I love Richard Linklater’s 2016 film “Everybody Wants Some!!” But, unfortunately, this film seems to have escaped the orbit of most movie fans. Even with it being advertised as a “spiritual sequel” to “Dazed and Confused,” it still made less than half of its low budget back at the box office. It’s a shame because “Everybody Wants Some!!” is every bit as sweet as his romance “Before Sunrise” and even more fun than “Dazed.”
And, as is the case with every Linklater movie, it captures the vibe of its subjects and setting with great accuracy and apparent ease. The subject and setting being, in this case, a college freshman and his acclimation to the baseball team over the course of three days. There is a lot of baseball, but there are even more shenanigans and spur-of-the-moment escapades.
I cannot personally relate to being on a college baseball team, especially one in 1980s Texas, but I have very fond memories of spending multiple days in cabins with my high school cross country team. And just like in the film, my freshman teammates and I spent our time looking for friendship in a new environment.
The film’s principal character, Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner, “The Edge of Seventeen”), is most explicitly looking to connect with his teammates and establish his identity. He is a freshman and a rookie to the team, and he quickly realizes that he must forgo any possible reservations to keep up with the momentum. He is immediately annexed by the veteran teammates into their social sphere, becoming acclimated to all their “rules” and philosophies.
Jake slowly but surely becoming truly part of the team and community over the course of three days resembled my first cross country team’s camp event right before freshman year of high school. There was a strong fear and nervousness in entering an entirely new place with new people, especially while I was unsure of my own identity on my road to adulthood. But one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever felt was that fear dissolving as I grew rooted in myself and bonded with my teammates. I came in unfamiliar with most of the people, but before the sun went down, I was learning all of the inside jokes and customs, establishing my voice in the context of this new community.
Something that really bolstered this process for both Jake and me was connecting with the slightly older teammates: the upperclassmen who acted as mentors and teachers and eagerly shared their wisdom for both the new academic environment and for being part of the team. While in both cases these older teammates were cocky, curt and unapologetic, they were also clearly eager to be leaders and connect with the new generation. Their desire to mold their would-be successors and maintain the pre-existing culture of the team helped the newbies gain confidence and become a component of that culture.
I also have a lot of fond memories regarding just how wholesome and genuine this experience of acclimation can be. Although in the wrong environment, acclimating to a group can be stressful and difficult, but my experience with it was pure fun as I connected with people who had similar interests and goals. And that’s exactly what “Everybody Wants Some!!” presents. The boys in the film do a large variety of activities, but the important thing isn’t what they do, it’s that they do them together. The activities themselves are more of a context for them to converse with each other and form connections. They unify and become more purposeful and confident.
And while there are small conflicts and squabbles over seemingly meaningless competitions (these are young, boastful men with fragile egos) they collapse in the face of the strong friendships and healthy society they’ve created amongst themselves. If you’re part of the team, you’re part of the team — even if you piss everyone off.
This likewise resembles my cross country experience. Some people never fully got along, but they still respected each other because everyone was committed to the same goal. A grudge from Thursday could instantly dissipate with a few seconds of eye contact in the midst of Saturday’s race. That unspoken acknowledgment of shared pain and effort can bring even the most arrogant, guarded people together in an instant.
And that shared pain during races helped me realize how a strong team culture combined with a unifying goal can help people really know and trust each other. Young men, in particular, are often hesitant to use words of affirmation to communicate platonic love — many men in their formative years are unfortunately taught that emotional vulnerability is a weakness. But a situation like this, that combined discipline and grit along with bond-forming antics, was a great way for me and my friends to get past that fear and truly connect with each other.
My experience with “Everybody Wants Some!!” helped me articulate these feelings. These guys were afraid of not having an identity, afraid of emotional pain and most of all, afraid of being alone. Their pride would never let them explicitly say this, but they needed these strong friendships and people they can trust by their side as they dealt with all the unknowns that accompany becoming an adult. Being on this team gave them a way to establish who they are, their goals and aspirations and an assurance that someone will always have their back as they work to achieve these goals together. And I can say that as a cocky, stubborn young man, embracing a team support network like that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Daily Arts Writer Alvin Anand can be reached at email@example.com.