December 15, 2008
By Dick Heller
HBO has won enough awards to fill several trophy cases for its sports documentaries, and the latest is one of its best — high praise indeed.
"Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football," which premieres on the cable network Tuesday night, covers far more than gridiron matters. It also reflects the intense struggle for civil rights that dominated much of the 1960s and changed the nation's culture. . .
HBO presents assorted historians, journalists and former players in the one-hour program. Jerry LeVias, who integrated the Southwest Conference at SMU, describes how he returned to the bench crying after a white opponent taunted him and spit in his face.
"Are you going to let a guy like that help defeat us?" SMU coach Hayden Fry asked LeVias. The player replied, "Coach, I'm going to run this [subsequent] punt back all the way." And so he did, with an 89-yard sprint for the winning touchdown.
Yet LeVias took no joy in that dramatic accomplishment because "I did it out of hate, not for the love of the game. ... That's the first time I ever really hated white people. I think it crippled me. I'm still healing 40 years later."
Younger viewers will find it hard to understand why the issue of whites and blacks attending school together was such a volatile issue in the South nearly five decades ago. That makes the documentary valuable and fascinating as an educational device, too.
Read the full review.
More about Breaking the Huddle.
See the HBO schedule of showings, replays, and on-demand.
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