Review of "The U"

So fans, I just got back from the worldwide premier of “The U” which was produced by rakontur in conjunction with ESPN and their 30 for 30 series.

One word: WOW. Actually two more words: Holy Sh*t. And one more word: Amazing.

If you’re a Hurricane fan you will feel what I felt: intrigue, chills, laughter, concern, proudness, happiness and I could go on. It’s an emotional roller-coaster. It’s not a documentary. It’s a ride, a ride through history, through the ups and downs of the program presented in a very “real” way. You hear it all from the mouths of people that were very involved in the program in the 1980’s and 90’s. You hear it from players, coaches, athletic directors, the mascot (John Routh), and of course Luther Campbell.

Let me go through some of the highlights for me:

- Howard Schnellenberger. His stories, that I am sure you have read about, about leaving his pipe in recruit’s homes and his low intimidating voice were great, but one thing really stood out for me. When he spoke about how he left for the USFL, you could see how emotional it was for him even now to talk about it. He would look down, hands fidgeting, voice slightly cracking as he described leaving the University of Miami. It showed an emotional side of Coach Schnellenberger that you didn’t see in the old clips of him and that you wouldn’t expect from such a historically stoic person. You could tell he still loves the U without having to say it.

- Jimmy Johnson on the other hand said it. He said that out of all the places he went to school or coached, the University of Miami is his home and he will always be a Hurricane. To see his passion still alive was great.

- The players describing Coach Schnellenberger recruiting and coming into “the hood,” to their homes was truly priceless. A white man going into a neighborhood during those days was unheard of and when he was there he had to be escorted by a bunch of people into a home.

- Melvin Bratton and Bennie Blades were the two most heard from players in the movie, and it was really great to see the movie mention Bratton’s devastating knee injury during the Orange Bowl. It was sad too.

- The focus on the state of the City of Miami at the time and the racial tensions really set the stage for the film and really put into greater perspective what this team did, not only for the University but also for the City of Miami. The film showed a great contrast between Coral Gables and the rest of Miami and as Michael Irvin said, they never dreamed of going to a place like Coral Gables.

- Michael Irvin talking about how when they would go to clubs they would get in no problem by skipping the lines as they passed Miami Dolphins players who were waiting in line and begging them to get them into the club. It was flat out said that the Canes were the team in Miami and Dolphins took a back seat.

- Video from the steak fry before the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State was great. The contrast shown between a predominately white Penn State team and an African American Miami team was very interesting. But as one former player said: “Even the white boys on our team were tough!”

- The highlights from the Cotton Bowl were priceless and probably one of the funniest parts of the film was the thorough review of the new NCAA “Miami” Rules that were put into effect after that game. A rule would show on the screen and then a Hurricane dance, hit, celebration was then played to show where the NCAA got the idea for the rule. Great, great part of the movie.

- Players saying how Robert Bailey before the Cotton Bowl kickoff said he was going to knock someone out on the opening kickoff and then following it up with actual knockout of the returner just showed you with what confidence these players played with. It was a pretty funny part too.

- I felt a little bad for Tad Foote, but the film did a real good job of depicting the contrast between him and the team. Jimmy Johnson describing his meetings with Foote were great.

- The end is sad. Very effective. The sanctions come along but they also fast forward to show the tearing down of the Orange Bowl. That was a real heart wrenching point.

- Dennis Erickson saying he learned more from the players than they probably learned from him was very interesting to hear but very believable. At that point the players obviously ran the show and he was along for the ride.

- It was pretty shocking to hear how some players to be able to survive stole things to support their children. That I can’t say I expected to hear.

- The stories of calling Brian Bosworth at 5am the day of a high noon game talking trash to him while smashing things in the room just showed how intense these players were and how seriously they took this.

- The clip of the coin toss before the Oklahoma game where Miami players refused to shake hands was quite memorable as you can see what the Miami players were saying to the Oklahoma players. You can see and feel they were instilling fear in their opponent before the kickoff.

- I don’t remember what game the clip was from, but the sideline announcer was reporting that former Hurricane players like Cortez Kennedy were on the sidelines coaching the current players. You could tell the shock in the sideline reporter’s voice that former players were on the sideline, a tradition kept to this day.

- Melvin Bratton saying he took his helmet off so the ladies could see his face, and Lamar Thomas saying that during the Oklahoma National Championship game, he knew they were going to win, so he was just thinking about how he was going to balance all of his women was classic.

- The extensive description of the quarterback competition between Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde was very interesting to hear from both Schnellenberger’s perspective and Kosar’s. I must say Kosar sounded weird in the film, almost drunk.

- Cameos by more recent Hurricane alums like Willis McGahee, Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma were nice surprises.

- Luther Campbell and his sarcasm about not giving players money was quite entertaining.

- It hit me hard once the Pell Grant allegations came up in the film, along with the arrests and other problems. It really hits you hard and makes you realize things were somewhat spinning out of control.

I could honestly go on and on but I will stop so some things can be a surprise. I will say this though, Hurricane fans you will fall more in love with your Canes while being shocked at times, but this film doesn’t hide anything. It’s the real deal. You’ll laugh, you’ll cheer and you’ll be saddened, while also feeling chills. Non-Hurricane fans? Well, you’ll probably like the Hurricanes even less, but you will be entertained and if anything you will have more ammo to throw at Hurricane fans.

Lastly, I’d like to congratulate rakontur on an amazing job. It truly is an amazingly entertaining film while also being more than a sports film. Yes there are highlights, but there are deep social and racial issues addressed in the movie and you real get the raw details of how things were back then. Truly riveting.

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