Sunday, April 28, 2013

42. Go See It!

Went to see 42 last night. As a baseball fan, I had been waiting for this film for quite a while. The story of Jackie Robinson is the best and worst of baseball living together in the same story. It took two very special men to pull off the intergration of Major League baseball in 1947, and this film did a nice job of telling the story of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey.

Harrison Ford was sensational as Rickey, the Methodist, cigar-chewing old codger, and owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Chadwick Boseman, who I have never seen in anything before, played Robinson with athletic if not dramatic skill. Although the movie was a bit slow in places and entirely too long, I thoroughly enjoyed it, because it remained true to the history.

As we were leaving, I asked Pam what she thought. My wife isn’t exactly the world’s most rabid sports fan, to say the least. But, she liked the movie a lot, except she said something that is both very true and profound at the same time. She said, “I liked it, but it had a Hallmark feel, like a made for TV movie. But, come to think of it, most baseball movies are that way.”

It’s so true! Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, A League of Their Own, Pride of the Yankees were all that way. The reason is simple. At its heart, baseball is a romantic thing. Football is about testosterone and violence, basketball is about urban machismo…baseball is different. Baseball has a rhythm, it has a season. It’s about streaks and statistics. Baseball lends itself to conversation. One can attend a baseball game and talk about life at the same time. People fill out their score sheets, eat popcorn and talk about their kids between innings. In the seventh inning, everyone sings. Romance. Baseball has its share of violence. There are, after all, bean balls, bench-clearing brawls, plays at the plate, that sort of thing. But baseball has never been ABOUT the violence. We fall in love with the players who demonstrate the most grace on the field. That outfielder whose long strides make his diving catches look effortless, the left-handed hitter with that silky Ted Williams swing, that amazing rookie who runs the bases like his cleats are on fire.

Sadly, baseball no longer has the appeal it once had; it no longer holds the entire nation in sway every summer. We are a nation who very much likes its violence, and prefers its grace in small doses at church. But for me, baseball is still king. I prefer its unhurried pace, the absence of clocks. Must everything be timed? And I suppose I will always be a sucker for baseball movies, despite the Hallmark qualities.