CLOSE
YouTube
YouTube

10 Winning Facts About Hoosiers

YouTube
YouTube

Set in 1951 in the fictitious tiny Indiana town of Hickory, Hoosiers (1986) starred Gene Hackman as Norman Dale, a man whose promising career coaching college basketball was forever ruined when he hit one of his players. After spending more than a decade in the Navy, Dale gets a second chance at coaching with the Hickory High School Huskers, where he quickly discovers how important even high school basketball is to the town and to the Hoosier state.

Slowly, Dale manages to win over the town and its former star player, Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valainis), when his seemingly unusual tactics begin to yield positive results on the court. By changing Jimmy's mind and helping to get the local drunk, Shooter Flatch (Dennis Hopper), on the wagon with the promise of an assistant coach position, Dale also impresses his world-weary colleague, Myra Fleener (Barbara Hershey). In honor of the film's 30th anniversary, here are 10 facts you might not have known about the Oscar-nominated sports classic.

1. NORMAN DALE WAS BASED ON BOBBY KNIGHT.

First-time feature film writer Angelo Pizzo and equally-green director David Anspaugh grew up in Indiana and were roommates at Indiana University, so naturally they wanted to make a movie about the state and its love of basketball. But while they had heard and been inspired throughout their lives by the story of the tiny 1954 Milan High team that shocked everybody by winning the state championship, Pizzo discovered they were "too nice" and had "no real conflict," so instead he made the team out of five of his friends from high school, created an assistant coach from scratch, and made Dale with Bobby Knight, Indiana University's longtime—and legendarily volatile—head coach in mind.

“I wondered what would happen if Knight punched a player," Pizzo said. “I utilized Knight’s offensive philosophy: four passes before a shot. I also created an arc for him where he actually listened to a player.” (In real life, Knight was accused of several acts of violence, and eventually dismissed from his position at Indiana for what the school's president described as a "pattern of unacceptable behavior.")

2. JACK NICHOLSON WANTED TO PLAY THE COACH.

After reading the script, Nicholson told Pizzo and Anspaugh, "I have to play this character." However, he was unable to take the role because he was serving as a witness in a lawsuit, which sidelined him for six months. After the film came out, Nicholson said to Anspaugh that the movie and its stars were great, but that it would have been a "megahit" if he been its star.

3. HARRY DEAN STANTON WAS APPROACHED TO PLAY SHOOTER.

Venerable character actor Harry Dean Stanton was offered the role of Shooter, but passed. In 2013 he expressed regret over saying no to the film, and couldn't remember his reasons for declining it. Dennis Hopper was also reluctant to play Shooter, as he had "just stopped drinking," but eventually signed on and earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts.

4. SEVEN OF THE EIGHT PLAYERS WERE FROM INDIANA.

The lone non-Hoosier was David Neidorf, who played Shooter's son Everett. (He auditioned at the Beverly Hills Y.) The rest were picked from an open casting call in Indianapolis for anyone who could play hoops. Estimates on how many people auditioned range from 400 to 800 hopefuls.

The athletes studied 1950s game film and trained and rehearsed for over two months. "We'd spent all our lives learning to play one way, and then we had to start shooting a completely different way," Steve Hollar, who played Rade, said. "No behind-the-back passes, no hand-checking."

5. GENE HACKMAN'S AGENT TRIED TO GET THE DIRECTOR FIRED.

Hackman and Anspaugh clashed throughout most of the production. "Gene had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown," Anspaugh told Vulture. "He gave me my first anxiety attack: One morning I woke up and I couldn’t walk, the room was spinning. I thought every day on the film was going to be my last because Gene’s agent was trying to get me fired."

According to Anspaugh, the only thing that saved his job was the dailies. "The producers said, 'Look, David’s not getting fired,'" the director recalled. "And we showed a half-hour of dailies to Gene’s agent and he saw that what we were making was actually pretty good."

6. HACKMAN TOLD DENNIS HOPPER THAT THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO SINK THEIR CAREERS.

During a happy montage of Hickory winning a string of games, Dale was shown saying something to Shooter on the bench that made Shooter laugh. It wasn't until years later that Anspaugh learned what Hopper was laughing at: Hackman had told him, "Hopper, I hope you’ve invested well, because you and I are never gonna work after this movie. This is a career-ending film for both of us.”

7. HOPPER USED JAMES DEAN AS INSPIRATION.

Hopper had acted alongside James Dean in both Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956). For a scene where he needed to act drunk in the latter film, Dean asked director George Stevens for 30 seconds so that he could spin around to better feel the inebriation. Remembering this, Hopper asked Anspaugh for the same 30 seconds.

There's another connection between Hoosiers and Dean: in 1951, the Marion, Indiana-born actor had played basketball against the Milan High School team.

8. HOPPER FOUGHT TO HAVE A SCENE CUT FROM THE FILM.

In the original script, Shooter leaves rehab to watch the state championship. Hopper, who had just gotten sober, thought it was detrimental to the story. "We sat down over coffee, and he said, 'Guys, I wish I had brought this up earlier. I knew there was something that bothered me about this scene. It doesn’t work. It can’t happen. It would suggest Shooter didn’t take his sobriety seriously. And I know from experience that Shooter made a real commitment, and there’s no way he would leave that hospital,'" Anspaugh recalled. "And Angelo and I had been living with that scene in our heads for years. And we really argued against [cutting] it. And Dennis said, 'No, trust me.' And we trusted him, and he was absolutely right."

9. ORION MADE THE FILMMAKERS CUT ALMOST A FULL HOUR FROM THE FILM.

Anspaugh and Pizzo wanted to release their two-hour-and-48-minute version of the movie. The studio insisted that they needed to cut it down to 114 minutes. Among the many scenes excised was Buddy (Brad Long) asking back on the team and two scenes that developed Norman and Myra's budding romance more. Anspaugh said "the audience really got cheated and robbed" over the cuts.

10. HACKMAN ENDED UP BEING IMPRESSED WITH THE FILM, AND ANSPAUGH.

Hackman insisted on viewing the movie before he agreed to go in to re-record some of his audio. "Angelo and I knew that if he didn't like the movie, he wouldn't show up at the studio to re-record his dialogue," Anspaugh said. "But he showed up. He walked in to the room, took his glasses off, looked me in the eyes, and said, 'How the f*ck did you do that?'"

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
iStock
iStock

People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Cost Plus World Market
arrow
Smart Shopping
18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
Cost Plus World Market
Cost Plus World Market

Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser
Amazon

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

Buy on Amazon.

2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

Buy on Amazon.

3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

Buy on ThinkGeek.

4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

Buy on Amazon.

5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

Buy on Amazon.

6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

Buy on Amazon.

7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
Cost Plus World Market

This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

Buy at Cost Plus World Market.

8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

Buy on Amazon.

9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

Buy on Amazon.

10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

Buy on Amazon.

11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

Buy on Amazon.

12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy chomping on your mug to worry about humans.

Buy on Amazon.

13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

Buy on Amazon.

14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

Buy on Amazon.

15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

Buy on Amazon.

16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

Buy on Amazon.

17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.

18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios