“When you walk out the door, you are already down 14-0.”
Funny to start a film review of a baseball movie with a NFL analogy, but that’s what my Uncle told me once after I had an incident my freshman year of high school. I was playing around with a white girl and some of the white guys didn’t like the fact that that she liked me. They told the principal that I had made a sexual reference towards her. It wasn’t true, she said multiple sexual references toward me, but when we are all in the office with the white guys and her parents, her story changed.
I thought we were friends and that is when my uncle uttered that phrase to me. I didn’t really grasp the concept, but eventually I got it. Without even doing anything, as black man in society, I was starting from a deficit that I had to make up. I wasn’t starting on equal footing. Never use it as an excuse, but I would always have to work a little bit harder, be aware of my surroundings and the situations I was in. Today, for some maybe it is only 3-0 or 7-0. If you are Blue Ivy, you started the game already won, but for the majority African-Americans there will always be a portion of the population that will look at you a certain way because of the color of your skin.
When the movie “42” starts, you understand quickly, how large of a deficit Jackie Robinson was dealing with. This was 1947 America and it was not a nice place for African-Americans. Baseball was considered a “TRUE AMERICAN” sport and many felt that Jackie Robinson was tainting that purity.
Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson, so the movie doesn’t break any new ground, it was more of a movie about reminding people we aren’t that far removed from separate water fountains for blacks and whites. One of the things that is stressed in the film, is the catch-22 situation Robinson, played very well by Chadwick Boseman, was in. He had to be strong enough to take the abuse, play ball at a high level, but never fight back.
The abuse didn’t just come from the outside, but also internally, within his own team. It simply was coming from all directions.
Robinson reaches a breaking point in Philadelphia, after constant verbal abuse from the Phillies manager. It is the strongest part of the film and will make you cringe and be furious at the same time. It is then that Dodgers executive Branch Rickey explains to him that his impact will be far greater than what he does on the field.
Harrison Ford should get an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Rickey, it was that good of a performance. Eventually, Robinson gets the acceptance of his teammates and the Dodgers go on to win the pennant.
The movie doesn’t take any real risks, so if you are vaguely familiar with Robinson’s story don’t expect anything new. It is mostly a reminder of how ugly our own history as a country has been at times.
If you are black, you will get visibly upset at some parts of the film, because those feelings of being treated a certain way because of your race never go away. I am not old enough to know how it was in the 40s, 50s and 60s, but I am not young enough to just brush off racism as something of the past. It saddens me the way black people disrespect themselves and take for granted what people like Jackie Robinson have done for them.
I am not just talking about black athletes, but black people in general. That’s why I hope young people go out and see the movie regardless if they are baseball fans or not. To at least understand what some had to go through for them to have the freedoms that they have now.
When they tried to keep Jackie Robinson out of the white man’s house, he just stole home base and made himself welcome, so you could also take a seat at the table.