A for Athlete

“Something To Cheer About” DVD is now in wide release


The Attucks story finally finds a national audience (Indianapolis Business Journal) Betsy Blankenbaker interview (LA Observed) Remembering Ray Crowe (BlackAthlete.net) A coach's net values (Washington Post)

"Something To Cheer About" is a documentary about the 1955 Indianapolis Crispus Attucks High School Tigers and their journey to become the first all-black basketball team ever to win an Indiana state championship despite the hatred and racism of the times. Think of it as "Glory Road," 11 years earlier.

The film played a limited theatrical release in nine markets in late April 2007 to great reviews (see links in the right column) and has now been released on DVD. Available in numerous retail outlets including Best Buy, Wal-Mart and the NBA Store, as well as online.

Directed and Produced by Betsy Blankenbaker, the documentary takes a look at the legendary Crispus Attucks Tigers through firsthand accounts from community members, coaches and players including Oscar Robertson and Willie Merriweather (the film's co-producers) and Hallie Bryant. Each recounts his or her version of how Coach Ray Crowe assembled a winning team that not only broke records but shattered the racial stereotypes and racist attitudes of the 1950s.

With its fundamentally sound, up-tempo style of play, Crispus Attucks had come within one game of the state finals in 1954, losing to eventual state champion Milan (the team whose exploits were fictionalized in the film "Hoosiers"). In 1955 the Tigers were not to be denied as they lost only one game all season and became both the first all-black team and the first Indianapolis team to win an Indiana state championship, as well as the first all-black team to win a state championship in any sport. This school, this coach and this brilliant group of athletes inspired the nation and changed basketball forever.

Betsy Blankenbaker with the late Ray Crowe Director’s Note by Betsy Blankenbaker

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just to take the first step." — Martin Luther King, Jr. This film began as a tribute to a friendship. My father died unexpectedly in 1988 and nearly 10 years later, I found myself visiting his longtime friend, Ray Crowe, who was coach of the legendary Crispus Attucks basketball team. I always knew that there was a better story about Indiana basketball than the movie "Hoosiers" and I was surprised that no one had made the film based the teams that Mr. Crowe coached from 1950-1957. As I sat with Mr. Crowe, who was well into his 80s at this point, I realized that if I didn't start making the documentary soon, a very important part of our history would be lost. Forever.

I had no funding, was recently divorced and had 4 small children (to raise with my very supportive former husband). I decided to fund the film myself knowing that it would be difficult to raise money quickly. I had no savings so my only choice was to sell my home. I've lived in a much smaller rental property ever since though I must admit I drive by my former home often. It was my muse.

I think at this point, most of my friends and family believed I was going through a mid-life crisis. Maybe they just don't understand filmmakers. I had dreamed of making this film for 20 years and I didn't see it as taking a risk, it was an opportunity to fulfill a dream and that made sense to me.

So nearly 50 years after their history making win, I gathered the surviving Attucks players together to interview them for this film. They came from their jobs as security guards, doormen, deans of schools. Some were retired; some were just unemployed. Some still played basketball everyday. Some were in wheelchairs. Four of them died while I made this film. Mr. Crowe died shortly after I finished it.

You might not remember their names but you will never forget their story.