More than fifty-five years ago, two Chicago-area basketball teams met in what would have been – under ordinary circumstances – just another playoff game in the local high school Super-Sectionals. But the circumstances were far from ordinary: The year was 1966, and the teams involved were an all-white team from New Trier High School in the suburb of Winnetka, and an all-Black team from Marshall High School on Chicago’s west side, facing each other in the postseason state tournament for the second consecutive year.
For the players and fans involved, it was a high-stakes game against formidable opposition. For others, it was inescapably linked to the racial and socioeconomic tensions of the time. The 1966 game ended in an ugly spectator brawl that left it, for better or for worse, as an emblem of a troubled time in our nation’s history.
In 2016, fifty years after their final encounter on the court, members of the two teams gathered for an unlikely reunion, to watch footage of the old games and share stories about life. That meeting led to the filming of GameChangers, a documentary chronicling the two teams and the players’ lessons of understanding and respect that are maybe more important today than ever before.
Tom Anderson, Digital Check Corp.’s current CEO, played shooting guard for the New Trier team in both the 1965 and 1966 games. He participated in the creation of both the documentary and the GameChangers Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to building bridges through community-based grants and initiatives. Anderson and filmmaker Joe Dondanville sat down to remember Tom’s experiences in playing the games and Joe and Tom’s side-by-side journey while telling this remarkable story over the past several years.
Anyone who lived through them will tell you the 1960s were one of the most remarkable – and turbulent – decades in a generation. But many will also say that one of the most fascinating things about the Sixties is that any two people might remember them for completely different reasons. For some, it might be about music, drugs, and Woodstock. Others’ memories will take them to the Vietnam War, the space race, or nuclear scares and the height of the Cold War. And all of it was played out against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle – sometimes violent – for equality that underscored the decade.
Even as a high school student in the Midwest, it was impossible not to notice what was going on in the world around you. But at the same time, the perspective from which one saw those historic events at that age depended, for the most part, on the luck of the draw.