They needed a coach
He needed a team
Mani Wilcowski is a former Vietnam veteran with a Vietnamese wife by the name of Luon and three young boys. Owner of a very successful construction firm in Chicago, he often uses dubious means of obtaining construction contracts—including but not limited to bribing city official under the ‘persuasion act’—his own definition for helping buyers see things his way. Although dubious in his means of obtaining such contracts, his work ethic and quality of construction is unsurpassed. It is the same excellence he demands as a coach from his son’s football team. When his wife Luon and their three boys are killed by a gang related shooting in route to one of their practices, however, Mani is devastated and goes into seclusion.
Months later, George Williams—a Black minister and long lost friend from Milwaukee, comes to pay a visit to Mani’s palatial home in Chicago. Once good friends at their alma mater, Bethlehem Academy in Milwaukee, their relationship soured after the Vietnam War when Mani enlisted and George opted out of the draft due to what Mani considered a fake ‘conscientious objector’ status.
George, after hearing about his family’s death, comes to tell Mani that their old high school football coach has passed away and that he thinks it would be good for Mani to consider that position and come back home to Milwaukee. After months of an internal debate, he moves to Milwaukee where he, with the help of George, begins coaching the Bethlehem Academy Lions in the same manner as his hero: Vince Lombardi.
What follows is a roller coaster of events with hoops to jump through, and schedules to make, and a team to form….but through it all, Mani and George not only reconcile their differences, but start to see progress in a makeshift, hybrid team that is comprised of indigenous students and local gang members that are enrolled in Bethlehem’s newly commissioned night school.
As the Lions continue to progress and win, they end up playing the league champions in the final playoff game. With seconds remaining on the clock, the Lions drive down to the one-yard line just as the Green Bay Packers had done in the Ice Bowl during the 1967 NFL championship game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Mani quickly calls for a quarterback sneak just as Green Bay Packer quarterback Bart Starr had done when he scored the game-winning touchdown behind the blocks of Jerry Kramer and Jim Ringo. But the Lions have a different destiny. Fumbling on the one yard line, they lose the game.…and as they get on the bus to ride home, an unexpected turn of events happens.