Historic homecoming: Bassett’s Lacey Flanagan cements herself in the Bengal football family

Bassett had Friday’s win over Dan River pretty much in hand late in the fourth quarter, but history was made on the final point.
With the Bengals leading 27-19 after a 2-yard touchdown run by Kevon Smith, head coach Brandon Johnson called in senior Lacey Flanagan to kick the extra point.
Flanagan nailed it, becoming what is believed to be the first girl in school history to score a point for the football team. The kick put an exclamation point on the team’s homecoming victory over the Wildcats.
“I had it in my mind after we scored our last touchdown, ‘If we score again I’m going to let Lacey kick,’” Bassett head coach Brandon Johnson said. “I thought her senior year, homecoming, why not? I love for the kids to get the most out of this experience and I think that was very fitting in front of a packed house … People were going nuts. Place went crazy when she made the field goal. It was awesome.”
Flanagan was already a three-sport athlete at Bassett. She was an all-Piedmont District cross country runner last season and is one of the top runners for the Bengals again this fall. She’s also the point guard for the girls basketball team and one of the leading scorers for the girls soccer team.
But giving football a try was something she’d wanted to do since she started watching games in the student section her freshman year.
“I always thought about it my ninth grade year. I was like, ‘Kicking can’t be that bad.’ And then it was totally different when I first tried it, of course,” Flanagan said. “I went up to (coach) Johnson and it became a thing where I was like, ‘It’s kind of on my bucket list. Can I try it?’ And he was all for it. Kind of like a girl power kind of thing. He thought it would be cool.”
“We had talked about it on back to school night,” Johnson said. “She was with her mom and she kind of hinted around that it might be something that was on her bucket list and her mom was kind of like, ‘I don’t think coach is going to go for that,’ because she really didn’t want me to. I feel like most moms wouldn’t. But I was like, ‘Man, I’m all for it.’”
Johnson knew Flanagan through watching her in gym class at the school and watching her excel in all her other sports, so he knew the kind of athlete she is. Flanagan still runs cross country full time with the Bengals in the fall, but a couple of times a week after cross country practice she’ll go to the football field and practice kicking.
Flanagan was getting kicks through the uprights on her first practice. But trying it with pads on was a bit different.
“I went a couple weeks after their season started and I practiced with (coach) Johnson and the first time I went I had them in,” she said. “And then he gave me the football gear, which surprisingly wasn’t too bad. The helmet was a little tight on my ears which I was not used to, of course.”
“She came out here one day after practice, her dad came with her and I stood out here with her and I said, ‘Hey kick it. You’re a soccer player. Visualize a soccer ball, lock in and just do what you do on the soccer field and just focus,’” Johnson said. “And she right away could put it through the uprights. And that was the biggest thing.”
Friday’s kick was Flanagan’s first attempt in a game. She admits she was nervous, but she tried to just focus her mind and treat it like a soccer game.
“It’s so different. In soccer you can kick the ball and you can look up at the goal and you can aim. But in football you have to keep your eye on the ball. If you look up it’s either going to the ground, the wrong direction, everywhere. Kicking, it’s more pressure than you think it’d be,” she said. “My mom said, ‘Just take it like a PK in soccer.’ That’s how I kind of projected it and that’s what I thought of.”
While she relishes the chance to get in the game, Flanagan said it’s more about just being a part of the team and learning more about football from the inside. She rides the bus with the team, gets her own locker room at away games, and talks with the coaches and players who help hype her up.
She said she knew a bit about how football is played before she joined the team, but has learned much more being on the sidelines.
The players have brought her into their world, and now consider her a sister in their family.
“They’re really fun. It’s funny when we’re in the huddle they’ll say, ‘Oh, we’re here for our brothers and sister,’” she said. “The funny thing is ever since I got on the team that’s how I learned football. Before then I was in the stands and I was like, ‘Oh let me just watch and cheer them on,’ but it’s totally different when you’re on the sideline. I think I like it better there. It’s definitely different … Now that I’m on the sideline I ask them a bunch of questions. I’ve kind of got it down but it helped me learn a lot.”
It doesn’t surprise Johnson that the players have taken to having Flanagan on the sidelines with them.
“I’ve got a great team. I’ve got a great group of guys who are accepting of anybody who wants to be a part of this family,” Johnson said. “We’re a family. It’s been really fun for me. I’ve got a daughter. I would never want somebody to tell my daughter she couldn’t do something, because I’m the type if somebody tells you you can’t do something, go do it. So by me having a 5-year-old myself, I was just like, ‘Man, I want to give her a chance, and if I give her a chance I want it to be a real experience for her.’”
Johnson is unsure if Flanagan is the first girl to ever play football at Bassett, but he said he can guarantee she’s the first to ever score a point in a varsity game.
Even if she doesn’t get another chance to kick in a game, Flanagan is officially part of the Bengals family, and will forever be in the record books.
“I’ll always want to give kids a chance to make the most out of their high school experience … I wanted her experience to be the best that it could be,” Johnson said. “I was expecting her to dress out some games and Lacey has been with us every game … It’s been a unique experience and I’ve enjoyed it.”
“Definitely being the only girl on the team… walking around and hearing, ‘Oh is that a girl on the football team?’ And you just want to look back at them and say, ‘Yes. Yes I am,’” Flanagan said. “But it proves that I guess girls can do things that guys can do too.
“I just hope we win the rest of our games. Regardless if I get to kick or not it doesn’t really matter because I’d rather them win over anything because that’s my team. Now I see what they mean by family on that team because they work hard for it. I just want to see them win.”

