It chronicles the recruitment, glory years, notorious time-out fiasco , cultural impact and the scandal that followed these players who are described as iconic figures in the media. On its original airing, the film drew 2. In particular, the film sparked a verbal war between Jalen Rose and Duke University 's Grant Hill through the media regarding issues of race in sports and education that fueled the Duke—Michigan basketball rivalry. The press regarded this as the first complete recounting of the fabled group. The film chronicles a group of athletes who influenced a nation of basketball fans — some of whom became professional basketball players. At first, only three of the freshmen started.
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Chapter One The last class of my old professor's life took place once a week in his house, by a window in the study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink leaves.
The class met on Tuesdays. It began after breakfast. The subject was The Meaning of Life. It was taught from experience. No grades were given, but there were oral exams each week. You were expected to respond to questions, and you were expected to pose questions of your own.
You were also required to perform physical tasks now and then, such as lifting the professor's head to a comfortable spot on the pillow or placing his glasses on the bridge of his nose. Kissing him good-bye earned you extra credit. No books were required, yet many topics were covered, including love, work, community, family, aging, forgiveness, and, finally, death. The last lecture was brief, only a few words. A funeral was held in lieu of graduation.
Although no final exam was given, you were expected to produce one long paper on what was learned. That paper is presented here.
The last class of my old professor's life had only one student. I was the student. It is the late spring of , a hot, sticky Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of us sit together, side by side, in rows of wooden folding chairs on the main campus lawn. We wear blue nylon robes. We listen impatiently to long speeches. When the ceremony is over, we throw our caps in the air, and we are officially graduated from college, the senior class of Brandeis University in the city of Waltham, Massachusetts.
For many of us, the curtain has just come down on childhood. Afterward, I find Morrie Schwartz, my favorite professor, and introduce him to my parents.
He is a small man who takes small steps, as if a strong wind could, at any time, whisk him up into the clouds. In his graduation day robe, he looks like a cross between a biblical prophet and a Christmas elf. He has sparkling blue-green eyes, thinning silver hair that spills onto his forehead, big ears, a triangular nose, and tufts of graying eyebrows. Although his teeth are crooked and his lower ones are slanted back--as if someone had once punched them in--when he smiles it's as if you'd just told him the first joke on earth.
He tells my parents how I took every class he taught. He tells them, "You have a special boy here. Before we leave, I hand my professor a present, a tan briefcase with his initials on the front. I bought this the day before at a shopping mall. I didn't want to forget him. Maybe I didn't want him to forget me. Then he hugs me. I feel his thin arms around my back.
I am taller than he is, and when he holds me, I feel awkward, older, as if I were the parent and he were the child. He asks if I will stay in touch, and without hesitation I say, "Of course. Looking back, Morrie knew something bad was coming long before that. He knew it the day he gave up dancing. He had always been a dancer, my old professor. The music didn't matter. Rock and roll, big band, the blues. He loved them all.
He would close his eyes and with a blissful smile begin to move to his own sense of rhythm. It wasn't always pretty. But then, he didn't worry about a partner. Morrie danced by himself. He used to go to this church in Harvard Square every Wednesday night for something called "Dance Free.
He'd do the lindy to Jimi Hendrix. He twisted and twirled, he waved his arms like a conductor on amphetamines, until sweat was dripping down the middle of his back. No one there knew he was a prominent doctor of sociology, with years of experience as a college professor and several well-respected books. They just thought he was some old nut. Once, he brought a tango tape and got them to play it over the speakers. Then he commandeered the floor, shooting back and forth like some hot Latin lover.
When he finished, everyone applauded. He could have stayed in that moment forever. But then the dancing stopped. He developed asthma in his sixties. His breathing became labored. One day he was walking along the Charles River, and a cold burst of wind left him choking for air. He was rushed to the hospital and injected with Adrenalin. A few years later, he began to have trouble walking. At a birthday party for a friend, he stumbled inexplicably.
Another night, he fell down the steps of a theater, startling a small crowd of people. He was in his seventies by this point, so they whispered "old age" and helped him to his feet. But Morrie, who was always more in touch with his insides than the rest of us, knew something else was wrong.
This was more than old age. He was weary all the time. He had trouble sleeping. He dreamt he was dying. He began to see doctors. Lots of them.
They tested his blood. They tested his urine. They put a scope up his rear end and looked inside his intestines. Finally, when nothing could be found, one doctor ordered a muscle biopsy, taking a small piece out of Morrie's calf.
The lab report came back suggesting a neurological problem, and Morrie was brought in for yet another series of tests. In one of those tests, he sat in a special seat as they zapped him with electrical current--an electric chair, of sorts--and studied his neurological responses. Your times are slow. What did that mean? Finally, on a hot, humid day in August , Morrie and his wife, Charlotte, went to the neurologist's office, and he asked them to sit before he broke the news: Morrie had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ALS , Lou Gehrig's disease, a brutal, unforgiving illness of the neurological system.
There was no known cure. Nobody knew. I'm very sorry. He sat with Morrie and Charlotte for nearly two hours, patiently answering their questions. When they left, the doctor gave them some information on ALS, little pamphlets, as if they were opening a bank account. Outside, the sun was shining and people were going about their business. A woman ran to put money in the parking meter.
Another carried groceries. Charlotte had a million thoughts running through her mind: How much time do we have left? How will we manage?
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