Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Corn Nation explores myth, reality of ’70 air crash

       Author's note: Here’s an item for your review. It’s an article entitled  "We Are Marshall” and “The Marshall Story” – Hollywood vs. Reality. You’ll find it in the archives of the Corn Nation website.
       Corn Nation editor Jon Johnston conducts a Q&A interview with Rick Nolte, one of the co-authors of The Marshall Story, a book  which takes a chronological look at Marshall University football from the late ‘60s through the program’s heydays of the 1990s and early 2000s. Nolte is one of four former staff writers who covered MU football for the Herald-Dispatch newspaper in Huntington, West Virginia where MU is located.
       In the interview, Nolte addresses the contents of The Marshall Story and the Warner Bros. film We Are Marshall, released in 2006. I’ve included excerpts from that interview (read below). 
       Nolte covered Marshall football for the Huntington newspaper as a sports writer (1978-85) and later as assistant sports editor and sports editor (1986-93). 
      He also served as writer/editor for two previously-written books about MU football Rolling Thunder and Won For All.

       CN: Anything in the movie that you personally didn't like or would have changed?
       Nolte: The first time I watched the movie, I was somewhat disappointed. The second and third times I saw it, I understood why. Because I had lived it all, I spent the first showing finding all the inaccuracies. I found out later, that was pretty typical of anyone who had a history with the story.
       When Ruffin and his teammate come out of the movie theater upon hearing the news of the crash, the fire trucks are heading east on the street. The airport was west of Huntington. The Ohio River doesn't run through Huntington, it forms the city's northern border with Ohio.
       None of the cheerleaders dated a star player. And when the star player's dad was alone in the deserted downtown, you wouldn't have been able to hear cheers from the stadium. It was almost four miles away and the crowd wasn't much over 10,000.
       The successive times I watched it, though, I was able to look at it differently. From those times I felt like it was a good movie.
       CN: Did funeral processions actually meet at intersections?
       Nolte: Yes. After all the bodies were identified and arrangements were finalized, mortuaries met to try to schedule funerals so times wouldn't conflict. They did the best they could, but they couldn't keep some from overlapping. I attended 13 funerals in a five-day period after the crash. Three of those came in one day.
       CN: In We Are Marshall, Red Dawson is painted as a very tragic figure. The movie mentions that he resigned after the 1971 season. Why was it that Dawson never returned to football?
       Nolte: The movie's portrayal of Red Dawson was rivaled only by that of its treatment of Ruffin. Outside of those who lost family members in the crash, nobody suffered more from the crash than Red. He left after one season because he honestly just couldn't be around the game any more.
       Just on the team, he'd lost young men who were like sons and colleagues who were like brothers, not to mention his connection to the team doctors and other local community leaders. When you look at it that way, nobody lost more than Red.
       We tried to talk with him for our first book, but he just couldn't do it. That book came out in the late fall of 1988 after Marshall had played Northeast Louisiana for the I-AA championship in 1987, but he still was hurting. He was glad we were doing the book, but he just couldn't talk about it.
       When they finally won the title in 1992, he was able to talk about it for the book that came out in ’93. It was the first time he'd talked at length about the crash and the following 20-some years. His grieving process seemed to end with that championship. The movie, I think, completed his healing.

 You can access the complete article by clicking here

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