known as a legendary storyteller, just had to tell this story.
"When the Game Stands Tall," due for release in August, is not about the 151-game winning streak De La Salle put together from 1992 to 2004. Instead, it's about the team's rare display of heart, togetherness and work ethic -- values that make high school sports so special.
What really jumped out about the movie was the humanity of coach Bob Ladouceur, played by Jim Caviezel. Ladouceur is a Bay Area icon, respected by coaches at every level. Yet the movie focuses on the human behind the hero: Ladouceur's struggles being a better father and husband, his heart attack, how the streak got the better of him.
"I talked to Ladouceur about some of the stuff," Zelon said. "He didn't shy away from any of it. He told me, 'If you're going to tell it, tell it all.' He's that kind of guy."
The overt tones of insufficiency, effort, resolve and redemption in the movie constantly tug at the heart strings. It highlighted what really made the Spartans special: their regularity, their vulnerability, their limitations.
And they rose above it all because they kept fighting. A team greater than the sum of its parts. Classic overachievers compensating for their individual limitations with collective spirit and precision.
"When the Game Stands Tall" exposed how they eventually crumbled under the weight of the streak. How they lost their way in all the hype. How many of their players had to deal with poverty and family dysfunction. How their hearts were shattered by the tragic death of star Terrance Kelly, murdered just before he was to begin his college career at Oregon."
Those scenes, when Kelly was gunned down in Richmond, brought back terrible memories. The pain and disorientation experienced by receiver Cameron Colvin when he lost his mom, leaving just him and his little sister, underscored that these were just kids. Watching Danny Ladouceur practically beg for his father's attention illustrated the cost of greatness.
It was an emotional flick, even for me, because of those authentic touches.
"I wanted to make a real picture," Guber said. "It wasn't a Hollywood picture. It was a film that at its core was real middle America, in the best sense of the phrase. It had all the ingredients."
Amazingly, this "middle America" film has made it to Hollywood. That was especially clear on the drive to Guber's ritzy abode.
After a valet parked my car, I was ushered to an office the size of the De La Salle campus. There was a bar, a pool table, a dining area and museum-quality memorabilia -- including the costume worn by Michael Keaton in "Batman." We mingled in an immaculately manicured backyard. After a salmon dinner, Guber ushered his guests to a small theater with plush chairs.
A red curtain slowly ascended, revealing the wall-sized screen. And the water works began.
Ten years later, these determined kids and this once-in-a-generation coach from this small suburban school"in a tiny corner of the Bay Area are still making an impact.
With people and places, like Scully and Hollywood, that they never could have imagined.