(This story originally appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin.)

Lou Whitaker: I give credit to every kid that I grew up with out there in East Martinsville

Growing up just down the street from the formerly named English Field, Lou Whitaker called the Martinsville landmark home for much of his childhood.
Whitaker graduated from Martinsville High School in 1975, and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers soon after. In the years leading up to his graduation, Whitaker and the rest of the young athletes in Martinsville would play baseball at English Field, now known as Hooker Field, every day.
“Twice on Sunday. Saturday and Sunday,” Whitaker said by phone Friday.
Bats and baseballs were hard to come by, so the players would chase the balls that players for the Martinsville Pirates and Oilers would hit out of the ballpark. When those same semi-pro players would break their wooden bats, Whitaker and his friends would either tape them back up or put nails in the broken parts to make them usable again.
“If they were able to be used to play we used them,” Whitaker said. “Today they have aluminum bats. Back in our day that would have lasted us forever.”
The day would starts with Whitaker and a few others in the neighborhood playing ball in the middle of Williams Street with a little rubber ball and whatever they could find to use as a makeshift bat. As others kids would fill in, the group would eventually grow from six or seven to 18, enough for full squad scrimmages.
“Ballpark, here we come,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker said the talent around the area was deep. It wasn’t just at Martinsville. Drewry Mason had players. Laurel Park had players. Bassett, Fieldale, all throughout Henry County, there were baseball players.
Which is why Whitaker said he’s still unsure how he was the one to get attention.
Whitaker was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the fifth round of the 1975 Major League Baseball Draft, just over a month after his 18th birthday. He spent 19 seasons playing for the Tigers, winning American League Rookie of the Year in 1978, a World Series in 1984, four silver slugger awards, and three gold gloves as a premiere second baseman, one half of a legendary double-play combo alongside MLB Hall of Famer Alan Trammell.
Trammel was inducted into the hall of fame in 2018, and this week it was announced that Whitaker will have a chance to join him. The Martinsville native will be put on the Modern Era Hall of Fame ballot, for players who played Major League Baseball between 1970-1987 who have fallen off the regular ballot because they didn’t receive 5% of the vote or weren’t elected for 10 years. As with the regular vote, a Modern Era candidate needs at least 75% of the vote to be elected.
Whitaker was taken off the first Baseball Writers Association of America Hall of Fame ballot after just one year because he didn’t receive enough votes to stay on. But with new advanced stats has come more appreciation for the former Bulldogs’ career, and he has a better chance of getting into Cooperstown a second time around.
Baseball was always the first choice for Whitaker. He loved football, and could throw, catch, and run, but he didn’t like the idea of playing competitively because he saw too many of his friends come away from games with dislocated shoulders and broken legs.
“Messed up arms, messed up shoulders, that messes up your throwing,” Whitaker said.
He was convinced to try out for the Martinsville basketball team his senior year by friends Jesse Martin and JoeJoe Holt, who Whitaker would play with at a city park off of Starling Avenue.
Whitaker said he was the “16th man on a 15-man team,” and quit about three games into the season.
The team went on to win the state championship that year.
“I used to sit down and root for the guys,” he said. “I missed my ring, my state championship ring, by quitting.”
None of the other sports brought Whitaker the joy baseball brought. Baseball was the sport he wanted to continue beyond high school.
“I always thought about someday playing, but really in reality it was like, ‘Wow what do people even do to get drafted or be seen?’” he said.
The only times Whitaker ever played outside of Martinsville was when his all-star teams would make big tournaments. He’s still not sure how he got noticed.
“It was something… others around Martinsville was seeing something in a young person, in a kid, and just passing the information around,” he said. “So it was word of mouth. This person tells that person, this person tells that person, so who knows where it started.”
Unlike players today who start on travel teams as young as 10 years old, Whitaker learned everything about baseball close to home at English Field.
He credits the talent of the players he grew up playing alongside with making him better.
“Martinsville always had good baseball players,” he said. “They just always did and I was just proud to watch people before me play because that’s how I learned. And then the people that I played with, some of the greatest 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 year olds that I thought ever put on a baseball uniform. They were just exceptional ball players and it’s really a compliment from me to them that made me just excel at that game that I really loved and always wanted as a kid… because being from Martinsville, who’s really out there looking at someone from Martinsville.”
Things have obviously changed since Whitaker’s days running around the east side of town. He now lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with his wife. But he still vividly remembers his hometown and his home field. There were talented ballplayers before him who helped shape his skills, and many more who came after.
Whitaker’s nephew, Jeff, played at Martinsville and was drafted in 1991, and Whitaker recalls at least five others who were also drafted not long after him.
Roy Clark, who worked as senior advisor to amateur scouting for the Atlanta Braves, also grew up playing at English Field.
“I’ve thought about the faces over the years that I’ve played with. That was my era,’ Whitaker said. “Just think about all the people that were before me that I watched and played against growing up out here on the field.
“We worked on it. It just didn’t fall out of the sky. We worked on it every day at the ball park.”
From a game that started with just some kids playing in the streets around Martinsville, the town could soon be home to a hall of famer.
“We just had a lot of fun as a kids and here I am talking to you about being inducted, or maybe, or being looked at once again,” Whitaker said. “Who knows how this is going to work out.”
The Modern Era Committee will meet on December 8 to vote on its hall of fame ballot. Selectees will be inducted into Cooperstown next spring.

This story originally appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin.)

‘If that day comes, Martinsville is welcome’: Lou Whitaker benefiting from second look at his baseball career

