“42” well worth seeing
Just got back from seeing the movie “42” at my local movie theater. It’s an incredibly well-made movie with excellent performances, an excellent script, and a message well worth seeing.
If you’re not familiar with it, although if you’re reading this blog I can’t imagine you aren’t, it’s the story of how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers to become the first African-American baseball player of the modern era. It’s also the story of how Dodgers General Manager came to put Robinson in the position to do so – and how single-minded and brilliant he was in creating that opportunity, which changed the game forever for the better.
On the way home from the theater I commented to my wife about how far we’ve come here in America in a very short time. I know I personally couldn’t believe the way people acted toward Robinson simply for the color of his skin. It’s uncomfortable at times, and you marvel at how ignorant people were back then.
But then I got to thinking about an incident that occurred just last year, in the summer of 2012, to one of my students. The girl’s mom told me about it. While the player is not African-American, she’s also obviously not Caucasian either.
She was in 12U ball at the time, just to put this in perspective. She is an excellent ballplayer, both as a pitcher and hitter (although I will admit I am biased since I coach her in both; her play, however, speaks for itself). She’s also one of the nicest, most polite kids you’d ever want to meet. She is a hard worker, a great teammate, I could go on and on.
Anyway, her mom told me how during a tournament last year when she was dominating in the circle and at the plate, some moron parent from the other team started yelling ethnic slurs at her. (If you’ve seen “42,” think of the Phillies manager, only using different ethnic slurs.) The guy appeared to be half in the bag as I recall, and nothing brings out one’s inner jerk like alcohol.
I remember being shocked that anyone would do that, first of all to a kid, and secondly in 2012 – whether they’re hammered or not. I mean really – who does that anymore?
There is good news in this, though. First of all, her team, and especially the parents, rallied behind her to make sure she knew it was just one random idiot. More importantly, I think, the girl herself was rather confused about the whole incident.
Why is that good? Because it means it’s probably a rarity. In “42,” the things that happen to Jackie Robinson when he joins the Dodgers aren’t that much different than what would happen to African-Americans all over the country, famous or not. But for this girl, I’m not sure she even knew what the slurs meant, so she probably hasn’t had to hear them much. That’s progress, of a sort.
The girl and her team went on to win the game handily, and fortunately that turned out to be an isolated incident. I believe the other team’s coach apologized for the parent’s behavior, and if I recall correctly he had the guy removed from the field. So there is hope for us as a society.
I highly recommend seeing “42,” not just for the message but also for the view of baseball in the 1940s. Wait until you see the spring training field for the Dodgers, a Major League Baseball club. Yet as you watch, think about much things have changed – and the fact that we still have a ways to go. It’ll definitely be worth the time you invest.