"In real life, Milan High School didn't come out of nowhere. The Indians had made the state semifinals the previous season. In reel life: The team that wins the championship is Hickory High. In real life: The team that won the championship is Milan High. There is no town of Hickory in Indiana. In reel life: Hickory wins the title in 1952. In real life: Milan won the title in 1954. In reel life: The previous coach dies, which is a crucial part of the plot -- the team's star player, Jimmy, doesn't play part of the season because he's so upset. In real life: The previous coach, Herman "Snort" Grinstead, who Bobby Plump (the real-life hero) said in an ESPN chat was "the most popular coach in Milan's history," was fired for ordering new uniforms against the superintendent's orders.
"In reel life: Coach Dale alienates just about everyone with his independence, and there is a town referendum on whether the school should keep Dale on as coach. In real life: Marvin Wood did face an uphill struggle, because he replaced Snort and changed both his offense and defense. But by the time the Milan Indians were playing their championship season, he had won the town over. In reel life: The assistant coach, "Shooter," (played by Dennis Hopper in an Oscar-nomination performance), is the town drunk and the father of one of the players. In real life: There was no assistant coach."
These may be among the most significant differences between "real" and "reel" but invariably, certain liberties must be taken with historical material to increase and enhance the dramatic impact of a film based on (but not limited to) that material. In this instance, Anspaugh, screenwriters Pizzo and Sargent, Hackman, and their associates have a story to tell and they tell it very, very well. As always, Hackman is first-rate, as are Barbara Hershey in her role as the obligatory love interest (Myra Fleener) and Hopper as Shooter, a name so appropriate to the character that nothing more need be said. Yes, this is a "feel good" film among several (e.g. Rudy on which Anspaugh and Pizzo also collaborated later) which have been immensely popular. However, the film has crisp direction, an excellent cast, and a story line close enough to what really did happen in 1954. FYI, here are a few brief passages from the official Web site of Milan, Indiana:
"Milan, Indiana, a quiet rural town in the southeastern part of the state, was the scene of one of the greatest basketball stories in history. The rise of the 1954 Milan basketball team actually started the preceding year. In 1953, the team went all the way to the final four only to be beaten in the semi-finals. Then the 1954 season arrived.
"In a high school of 162 total students, 73 were boys. A young Marvin Wood was returning for his second year as coach, along with Marc Combs and Clarence Kelly. The core of the 1953 team also returned. From this came the David vs. Goliath championship story.
"Although their accomplishments seem to have grown to almost mythical proportions as the story of the greatest underdog in sports' history throughout the years, there was a real team who lived a dream that came to life. Under the leadership of twenty-six year old coach Marvin Wood, the Indians began their rise to the top of the 751 teams entered in that year's tournament, with a record of 19-2. The mighty men of Milan then cruised through the state tournament relatively untested, until the final game against Muncie Central. The Indians were paced in scoring throughout the game by senior Ray Craft. However, Coach Wood's delay tactic game plan would place the ball in the trusty hands of another senior, Bobby Plump.
"Bobby Gene Plump, who at-the-buzzer hit the shot that gave tiny Milan High School the 1954 state basketball championship over the Muncie Central Bearcats. Called 'the most famous shot in Indiana hoops history,' the real-life event became the basis for the fictionalized movie, Hoosiers. Milan beat Giant Muncie Central 32-30 in the final seconds of the game."
Although Hoosiers may differ somewhat from what really happened in 1954, so what? Both the film's story and the Milan team's season affirm the same values which now seem so rare 50 years after Bobby Gene Plump's winning shot.
Question: Why are no SPECIAL (rather than cheesy) Features provided with the DVD version? That is disgraceful!