When Lou Whitaker was playing Major League Baseball for the Detroit Tigers, most fans and writers only paid attention to the statistics on the back of baseball cards. Hits, home runs, batting average, and RBIs were the teller of a player’s ability.
By those metrics, Whitaker was seen by the baseball world as good, not great. He had a career batting average of .276 and 2,369 career hits. His most home runs in a season was 28, and his most RBIs was 85.
Whitaker, who grew up in Martinsville, appeared just one year on the Baseball Writers Association of America Hall of Fame ballot, garnering just 2.9% of the vote in 2001. Players need at least 5% to stay on the ballot each year.
But now, as sabermetrics, defined as “the application of statistical analysis to baseball records,” has taken over the game and those who study statistics have begun digging deeper into the numbers of retired baseball players, a new appreciation for Whitaker’s career has grown.
Not only was Whitaker the American League’s Rookie of the Year in 1978, a 5-time All-Star, 4-time Silver Slugger, and 3-time Gold Glove Award winner in his 19-year career, he also finished with 75.1 career wins above replacement, or WAR, a statistic used to represent how many victories a player provides his team versus what a “replacement level” player could provide.
By WAR alone, Whitaker is 75th in baseball all time. He has the fourth-highest WAR of non-Hall of Fame players, behind Barry Bonds, Pete Rose and Bill Dahlen.
There are dozens of other new stats that paint Whitaker in a much different light than those Hall-of-Fame voters saw in 2001, and now a new set of voters will get a chance to take a look at the second baseman. Whitaker has been placed on the ballot for the Hall of Fame to be voted on by the Modern Era committee, which will meet to vote on Dec. 8.
“My fans just kept saying, ‘Lou, you’re next, you’re next,’” Whitaker, a graduate of Martinsville High School, said by phone last week. “You sort of understand what they’re saying but you sort of dismiss it because until it happens nothing is really concrete. I’ve always appreciated the support from the people who watched me play over the years. Even not getting more than 15% on my first ballot, most people would say, ‘Man that was a travesty,’ and couldn’t believe it.
“What can you say? Proud, happy, joyful, jovial. All those adjectives one can only think of to be in a position like this.”
Although Whitaker doesn’t have a plaque in the museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., his presence in its walls is certainly known. His jersey is there alongside shortstop Alan Trammell, his long-time double-play partner in Detroit. The two played more than 1,900 games beside one another, the most of any pair of middle infielders in baseball history.
Whitaker’s minor-league teams would play exhibition games in Cooperstown, and he said the players would walk through the building and see the names of the greats before them.
Now, decades later, the Hall of Fame has expanded, with TVs throughout showing highlights. Whitaker says it’s “50 times better now” and the amount of information “tells you everything you don’t even know about yourself, so to speak.”
“If that day comes, Martinsville is welcome, and they’ll get an opportunity to see the things I’m talking about,” he said.
