Sports films can become pretty formulaic – underdog team trains hard, persists through a beautiful sweaty montage, and beats the big-time school with its big-time players. In the new documentary All In: Miracle at St. Bernard’s takes the action on the field into a bigger stage where the fate of a Catholic high school hangs in the balance.
The Fitchburg (MA) school won the state championship, playing in the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium but found out a year later that their school was headed toward closure. While the football footage is solid – like Friday Night Lights only actual players! – there’s an interesting story happening in parallel to the team’s efforts to win another state championship.
State Championship. That makes it sound like St. Bernard’s is a powerhouse, and it is. But it’s a powerhouse that primarily has football players playing defense and offense, with a total of twenty-some players lining up. They weren’t expected to win the championship the first time! But they worked hard, and they believed in their coach – who says “Something bad is going to happen,” all of the time. And he challenges them to figure out what they’ll do when bad things happen in life. Will they stand up? Will they get back up?
Off the field, the diocese is saying they can’t support the school anymore. There just isn’t any money available, and other schools are closing all over the state and country. There just aren’t students enrolling. But the adults of St. Bernard’s fought back and tried even harder to raise money, using the football team’s mantra “All In.” Pledges come in and the diocese still isn’t sure. So as the players persist on the field, they begin to use football and their platform to draw attention to the school. What happens as they persist is a testament to faith, to family, and to what a (football) team can do.
Well edited, with plenty of insights from players, coaches, the school principal, and others, All In paints a beautiful picture for the audience to see, and challenges it to consider what it might accomplish if it chose to see the bad things in life and get back up.
To be all in.