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42’s maybe not a home run, but it’s a hit anyway

Paul Peterson

Paul Peterson

I think it’s interesting that I’m writing a review of the movie 42 the day after the first active professional male athlete disclosed that he was gay. There are similarities and also huge differences.

 I’m sure I’ll offend a lot of people who may show up on either side of these stories so let me just suggest at the outset that you send your comments and concerns to’
42 is an inspirational retelling of the Jackie Robinson story. Written and directed by Brian Helgeland it’s a film that is so much more than a sports picture. You can hate baseball and still like 42. Helgeland has wisely picked relative unknown Chadwick Boseman in the titular role. He has a presence and intensity and it helps that we don’t know his work. Harrison Ford plays the visionary Branch Rickey who made it all possible. Rounding out the cast is Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher and  Nicole Beharie as Jackie’s wife, Rachel.
She is such an important part of the story and Beharie is strong as the true partner in what was perhaps the most difficult role in sports.
For those who don’t know, Jackie Robinson was the first man to break the color barrier in baseball.
It’s hard to imagine in 2013 that it wasn’t that long ago that major league baseball was an all white league. Or that most people in the sport were invested in keeping it that way.
Racism and discrimination are regrettably alive and well today but we have made progress.
42 looks at the story behind the story.
It’s more about how the decisions were made and implemented and how the sport and the world reacted.
I would have liked to know more about the man.
Jackie Robinson was a great athlete and an even greater man. He had to be. The pressure was unbelievable.
Boseman captures that public personna, that cool collected exterior with just an occasional  flash of what lies beneath.
Helgeland is a great writer who also directs, although he hasn’t really earned his directing chops yet (Payback, A Knights Tale).
Harrison Ford is almost cartoon like as the man who saw where things needed to go and had a plan to make it happen. I think it’s interesting to speculate as to whether he was motivated by good baseball instincts or a social conscience.
It’s maybe a little more high minded if it was wanting to change the face of America but I suspect he just wanted the best team.
I went into 42 expecting to like it and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a great story told well, although I would have liked to learn more about the man. He was hounded, hunted, abused, attacked and everything he did, he had to do five times better than his white counterparts.
He paved the way. In the face of unbelievable pressure, the man showed remarkable grace and people who don’t know this story should learn it. It matters.
Fast forward to Jason Collins, an NBA free agent who yesterday announced he was gay.
I know there are similarities but it seems to trivialize Jackie Robinson by drawing comparisons. Both were born the way they are but Robinson was banned from the sport he loved and excelled at because of the color of his skin. Collins may come under scrutiny because of his sexual orientation  and there will no doubt be some fall out in terms attitude and ignorance. He’s courageous.
Jackie Robinson is a cultural hero.
Go and see 42.
It’s such a great story.
Maybe not a home run but it’s a hit in my eyes
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week. The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here. Paul

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElsePaul Peterson

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