Actually getting inducted is different, though. It’s about more than just jerseys and memorabilia. It’s a chance for players to be memorialized for all time.
“Because once your name disappears from that sort of light, you’re sort of forgotten in the sense of nobody really goes back and thinks about players,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker said he knows if it weren’t for the Modern Era committee he too would have just been one who played, had a decent career, and that would have been it. It took looking at the serious numbers, the deeper dive, for what he did to be fully appreciated.
He points out that most of his home runs came during crucial times of games, and the numbers agree. He had 75 career homers when the game was tied. Sixty-seven of his home runs came in the seventh inning or later.
He also points out that he wasn’t able to drive in so many runs because, for most of his career, he hit either first or second in the batting order.
“That’s something that [former Detroit Tigers Manager] Sparky Anderson used to tell me all the time. He used to tell me about all the great players, and he’d say, ‘Lou, you know what, some of these guys are hitting 35 or 40 home runs, and I bet you 30 of them probably didn’t mean anything,’” Whitaker said. “It’s so many different ways of really judging or looking at a players and seeing how valuable they were to a team.”
Whitaker also put just as much emphasis on his defense as he did his play at the plate. He turned more than 1,500 double plays and had had 6,600 career assists, both in the top-10 all time among second basemen at the time of his retirement. In 19 seasons he had just 189 errors.
Like the sabermetrics, these are numbers that Hall of Fame voters weren’t really looking at in 2001.
“They’re starting to see, ‘Wow, how did this particular guy get overlooked for all these years and years?’” Whitaker said. “These guys are basically seeing like, ‘How in the world could Lou Whitaker be overlooked? Man look at his numbers.’ And then they even say out of all the players that ever played Major League Baseball, they have a stat and they say, ‘What? Lou Whitaker is 77, 78 out of everybody that’s ever played baseball? What?’ And they look at this WAR … I’m above [Roberto] Alomar, [Derek] Jeter.
“Keeping up with those little numbers like WAR and all this other stuff, because when we played in our days it was just hits, home runs, and RBIs, you know what I mean? And those were your superstar players back then. They were the top 10 in hitting and RBIs and homeruns…and that’s still the big numbers but now they look at all this other stuff. They look at all these other stats when judging player’s value and ability, to see how valuable they are to their team.”
Throughout his career, Whitaker said he always felt like there were people who tried to make him feel less valuable than he truly was. But he didn’t play to impress others. He didn’t play to rack up big numbers. He played to win, and he played because he loved the game.
“I enjoyed playing baseball. Loved it. Just being out there having fun doing something I loved to do, because that’s what I did in Martinsville,” he said. “When I played baseball it wasn’t about who got the most hits, and who hit the most home runs in that day, but who won. And that’s the only reason I played the game is I played to win.”
His hope, he said, is that his play on the field would be enough. Now that he’s got another chance, it just might be.

