Ahead of their season opener against South Dakota State last week, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck channeled his inner Bruce Wayne at practice.
Fleck sat his team down and watched “The Dark Knight” with them. He blasted the movie soundtrack during practices and even handed out a Batman PEZ dispenser to each player before the game.
Each year Fleck picks a theme for the season, this year’s being on movies. So, for the first week, the 38-year-old head coach went with a classic.
“Then there was a lull of all these Batman movies that never really made a ton,” Fleck said, via the Star Tribune. “All of the sudden, boom, ‘The Dark Knight’ hit, and it was like, one of the largest-grossing movies ever.”
“The Dark Knight,” the second in that trilogy of Batman films, grossed more than $1 billion worldwide after its release in 2008 — which was by far the biggest movie released that year. By comparison, “Black Panther” hit $1.3 billion worldwide in 2018.
Perhaps most importantly, the film was incredible. It’s widely regarded as one of the best Batman films to date, and holds a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
While it’s just a movie, Fleck said there’s actually a lot that his players can take away from Christopher Nolan’s depiction of Bruce Wayne. Just like Commissioner James Gordon said: “He’s not a hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. The dark knight.”
“Whether people like him or don’t like him, whether people consider him a hero or a villain, and whatever people’s opinions of him are, he’s him. He always does the right thing,” Fleck said, via the Star Tribune. “Our whole thing is, it doesn’t matter who we play. We have to play our best, and we have to go do a job.”
Now it may be hard to attribute it to the movie itself, but the Gophers did win last Thursday night — putting the Jackrabbits away in the fourth quarter to win 28-21.
At the end of the day, Fleck’s weekly themes are just meant for fun.
“They work extremely hard on and off the field, but I want them to enjoy it,” Fleck said, via the Star Tribune. “You want to get to a point where you get to the hotel, and you’ve already gone through all your meetings, and you want something fun to give them. Give them a smile. Get them to take a big, deep breath and come back to the reality of life.”
And, he said, it’s working.
“It’s amazing how many players that [say], ‘I can’t wait,’” Fleck said, via the Star Tribune. “They can’t wait to hear what the next week’s theme is.”
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