This one’s from the heart…

I watch movies all the time, I mean all the time. Yet, I’m actually embarrassed to state the last time I actually went to a movie theater. I’d seen the trailers for 42 for a few weeks and made a mental note. I thought that it would be a great father, daughter experience to invite my youngest daughter out to watch it with me. My youngest and I have developed a very special bond over this last year or so because as she has gotten older she has begun to display interests in many of the areas that I found interesting at her age and still do to this day.

Our conversations on the way to school cover just about any subject and I often let her know that because of the age that her grandfather was, I and now by extension we have a unique window into a generation that faced seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve greatness. My father was a few years younger than Jackie Robinson, but like so many men of his generation WWII and Jackie breaking the color line in baseball were significant touchstones. I cannot think of a time that I was not aware of Jackie Robinson. Although he passed when I was just two years old, his legacy always loomed large. My dad always spoke with pride of just hopping into the car in Virginia with some buddies to make their way to Brooklyn to see “Jackie Robinson hit that ball.” Can you imagine? I mean to have zero representation one season and the next, a lone pioneer to pave the way for so many others. So many sacrifices that Jackie Robinson made as a man to play a game.

42 is in a word, great. I enjoyed the opportunity as a father to watch a film through the eyes of my child. Dad sometimes had to turn away during the film as my thoughts drifted to my own father who died 12 years ago this month. My dad loved baseball and he loved his Dodgers. I grew up a hardcore Dodgers fan because of him. Much to the chagrin of my Bronx born wife, but that’s another story. For the better part of my formative years I was heavily involved with baseball. My education in the game came on the street and then the actual diamond. All the older guys that I looked up to loved and played the game. I patterned my stance in the batter’s box after many of them and then I realized from 42 that a lot of those rituals I co-opted with the rubbing of the dirt and “diggin in” may have come from Jackie Robinson himself.

I’m glad that the filmmaker did not try to revise history. Racism was and is very, very ugly. Words were meant to demean, to belittle and those in power at the time had no problems using them for all the world to hear. Sometimes you have to witness some of the ugliness this world has had on display to understand and appreciate where you are and how far you still have to go.

As I was wiping away some tears during some of the more emotional moments in the film, my mind drifted to how so many great cultural advances somehow get banished to the “Island Of Misfit Toys” a generation or two later. Yes, life moves in different directions and there is always consideration for “advancement”. But as we often discuss here in the main, en masse we’ve left baseball, jazz, soul, playing actual instruments, class, responsibility, and a whole myriad of other positive cultural accoutrements and traded them in for what? 42 is the only number that has been retired from all of baseball. The number may be retired, but the ideals, principles and the man who was Jackie Robinson should live on through all of us.