(This story originally appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin.)

Hanging with Miss Cooper: Why not Lou?

The AP headline following the announcement Sunday that former St. Louis Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons was one of two who will be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame: “Ted Simmons can thank analytics for Baseball Hall of Fame nod.”

It’s true Simmons, who received 13 of 16 votes by MLB’s Modern Era Committee, one more than was necessary for induction into the Hall of Fame, saw a jump in his candidacy thanks to advanced statistics. By WAR — Wins Above Replacement, a statistic used to represent how many victories a player provides his team versus what a “replacement level” player could provide — Simmons is one of just eight catchers in baseball history to have greater than 50 career WAR, finishing his 21-year career with 50.3.

“If it weren’t for the analytics people, my career as a potential Hall-of-Famer probably would have been shut down and forgotten about a long time ago,” Simmons told the AP. “When people started talking about on-base percentage and WAR, and explained how WAR comprised, then it became a real look into a real study, and then a real comparison started to develop.”
Sound familiar? It’s a thought that mirrors what Lou Whitaker, a former Detroit Tigers All-Star second baseman from Martinsville, told the Martinsville Bulletin last month.

In the traditional categories, Simmons finished his career with a .285 batting average, 248 home runs, and 1,389 RBIs. Great, but not earth shattering, which makes his original 3.7% of the vote on the Baseball Writers Association of America Hall of Fame ballot understandable.

Simmons and Whitaker’s numbers are similar — Whitaker finished his 19-year career with a batting average of .276, with 2,369 career hits, 244 home runs and 1,084 RBIs.

Whitaker also fell short of the 5% threshold needed to stay on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot and fell short on that same Modern Era Committee ballot that elected Simmons. Whitaker received just six votes.

This isn’t meant to degrade Simmons’ induction. He is, by all I’ve read, a very worthy candidate. But it’s hard to argue that a look at advanced analytics makes him a better candidate, while other players with better advanced analytics are still left out.

Right now, Whitaker is 75th all-time in career WAR among every baseball player who ever played in the major leagues. Only three players with higher career WAR are currently not in the Hall of Fame — Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (who also absolutely should be, but the reason for their absence is another column for another day) and Bill Dahlen, an apparent great for the Chicago Cubs and four other teams who finished his career in … 1911.

Let’s step away from comparing Whitaker and Simmons for a second. Let’s compare Whitaker to another player. A middle infielder who played 20 years with a career .310 batting average, 3,465 hits, 260 home runs, and 1,311 RBIs. Great numbers, especially the hits.

But, that same middle infielder had a career on-base percentage of .377 (Whitaker’s was .363) and a career WAR of 72.4, which is 88th all time.

That middle infielder? Derek Jeter, who next month will more than likely be just the second unanimous Hall of Fame selection. One Hall of Fame voter who has sent in a ballot voted only for Jeter (heavy eye roll). When you play in New York, make 14 All-Star games, win five Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers and four World Series, you’re going to get recognition. But was Jeter really worth ALL that?

Heck, if you want to compare Whitaker to other Hall-of-Fame-worthy middle infielders, look no further than the one who played beside him for nearly 2,000 games. Shortstop Alan Trammell, inducted into Cooperstown by the Modern Era Committee last year, had a career .285 batting average, 2,365 hits, 185 home runs, and a .352 on-base percentage. His career WAR was 70.7, 95th all time.

