‘The Long Game’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: How Did The Mustangs Win The State Championship?

Who doesn’t love an underdog story in sports, especially if it’s based on true historical accounts? In the 1950s, five young Mexican-American boys made history with golf clubs in their hands. Julio Quintana’s docudrama The Long Game talks about the racial discrimination Mexican-Americans faced in the last century and how a group of caddies earned the respect their community deserved.


Spoilers Ahead

What happens in the film?

Joe, Gene, Mario, Felipe, and Lupe are all caddies who work at a prestigious golf club run by Americans. Belonging to poor families, they do all sorts of odd jobs for the rich old men and their kids, who are the members of the club. On the other hand, there’s JB Pena, a former soldier who served in World War II and returned to society without any accolades thanks to his ethnicity. JB resumed his life as a superintendent in the San Felipe School. A golfer by heart, JB tries to get into the prestigious club with a reference from his war buddy Frank. Frank is an ex-marine who JB befriended in the war, and they maintained the relationship. The club refuses to give the membership to a Mexican man, and he gets back to his job. JB starts a golf team with the five rebellious caddies, and the movie takes us to witness the journey of these nobodies, ultimately making their name on the golf circuit and eventually winning the State Championship.


How does JB make his team?

Joe is the best player in the group, but he refuses to join the team because of his father’s disapproval. JB makes him understand that if he’s to get respect, he has to earn it himself. JB’s team doesn’t have access to any golf courses, so they start making their own. JB asks Frank to be the assistant coach of the team, as he’s a renowned golfer himself. Frank hesitates at first, but when he sees the boys preparing a sand trap out in the woods, he gets on board. JB teaches the boys how to dress, behave, and play the game like it’s meant to be played. JB knows there are rules the Mexicans must follow in order to stay out of trouble. The group sneaks into the club’s golf course at night, and the groundskeeper Pollo catches them. A war veteran himself, Pollo walks around with a makeshift cage all around him to not attract attention from anybody. When he sees his people trying to do something good, he gives them all the leftover gear and golf clubs people have forgotten to collect over the years. The group enters a junior golf tournament after a lot of rejections, and their sportsmanship impresses the organizers. Frank dubs the team as the Mustangs, and he brings the news that they will be invited to play in more upcoming tournaments. 

What happens to the Mustangs after their first tournament?

On the way back to Texas, the group stops at a diner. The people of the diner refuse to serve them, and Joe walks out of the diner. He replies to the insults with his golf ball, shattering the windows of the place. They take off soon after, but JB is infuriated by Joe’s antics. JB explains how his behavior might lead to a fatal outcome for the next Mexican who walks into that diner. The next day, Joe finds his picture on the front page of the newspaper, and he tears it apart before passing it on to his dad. In the town fair, Joe’s dad eventually finds out about Joe’s interest in golf, but Daniela comes to save Joe from the embarrassment. Daniela is Joe’s classmate who is interested in him, and vice versa. Joe’s confidence disappears when he sees her, and he starts to stutter. The two start to hit it off, and Daniela tells him that she wants to be an author. Later that night, Joe finds his father burning his golf clubs, but he stops it. His father tries to choke him out to make him understand that this sport isn’t for them, but Joe pushes him away, and he’s resilient in his pursuit. 


How did the Mustangs qualify for the state championship?

After a series of wins in different tournaments, they go to play in the regional golf tournament. JB gives the boys strict instructions on how this game will either be their last or a ticket to the state championship. They play with all their hearts, but a white player named Tim Cox starts to cheat. He picks up the flag once before Joe positions himself to take the shot, and then goes on to ruin his line of sight. Joe gets triggered by the ignorance, and he confronts him physically. This leads to Joe getting disqualified from the tournament and his score not being counted. But little did anybody know, Gene, the weakest player on the team, was going to have a great day of golf. He scored a lot of points, and the Mustangs used his score instead of Joe’s to qualify for the championship. 

Why does JB get arrested?

To play in the State Championship, the Mustangs go to a place where Mexico is only an hour away. The boys decide they must visit their motherland, and they manage to find an old man who helps people cross a small river that separates the two countries. After getting to Mexico, they enter a pub where a drunk native insults them for not knowing proper Spanish and claiming to be Mexicans. Gene breaks a bottle on the drunk guy’s head, and they get chased by the drunks. Seeing the old guy on the other side of the river, the boys swim their way back to America. The next day, the championship begins. The Mustangs secure second place after a long day of good play, and Joe is about to complete his last hole. His old deeds come to haunt him as the owner of the diner arrives at the course with the police. The police arrest Joe, and the Mustangs are moved to fifth place from second. Judge Cox decides that Joe is a young boy and he shouldn’t be penalized for such a small thing, and he would let him go if they dropped out of the tournament. He offers JB membership at the club in exchange for abandoning the team. His plan almost works, but JB is a man of will. He takes the responsibility of the vandalism at the diner on himself and gets arrested so that Joe and the Mustangs can continue playing the second day. JB is bailed out later by his , and he thinks it’s all over for his team. Joe breaks Daniela’s heart after she tells him that she’s moving to Austin after school. Joe couldn’t take it well, and they broke up after he said some rude things about her grandmother.


How did the Mustangs win the state championship?

JB sneaks into the club at night with a bottle of champagne and his golf clubs. He starts hitting balls with all his might and sulks. His grieving session comes to an end when Pollo walks out of the dark. Pollo sees the man and tells him that life isn’t fair to anyone, let alone a Mexican living in this country. Pollo served in the Great War and got stuck in a trench with mustard gas without a gas mask. Pollo knows that life will test all of them, and he asks JB to stand right back up to fight again. 

On the day of the championship, JB comes to meet the boys for the final time before they start the game. He accepts that he started the team hoping for a membership and so that the white people wouldn’t laugh at him or his people. But he’s realized that this is the only chance they’ve got to make the entitled brats respect them. The match is over before it starts, when the rain pours heavily. All of the other players struggle with their grip and vision in the heavy rain, but the Mustangs excel under the water. They’ve practiced the game in every condition, and that helps them reach the first spot. When the rain stops, Pollo sneaks JB into the course. In desperation, Tim Cox once again tries to provoke Joe. He knows the game is out of his hands, and the only way they have a shot is if Joe loses it and attacks him. His plan almost works, but Joe remembers what happened whenever he loses his patience. He sees JB watching him from afar and decides not to give in to Cox’s tricks. Joe walks away, and the Mustangs comfortably win the state championship. However, the committee decides to cancel the award ceremony due to bad weather, when the sun shines more than a diamond. The boys are disheartened by the discrimination, but JB tells them they should respect the game and march to the clubhouse with their trophy like true gentlemen. This victory wasn’t just a victory for the Mustangs; it was a victory for all the Mexican-Americans who were exploited and abused by the entitled Americans. The team goes back to see that the entire Mexican community of the town had prepared a huge victory parade for them, and even Joe’s father bows down to his heroics. Joe got to Austin and left golfing to be with the girl he wanted, as he finally had his eyes on the actual prize. All of the members of the Mustangs went on to have proper careers in their lives, and JB Pena kept coaching the San Felipe school district until the day he passed. The Mustangs are Hall of Fame inductees for their historic win at the 1957 State Championship, and they won it fighting against all the odds. 


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Aniket Mukherjee
Aniket Mukherjee
Aniket is a literature student pursuing his master's degree while trying to comprehend Joyce and Pound. When his head is not shoved in books, he finds solace in cinema and his heart beats for poetry, football, and Adam Sandler in times.

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