I just finished season 3 of Last Chance U – an original Netflix series that follows junior college football players and their journey to play or return to a division one team. When I first started watching the series, as a way to relax Saturday morning after a hectic week, I was immediately captivated by the initial scene which featured Independence head coach Jason Brown telling his players about his rough, gang-banging upbringing on the streets on Compton. And although his explicative-filled language seemed a little unnecessary at times, he’s a guy who appears to genuinely care for his players. In general, I would give the season a B-. I liked it, but would have loved to see more coverage and background about the players, who in previous seasons I felt more connected to. With that said, here are my season 3 ICC superlatives:
Player I was rooting for the most:
Bobby Bruce was a tough, yet tender hearted character who struggled with confidence, academics and anger issues. His talent and passion on the field were evident, but the struggle to remain academically eligible and stave off the pull to return to the street life he was accustomed to, is a conflict many young black athletes face. Despite all that, his passion to succeed in order to provide a better life for his family was endearing. And the relationship he formed with English teacher Ms Pinkard (more about her to come) was so touching and inspiring that I found myself rooting for him more than any other cast member.
Player I felt most sorry for:
Malik Henry entered ICC as their most highly touted player. The former five-star recruit and Florida State commit entered the season with the expectation that he would play his way into another D1 scholarship offer. For most of the season I found myself questioning Malik’s level of commitment to the team and his sincerity. His bad attitude, disregard for authority and sense of entitlement were a complete turnoff. Then I watched a scene during episode eight where Malik and his father, who’d recently come into his life after years of absence to help with the management of his football career, were having lunch with a trainer. During the meal Malik’s father and the trainer were discussing what they needed to do to improve his game and secure a future in the sport. During the talk the camera was fixed on Malik. While his dad and trainer laughed about how slow he was as a runner, Malik was sitting there looking sad, dejected, hurt and trapped. I began asking myself if Malik really wanted to play football or if he was forced to play by a father who looked at his son’s potential as a way to fatten his own pockets and grow his own profile. The feelings of annoyance and dislike were immediately replaced with empathy and compassion, and instead of rooting for Malik to succeed on the field, I simply wanted him to be happy.
Cast member I liked the most:
This was probably the easiest decision. Coach Brown was cool. It was interesting to see a middle-aged white coach who grew up in a black neighborhood and could drink, play spades and talk trash well enough to get an invite to the cookout, but it was english teacher Ms Pinkard who stole my heart. From starting a book club for the players to promote the importance of reading for young black men and explaining the history and hurt attached to the n-word, to emphasizing the importance of establishing an identity outside of football, Ms Pinkard (and her ever-changing hairstyles) was a woman after my own heart and her impact will be felt long after these young men step off the football field.
You can stream season 3 of Last Chance U featuring Independence Community College on Netflix.