Is Derek Jeter a Hall-of-Famer? Of course. Absolutely. No question. Was Alan Trammell? Probably. Was Ted Simmons? You could argue one way or the other until you’re blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is come next summer it won’t matter because he will have a plaque in Cooperstown.

But you can’t definitively say that players such as Jeter are a slam dunk and leave out other players who were statistically better in other categories. You really can’t put in Trammell and leave out his double-play partner of nearly two decades, who had nearly identical, if not better, numbers. That would be like saying Bert is an all-time great Sesame Street character while you ignore Ernie.

And you certainly can’t say advanced statistics give Simmons, No. 300 all-time in career WAR, a place in Cooperstown and ignore how much those advanced statistics also help the cause of others.

(This story originally appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin.)

Is This Movie Still Good?: Alley Cats Strike edition

I recently made a list of the Disney Channel Original Movies that were my favorites growing up, and I also recently bit the bullet and got Disney Plus.

Now that I’m a bona fide adult, I need to know, are the DCOMs I loved as a kid still good? Do they hold up? Do they stand the test of time?

I’m going to be re-watching some, and will report back to you.

I’m starting with the one that was my favorite as a kid – Alley Cats Strike.

Alley Cats Strike was about a high school bowling team that… um… had bullies?

I honestly cannot remember the plot to this movie. I know they were in a big bowling tournament at the end. Maybe there were bad guys at their school? Maybe they got made fun of for dressing like middle aged bowling men? Crap. You’d think I would have cared about the details of my “favorite movie” more.

Okay, so what I’m going to do is list the things I for sure, 100 percent remember about this movie, then list the things I think I remember about it, then I’m going to watch it and see how right I was.

I’ll also let you know if it’s still a good movie, since that is the name of this blog and all.

Here we go!

Things I definitely remember:

– This was my favorite of all Disney Channel Original Movies

– This is the movie that made me a fan of Brian Setzer Orchestra. It was very “big band” and I liked that.

– The outfits in this movie were incredible. I was obsessed with bowling shirts for a very long time.

– The main guy in this was very cute (I can say this because the movie came out when I was 10).

– The big, climactic ending to this movie was when the nerdy girl with glasses and a ponytail gets a 7-10 split in the final round of the big bowling tournament. Everyone freaks out because like “OMG it’s a 7-10 split, we’re so gonna lose!” So the girl (I remember this shot frame-for-frame) gets on her knees, licks her finger and puts it in the air the see which direction the AC vents were blowing, looks down the lane, and spins the ball in place a bunch of times. Then, when everyone is holding their breath, she lightly pushes the ball down the lane, and it spins for like 5 minutes, slow motion, very dramatic and intense close ups on the ball. It finally hits the left pin, which kicks around on the ground a couple times, all you can hear is the pin tap, tap, tapping on the ground, and it spins just enough to tip the right pin to knock it down. CROWD GOES WILD! It was far and away the most dramatic ending to a sports movie of all time (Did I tell you this came out when I was 10?).

– Also, every kid in America for the next decade who ever went bowling tried that trick at least once.

– And every kid in the America didn’t push the ball hard enough and it went about three feet down the lane and straight into the gutter.

– Sometimes the ball wouldn’t even have enough momentum to go all the way down the gutter, and it would be stuck and you had to call a bowling alley employee who would get super annoyed about having to walk down and get the ball out for this stupid group of kids who could never just bowl normal.

– Basically what I’m saying is it looked way cooler in the movie.

Things I think I remember?

– This is really bugging me, but the main girl love interest was either the girl who played Zenon or the red-headed girl from Stepsister From Planet Weird and The Jersey. I can’t remember which.

– The brother from Cousin Skeeter (a fantastic and underrated Nickelodeon show) is also in this, I know, but I can’t remember if he was part of the good guys team or on the bad guys team. He was definitely a jock though. I know that.

– Something about saddle shoes? I feel like someone in this movie wore really cute saddle shoes that I really liked.

Yea that’s all I got. Okay, time for the movie to begin!

The movie:

– OMG!! The main girl is neither the Zenon girl NOR the SFPW girl! It was Kaley Cuoco!! She wore a poodle skirt before it was cool to ironically wear poodle skirts!

