In the movie LONESOME JIM, 27-year old Jim returns to his parents’ house after having run out of money. His older brother Tim, who also lives with his parents, greets him at the door. Both brothers suffer from depression and struggle to find meaning in their lives.
Later in the movie, the brothers converse about their miserable lives. Jim questions his brother on how he can go on living while being even more pathetic then Jim. Tim is divorced, works in a sawmill where he makes a dollar more than minimum wage, and still lives with his parents at 32 years old. Tim leaves and attempts suicide by driving his car into a train, and ends up in a coma.
As a result, Jim ends up taking over as the coach for his brothers two preteen daughters basketball team, the Roush Ladders, while Tim recuperates. The team mirroring the losing coaches, have failed to win a game, nor even scored a point all season. During the last game of the year, Jim starts to take some pride in the team.
He gives them a pregame pep-talk that goes as follows:
Like I said, I know it has been a rough season for us this year. Not a lot of shots have fallen for us; in fact not a single shot has fallen for us in fourteen games. So, I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is - are we going to let those fourteen games determine the next one? Because if we are, then we may as well just go out there and shake hands with the other team and congratulate them on their victory.
I see some of you nodding your heads in agreement right now. By all means it’s not an altogether absurd idea. The odds are that we are going to lose, no matter how we go about playing this game. So why do we play at all? Well team, I don’t really have an answer for that question. You know why?
Because, it’s a stupid question, asked by a doubtful and unhappy man. Forget his question, you’ve just, you got to keep playing. Because if you don’t, you might end up like him. And let me tell you he is no fun. Nobody knows what we are capable of, ok. The past does not always predict the future. Now that team may have seen us play before, but they haven’t seen us play today.
Am I right?
A few voices softly respond: Yah.
Jim asks again: Am I right?
The team responds in unison- louder this time, and with confidence: Yes!
Jim encourages the team: Alright, let show them what we can do.
They take the opening tip-off, and Ben (the only boy on the team) drives in for a layup to score the opening two points – the fans applaud, Jim jumps up smiling, congratulating the team on their first score of the year. Ben runs back down the court smiling.
The scene fast-forwards to the end of the game, the score ends up as the other team 28, Ladders 2. The players glumly shake hands with the winning team congratulating them with the words of “good game” and they leave the court with the look of failure on their faces.
Jim calls to the team: Hey, hey, hey, come on, come over here. No long faces, that was good, that was our best game yet.
Ben cuts him off with his response of: Shut up Jim!
Jim’s mother comes over smiling, videoing Jim, who has now himself taken on the look of dejection.
She congratulates him: Good job Jimmy, you make a great coach.
This scene is a good reminder that in our absurd world, we need people to coach us not how to win –but in the fine art of simply trying, of doing the right thing, of just plain old living. Because more often than not that is all there is. And to not try means we have given up on life ̶ on our chance to awaken to the world around us.