Movie: The Long Green Line



You know I’m not athletic in any way.  As a child, I wished I had some natural aptitude for organized sports (unfortunately rollerblading didn’t count) or had the drive to work at it until I excelled.  I didn’t.  Despite this, I signed up for cross country in junior high. I hated every tortuous minute of it.  My only goals were to finish the race without puking and post a better time than the bitch who was, I felt unrightfully, dating the cutest boy in my class.  Usually that meant I only had to come in fifth from last.  Lofty aspirations, indeed.  Knowing how much I despise running, I’m sure you’re wondering why I bothered with Cross Country at all.  I did it because EVERYONE did.  Our town is a running town.

I don’t think Elmhurst has any more natural born runners than anywhere else in the country, but what we do have is Joe Newton, arguably one of the greatest high school coaches of all time, regardless of sport. Out of the 50 years he’s been boys cross country coach at York, he’s won the Illinois State Championship 26 times.  Thus, we Elmhurstians take Coach Newton and our running VERY seriously.  Listen, on it’s surface, Cross Country doesn’t make much sense to me. I grew up in Chicago and the season starts over the summer.  You know what Chicago’s like in the summer.  It’s surface of the sun hot and 99% humidity sticky.  Why on god’s earth would anyone want to run anywhere, besides off the end of a diving board, in that weather?  Better yet, do you know when Cross Country season ends?  November!  NOVEMBER!  It snows in November in Chicago. You can flash freeze to the sidewalk within seconds that time of year. Who runs in the freezing cold and snow?  The York Dukes do, because Coach Newton rocks that much.  So much, in fact, that a, former classmate and fellow Los Angeles transplant, Matthew Arnold, decided to make a movie about Newton during the 2005 season. The Long Green Line was the result.

Some of my York Cross Country Photos circa 1992-1994:

The Long Green Line is a nickname that was given to the team many years ago.  It describes what a typical York cross country meet looks like; a long line of green uniforms stretched in front of the competition.  It’s a common sight for those of us lucky enough to have grown up in Elmhurst and it’s awe-inspiring, even for a person like me, who thinks people who run are insane.  That’s the thing.  You don’t have to like or care about running to enjoy The Long Green Line.  You don’t have to know who Joe Newton is.  Like the fabulously underrated TV series, Friday Night Lights, athletics are just the backdrop. At it’s core, it’s a story that’s all heart, celebrating stars and underdogs equally. Which is exactly Coach Newton’s tactic as a motivator of young men. Do not mistake me, it is obvious that the man likes to win, but I think this movie shows that he loves to create winners more.  And in his book, the boy who comes in dead last, but works his ass off and never quits, is as much a winner as the one who comes in first and racks up another title.  Marc, that’s a lesson I think we could all use a little more of.  (Even those of us who wouldn’t run unless our lives depended on it.) You must watch this movie.

Check out the film’s trailer:



More The Long Green Line information:

“The Long Green Line” serves as a refresher course in how team sports can provide priceless life lessons and tug at the heartstrings when done right. – Chicago Sun-Times *** review

“The Long Green Line” shows that cross country at York, which now has 26 state titles, is more than just championships. – Chicago Tribune *** review

You can purchase The Long Green Line here and here or rent it on Amazon Video on Demand here.


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7 Responses to “Movie: The Long Green Line”

  1. emma Says:

    Promise me this movie won’t make me cry like Chariots of Fire.

    I have nothing to say about you doing cross country in highschool. I am still processing.

    Wind sprints was enough for me.

    • Jamie Says:

      Well, I did get a little teary, but you know what kind of a wuss I am, so… Yeah, I hated it. Everyday I wanted to run off the practice field screaming. Looking back, I sort of wish I liked it enough to keep going, but I’ll live.

  2. P. Jacobs Says:

    Thanks for this review Jamie. As you know, I’m a very big fan already but don’t you think every person in Elmhurst should own a copy? And really anyone who has ever participated in a sport old or young.

    • Jamie Says:

      I think you’re right. It’s such an important part of our culture and identity. I was thrilled to see that the movie was available on Amazon Video On Demand too. So convenient!

  3. Steve K. Says:

    Awesome write up Jamie and congrats and great job to Matt for making this movie! Those pictures are awesome!

  4. m000se Says:

    how cool. i never knew!

  5. Steve Acoba Says:

    Hey… I went to York High School in Elmhurst. And indeed ran for coach Joe Newton on the Long Green Line! I wasn’t good enough to be in the top 8 runners and didn’t get to run in the State meet but surely trianed my butt off. Coach Newton is a legend. He truly inspired generations of kids. I am sure he is every bit the hard ass today that he was back then! But then again, his unprecedented number of state titles is proof that he knows what he’s doing.

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