– The main guy is named Alex, but for some reason all his bowling shirts he wears to school every day say names other than Alex. Also, now I know why I thought Alex was cute. Tat is some good hair, sir.

– Also nerdy girl doesn’t have glasses. Maybe I don’t remember that scene perfectly. She just talked about using “cosine” to shoot a basketball though so for sure nerdy.

– So the main group we’re following is Kaley Cuoco, Alex With the Good Hair, Nerdy Girl, and Nerdy Guy, who does wear glasses.

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– First question – they would go bowling in the morning before school? Why does every TV and movie always make it seem like kids have a million hours to do things in the morning before school? No one does that. No teenager on earth would ever willingly get up more than 20 minutes before the bus comes. It’s an insane thing for media to pretend is real.

– Okay the brother from Cousin Skeeter is a jock in this. He’s the basketball star.

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– The dad from Sister, Sister is also in this as Jock Guy’s dad who is someone very important but not really sure how. Seems like he’s kind of the Buddy Garrity in town I think. The thing I love about watching all the old Disney Channel things is seeing all the “wait, I know that person” moments.

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– The kids in this movie greet themselves with “hey there cats” if you’re wondering where Carole Baskin got her catchphrase.

– All right, plot. So there are these two rival towns – East and West Appleton (creative, Disney Channel). And every year they set up a series of sporting events between the two high schools and the school with the most overall wins gets “The Mighty Apple” trophy, which apparently is a very big deal. Jock Guy won the basketball game on a last second shot for West Appleton (the good guys side) in the final matchup which tied the contest up. So what do they do if there’s a tie? Everyone is freaking out. Turns out the tiebreaker sport is… dun dun duhhhh scary music… (no seriously the movie really has scary music sound effects before the Principal Man tells Jock Guy and his friends)… the tiebreaker sport is BOWLING!

– The Jock Guy’s Dad offers the quote of the movie so far. “We’ll sue!” because why? Is bowling not a sport? Try telling that to Mookie Betts!

– Both schools have bowling clubs, but West Appleton gets home alley advantage, so they’re going to bowl at Alex With the Good Hair’s dad’s alley, which is where the main group always bowls (before school!). Also, they’re definitely setting this up as a thing where Alex With the Good Hair’s alley is struggling for money and is going to close.

– The main squad will bowl in the tiebreaker, but Jock Guy also signed up for bowling club at the beginning of the year so he’s also on the team, so they have to teach him to bowl. Jock Guy is very cocky.

– Bully kid “what’s with his clothes? I heard he found them in the back of a bowling alley.” Oooo burn!

– AWTGH “The way I hear it you’re Mark McGuire, John Elway, and Michael Jordan all rolled into one.” Jock Guy “You forgot Tiger Woods and Wayne Gretsky.” Ugh Jock Guy sucks. Also no teen has the time for that many sports. Do your homework jerkface.

“But you’re no Guppy Troup” who apparently was a hall of fame bowler. If you told me a guy was named Guppy Troup and asked me to give his profession I would 100% guess hall of fame bowler in my first five guesses.

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– Babe alert.

– AWTGH “It’s a lie that I found my clothes in the back of the bowling alley. I got them from a catalog I found in the back of the bowling alley.” GOT EM! Alex With the Good Hair don’t take no crap I like him.

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– Also I just heard a girl in this movie say “aboot” and wouldn’t you know it it was filmed in Canada!

– East Appleton is cheating. Also none of their guys are wearing bowling shirts. Losers.

– Jock Guy’s dad made a bet with the East mayor – if West wins East has to declare it “West Appleton Day” and hold a parade in their honor. This is obviously the kind of high stakes bet that sets off major alarms for AWTGH’s dad, who thinks the thought of a parade would be “too much pressure” for the bowlers. Imagine if an NFL or MLB team didn’t want to play in the Super Bowl or World Series because the thought of a parade would be too much pressure. Man up kids! You’re in the bowling big leagues now! What would Guppy What’s His Name think?

