Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Play Your Hand

Take a group of partially quadriplegic men, strap them into souped-up wheelchairs, chuck out a ball and turn them loose on a game of Rugby.

How do you feel about that? Do you feel sorry for them? Does it pull on your heartstrings? Do you feel guilty, curious, outraged, happy, sad?

About 5 minutes into this documentary, you will forget that they aren't able-bodied, you won't feel sorry for them, in fact, you'll realize they are no better or worse off than you and I.

"F*ck that, I'm not here for a f*cking hug, I'm here to win a f*cking gold medal!"

Yeah, so this is a quote from one of the Quad Rugby players explaining his motivation for participating in the Rugby portion of the 2004 Paralympics. I was not expecting this spin at all but I was glad to see it. This documentary could have easily turned into an emotional tug piece, complete with Sally Struthers directing you to the 1-800 number you can dial to make a donation. Rather, it comes across balanced, without agenda and at times just downright funny.

While the filmakers spent some time on the accidents, the multiple years of physical therapy and the psychological toll, this was not the focus. The focus was on the fact that even in extreme situations, the human spirit still dominates.

Quad Rugby, or Murderball, is not a light-hearted, rolling the court and passing the ball sport designed to fill the audience with warm fuzzies. These guys are aggressive and slightly beyond competitive -- they are out to take their opponents down, crash into them, flip them over mid-court and take control of the ball -- they are seriously out for the win.

This guy, Mark Zupan, is clearly one of the leading forces on court and in the documentary.

I used to think Matthew McConaughey was Austin, Texas' resident bad boy. But no longer, Zupan has my vote, total bad-ass. Cocky, confident, aggressive and he has a great on-camera personality. I was disturbed but still impressed with the stoic recant of his accident, in which a he was a passenger with a friend who was driving drunk, they crashed, sending him flying head first into the dirt, leaving him in a wheelchair at age 18. He has no anger whatsoever and really, no regret.

I saw Zupan in some photos from last year's Sundance Film Festival, one in particular caught my eye. He was paired up with Charlize Theron, he was not looking at her face, rather somewhat lower. I loved the expression on his face, I could almost hear the thoughts.

You know, if wasn't in that accident I would have never been in this chair. And if I wasn't in this chair I would have never played Murderball. And if I never played Murderball I would have never made this film and I wouldn't be here right now looking down Charlize Therons top. I rock!

Oh man, I hope my girlfriend never sees this photo.

Gotta appreciate Zupan's life philosophy -

You can only play the cards you have, so you move on and play your hand.



Blogger JC said...

I saw the docu - a few months ago here in Austin. It was really great! I agree about Zupan = he's a hoot!

12:46 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Defintely. And although Im not a big fan of the redhead, I thought he was pretty hot.

1:26 AM


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