Hoosiers

A good companion to Bill Kauffman’s excellent piece on Hoosiers is this article on Larry Bird, who comes off sounding like the original crunchy con:

With no team to play for and no school to go to, Larry decided to take a job with the French Lick streets department. He would ask his good buddy and crewmate Beezer Carnes to pick him up at the crack of dawn so they could get there early. When Beezer would inevitably be late, Larry walked to work instead of waiting for him. “That’s just the kind of work ethic he has,” Carnes says. “Larry would get on a tractor and mow the grass. We’d collect garbage, dig ditches, clean out the trucks, paint curbs. He loved it. If he hadn’t done what he did as a basketball player, I’d say he’d be the French Lick street commissioner right now.”

In future years, as Larry Bird’s celebrity burgeoned, his experience on the garbage truck would draw considerable interest, as well as a smattering of elitist derision. Larry, however, never saw it as beneath him. “I loved that job,” he said in 1988. “It was outdoors, you were around your friends. Picking up brush, cleaning up. I felt like I was really accomplishing something. How many times are you riding around your town and you say to yourself, Why don’t they fix that? Why don’t they clean the streets up? And here I had the chance to do that. I had the chance to make my community look better.”

Two cheers for cosmopolitanism, though, because Hoosiers wouldn’t have gotten funded had it not been for some rootless Brit (from Kauffman’s article):

For two years, seeking financing for the film, Pizzo and Anspaugh were turned down by every Midwesterner and basketball fan they approached. Their savior was a foreign rogue who “had never seen a basketball game, never heard of Indiana.” He was “an educated Cockney whose dad used to show up drunk and embarass him when he was playing soccer.” The relationship between Shooter and his son “made him cry. He said how much do you need? We got $6 million.”


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