The bracing documentary Go Tigers! is a chronicle of small-town sports fanaticism in Massillon, Ohio, and though the film takes in the town’s obsession with its high school football team, the Massillon Tigers, from every imaginable angle, including some pretty funny ones (a ”future” Tiger who is all of one day old is presented with a small orange plastic football), there’s nothing acerbic or detached in its attitude. The movie catches you right up in the fervor the Tigers inspire, showing you how the team’s victories incarnate something larger—the spirit that can hold a place together.
That’s more than a metaphor. In 1999, the Tigers are coming off a dismal 4-6 season, and they become a key rallying point for passage of a tax levy that will help save the public schools. The team is playing for its survival—and also for the hope that a grassroots industrial town like this one can still sustain itself in America. The director, Kenneth A. Carlson, gained empathetic access to the players, the families, the beer-bong parties, even a quasi-scandal (many potential Tigers are held back a year in junior high so that they’ll be that much heftier in high school). Beautifully edited, Go Tigers! is an enthralling look at the drama that can transpire in the autumn of one small town on any given Friday. A