As a longtime Northside resident, I am as sensitive to negative talk about my neighborhood as I am for my hometown Detroit. Therefore, I approached the new short film on Minneapolis North’s football team with great apprehension.
“Boys In Blue” is a four-part docuseries that follows the Polars through their 2021 season. Peter Berg directed and executive produced the Showtime piece, and featured among others the team’s most gifted player and quarterback Deshaun Hill, Jr.
Head Coach Charles Adams and his assistants—Adams’ father Charles Sr., Rickey Plunkett and Tim Lawrence— were all four at the time also Minneapolis Police Department officers.
“I drove the crew all over North Minneapolis,” recalled Adams Sr., “and they’re just looking at the neighborhood. This is North Minneapolis. It’s just pockets of problem spots that we’re still trying to address, that we’re going to address.”
I’ve lived on the Northside for the bulk of my transplanted life in Minnesota since the 1980s. If it was as bad as people purport, I wouldn’t be living here.
No spoiler alerts here—North lost in the 2021 semifinals, and the gifted Hill, then a sophomore, was tragically shot and killed outside a neighborhood store just a few weeks after the season ended.
“I think our time with Minneapolis North provides an opportunity for folks who might never get to go into a community like [North] Minneapolis,” stated Berg, “to go into that community and see beauty and love and nuance, in a community like this.”
Berg is a Minnesota native who executive produced the “Friday Night Lights” television series that was adapted from the movie of the same name.
As “Friday Nights Lights” was all about football and relationships intertwined in a Texas town, “Boys” is much more than a football movie in multiple acts.
“When someone like me comes in and says, ‘Hey, can I spend time with you [and] captures [it] on film?” explained Berg. “It’s always a risk… I tried my very best and my crew to respect that. I’m very appreciative of that opportunity.”
The Hill death wasn’t in the film proposal. “One of the producers just broke down crying… We know the kid was a good kid,” said Adams of Hill.
“When we were asked what kid do we have to worry about getting in trouble if something happened, we all said we’re not worried about D. Hill. That was like a week before this happens.”
Said Berg, “Our crew and myself were floored. It really was like getting run over by a freight train for us. It was shocking and awful and brutal.
“And when something like that happens, there’s no playbook. No one really knew exactly how to make sense of it. I don’t know that you ever can make sense of such a senseless killing.”
The movie also shows the relationship of the North players with their coaches/police officers, especially in the post-George Floyd world. Plunkett told us that he was worried about that—he hadn’t yet seen “Boys” when we talked last week.
“I didn’t want to be a part of it,” he admitted. “I don’t want to be a part of none of that” if he wasn’t shown as genuine.
Berg said that after screening the film to Hill’s parents, the North players and coaches, school staff and other community folk before its January 6 premiere, “We’ve received unanimous support from everyone who’s seen it from the community…which makes me feel as though we’ve done something to the community accurately.”
Episode 1, season 1 of “Boys in Blue,” was released on Showtime on January 6; episode 2 will air on January 13; episode 3 will air on January 20; and episode 4 will air on January 27. The first episode is available now on Sho.com, Showtime.com, as well as across multiple Showtime partner platforms including YouTube through February 28.
On January 10, the Minneapolis School Board agreed to a $500,000 settlement between the school district and Deshaun Hill (D. Hill) Jr’s family.
The trial of Cody Fohrenkam, who is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Deshaun Hill, is scheduled to begin on January 17.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.