– But Jock Guy’s dad sucks. Real stage dad. He also suspiciously didn’t tell the kids the other half of the bet if they lose. I hate him.

– Costume people did a good job of making the East Appleton team look like douches.

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– I mean, come on, I watched Degrassi. No one in Canada dressed like this.

– Oh snap, East Appleton hired a big shot pro bowler guy to coach them. He’s no Guppy though, I can tell you that!

– listen, Jock Guy, you can make fun of AWTGH all you want but you left the house in those pants so I don’t wanna hear it.

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– Dance break!

– As expected, the bowling alley is going to close so Jock Guy and AWTGH devise a plan to make bowling cool and get all the cool kids to come for… wait for it… the BOWLING BALL!

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– ooo Jock Guy can’t seem the master the 7-10 split. Foreshadowing!

– uh oh trouble in paradise! Kaley and the Nerds are mad cause AWTGH is hanging out with the popular people.

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– What can he say? He has good hair.

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– A funny thing in teen movies is when a formerly nerdy kid gets popular and all his friends are all angry because he’s popular now, but, like, maybe if yall weren’t so angry and gave fun a chance you could be friends with them too (am I saying this more as a message to 14 year old me? Probably.)

– Oh, welp, nevermind. Popular kids just said they won’t hang out with AWTGH anymore once the big bowling tournament is done. Popular kids suck. Ignore my previous statement.

– Poor Alex. Poor hair.

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– Oh no, now AWTGH can’t bowl! He stinks! If he can’t bowl he’s just a kid with good hair and you can’t get a college scholarship with that alone!

– Jock Guy’s dad and another guy show up with “new uniforms”? Come on! Those are t-shirts!

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– “Doesn’t it make you proud to wear the school colors?” No! Not school colors with iron on letters. There is a trophy and a parade riding on this bowling match, Jock Guy’s dad! Didn’t you see East Appleton’s sweatsuits?? You could have at least sprung for something silk.

– My thoughts exactly Kaley and nerdy girl. (However “Fashion Emergency” is rich coming from the girl who wears her dad’s bowling shirt to school every day.)

– Oh snap! Oh snap, oh snap, oh snap! Jock Guy just revealed the other side of the bet – since the two schools are merging (and this is the final Mighty Apple competition) the losing school gets renamed the winning school’s name! Well, AWTGH is BIG MAD. He has a voiceover. He storms off. He’s donezo. Not even gonna compete.

– You said it nerdy girl!

– Now it’s time for the “sports are too serious, let’s just have fun” speech. This is far less dramatic than the same speech in High School Musical. Very Canadian if you ask me.

– Now THAT is a quality uniform.

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– Just realized AWTGH’s dad is the dad in Passport to Paris.

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– Also, I truly cannot believe this kid wasn’t more famous in real life. That hair and face was begging to be the “good guy gone bad” in a CW teen drama.

– Just looked it up, he’s hot now and still has good hair.

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– AWTGH’s mom shows up for the big event. Apparently she’s been at his grandfather’s house helping him recover from a leg injury. Seems like a lot for Disney to say “we thought at the last minute a movie about a son living with just his dad was too sad.”

– It’s the big bowling event! East Appleton has a lead, but Todd can win it with at least a spare.

– Game face.

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– Oh no! Oh snap! Oh no, oh no, oh no they’re doomed!!

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– Dear Mr. Announcer Man, are you saying this because of the bowling match or are you admitting a drinking problem?

– Jock Guy is letting Nerd Girl bowl for him. She is CON.FI.DENT.

– Here we go.

– GREATEST SCENE IN CINEMATIC HISTORY! GIVE IT THE OSCAR! The spin, the confident strut back to her seat before the ball was even halfway down the lane, the announcer who was probably projecting a bit too much, THE VOICEOVER! It’s… ugh amazing. Chills. CHILLS!

– AWTGH “Admit it, you didn’t see it coming either.” Well it’s Disney Channel, so we did.

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Conclusion – Still a great movie. All time classic. It was just the perfect amount of Canadian. Congratulations Kaley Cuoco.