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Home Fiction, TV & Film Benchwarmer Blues
Benchwarmer Blues

By John Howard Prin

Original Dramatic Screenplay, 90 pages

WINNER Best Original Dramatic Screenplay – Houston International Film Festival 1996

Target Audience

General audience with particular appeal to teens, families, teachers, coaches and community leaders.

Benchwarmer Blues


Benchwarmer Blues forges an insightful link between the issues of obsessive competition in high school athletics and urban racial discrimination, as well as modeling the dynamics of racial harmony in today’s culture and the relevance of the 60’s Civil Rights movement to today's teenagers.

Both white and black main characters, one a suburban player on a championship team and the other an inner city “hoops” star player, clash at first as they aspire to athletic stardom and glory on the court. Gradually as they learn to work together, their prejudice breaks down and they build esteem and synergy. Cheering them on is a black girl with deep soul, Veronica, the white boy’s most energetic friend and the black boy’s strongest advocate.

One main character, Chad, is a benchwarmer on a "hot" suburban high school basketball team that is headed for the state tournament. While the coach gives lip service to the ideal of sports as a vehicle for personal growth and student development, his agenda is simply to win so he can bring home the trophy (a goal also shared by many booster parents). Chad is a victim of this unspoken, but overriding, motivation. While competent and dedicated, he remains on the bench throughout each game. He gets frustrated and eventually devastated—he is in his senior year, and he may never get to play.

Veronica, one of his classmates in a largely white school, sees and understands his pain, and makes an effort to befriend Chad. She is deeply and spiritually involved in a personal struggle to deal with the effects of racial discrimination in her own life, although the outward form differs substantially from the discrimination Chad is facing. Veronica brings this empathy to bear on Chad's predicament by introducing him to a much different kind of basketball game than he is accustomed to—pick-up games played by minority kids at an inner city mission. There are no points, no scores, no trophies.

But Eli, the local “hoops” star and Chad’s same age, takes a strong disliking to Chad treading on his turf. He challenges Chad to a one-on-one duel on the court and in the process Chad sacrifices his own chances of winning to prevent Eli from a severe accident prompted by his “cool” arrogance. Eli is moved by his humanity and, out of gratitude, takes a new attitude. Clearly the superior of the two, Eli begins to show Chad some smooth moves and tips on the court, and Chad’s performance soars. Chad gains confidence and improves his skills as he plays in these pick-up games and makes an important friend, Eli. His attitude towards the sport changes: he is playing for enjoyment and love of the game.

Eli struggles with his own "hoop dream" fantasies and comes to see beyond his prejudice and anger toward whites as he and Chad play ball. During a climactic scene, Chad meets Eli's uncle, a former civil rights activist permanently disabled in a violent '60s protest march. Chad's perspective on life shifts dramatically, including his way of seeing the game of basketball itself. If the uncle can face hostile opposition about something so much larger than Chad’s little dilemma and keep his dignity and integrity, then so can Chad as a benchwarmer.

When the opportunity to play for his high school team finally comes about in a playoff game, Chad spitefully quits the team, to punish his coach whom he’s caught on to. Now that Chad has his chance to perform and contribute to the team, he tells off the coach and calls him a fake. During half-time, Veronica leaves the bleachers and finds Chad heading home. She keeps him from leaving the stadium and persuades him to suit back up and play his heart out, the way he’s learned to in the ‘hood. Chad examines his motives and returns to the game. Cheered on by Veronica and Eli, he makes a major contribution and his perseverance is rewarded.


"Mr. Prin has written a warm, youth-oriented drama. I believe it is the kind of project that would appeal to many viewers. I offer myself as a reference to Mr. Prin and this project."

Randy Adamsick, Executive Director
Minnesota Film Board

"Benchwarmer Blues will make a great program. It has a really interesting story line with important themes."

Dan Hamby, Director of Video Marketing
PBS National HQ