The Bob Ladouceur movie is coming

The Bob Ladouceur movie is coming
January 4, 2013, 11:45 am
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Over 34 years, Bob Ladouceur's teams won 93 percent of their games. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Right off the bat, you need to know this. Jim Caviezel will not allow Bob Ladouceur to stop at 399 wins. He will see to it that the scriptmeister who works on the Ladouceur movie screenplay will find that 400th win.

Yes, Bob Ladouceur is going to have a movie made of his life, or at least the football part of it, after 34 years of making De La Salle High School the FC Barcelona of high school football programs. This is in and of itself hilarious, as Ladouceur is one of this sport’s last great ascetics, almost as eager to see himself on the big screen as he would be to see himself in a police lineup.

Then again, Ladouceur was always the least penetrable big name in Bay Area sports history. He talked about how wins and losses were not the point of his work, yet his teams won 93 percent of their games. He dismissed personal accomplishments and tried to deflect attention, yet his 12-year, 151-game winning streak ended as national news. De La Salle was its own brand, and everyone understood what it stood for:

Never ever losing.

And now he is announcing that he is done polishing the same gold bar. He is retiring from the varsity head coaching job after 34 years, with 399 wins, a perfectly Ladouceurian way to go – without the round numbers that could simplify his legacy. Not 35 years, not 400 wins. Not important to him – at least not important enough.

But Hollywood doesn’t play that, at least not normally. The stories get dumbed down, and 34 years and 399 wins get reduced to one game. How do you get the average moviegoer to get pulled into that story at $11.50 a ticket. If Ladouceur is really about a life spent doing one thing in the same place better than anyone else has done it for three and a half decades, how can it be reduced for easy consumption? 

“Hey, wanna go to the movies?”

“Sure, what’s playing?”

“Let’s see, something with Paul Rudd in it . . . something else with Paul Rudd in it . . . something with Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd in it . . . and ‘Lad: The Quest For 400,’ with Jim Caviezel, Annette Bening, David Strathairn, and a cameo by Samuel L. Jackson.”

“You got anything with Liam Neeson or Jack Black or car crashes in it?”

“No. But I think I can find one with Paul Rudd.”

“Then it’s agreed. We go to the bar.”

Ahh, but if Ladouceur had finagled a way to turn one of those 25 losses or three ties into that 400th win, Caviezel could easily have cleared Rudd orbit, cinematically speaking.

There is, and let’s be frank here, something about the Ladouceur story that doesn’t seem to make sense as a movie, at least not a Hollywood movie. Caviezel did play Bobby Jones, the iconic golfer, and had the starring role in “The Passion Of The Christ," and is by any measure a very, very serious actor. He also attended two Catholic high schools and played basketball, so the Ladouceur story would conceivably have some resonance for him.

But Ladouceur has always been self-contained. In a business that is all about ambition and the next rung on the ladder and getting paid and becoming famous, he avoided almost all of it by staying where he landed in 1979. He still ended up famous, but it was mostly for staying where he landed. He piled up a list of high school students who learned valuable life lessons, which of course our culture prefers to ignore because they are so hard to quantify, and he piled up a bunch of wins, which our culture lives to count again and again.

And the longer he stayed in that one place, the higher both piles grew. De La Salle became this self-sustaining monolith, and he became its caretaker. The winning allowed him to tell others what was more important to him, but the winning was what was more important to the outside world. Even the people who resented De La Salle its success had to acknowledge that Ladouceur wasn’t your normal coach waiting for that one big break. Landing in Concord was his break, and he kept living it year after year. As the kids like to say, he pretty much won at life.

If Jim Caviezel can make that tribute to consistency through good works and avoidance of the rat race a movie, then good on him. As a filmmaker, he has never been bound by standard American storytelling convention, which means the Bob Ladouceur story stands a chance of accurately resembling the Bob Ladouceur career and the Bob Ladouceur life.

But we’re still betting on the miraculous appearance of that 400th win. Maybe he can beat Paul Rudd in the big game.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for