I took another long, slow swallow of my Diet Coke and shoved a generous handful of popcorn into my mouth, spilling some down the front of my jacket but my eyes never left the screen.
I was sitting front row and centre in a darkened movie theatre, completely and utterly happy.
I loved this movie.
Sports movies. “That’s all you watch, grandma,” my grandson told me the other day.
“I do not,” I protested but weakly.
So I am watching 42, the movie about Jackie Robinson, the first black guy to don the Brooklyn Dodgers’ uniform and trot out to the field much to the horror of the proper, white, racist crowd.
“Go home, nigger,” they yelled, the mob mentality rising with a hot fury that permeated the baseball stands.
I have recently been writing about the effects of bullying. How to kill people with words. It’s easy. It’s effective. It’s hatred and poison at the highest level possible.
I thought about this as I watched the snapshot, Reader’s Digest version of Jackie Robinson’s early life in professional baseball unfold.
Somewhere in the back of my mind where I didn’t want to go, I realize this is the Hollywood version of the man. In real life his beautiful wife may not have gone into a bathroom marked ‘whites only’ in the airport, an action that cost them their tickets. And, I understand Robinson didn’t really break a bat against the dugout wall in utter frustration when the opposing team’s manager heckled him mercilessly when he got up to bat.
But, even if the movie whispered slightly of Hollywood, the message resounding across the years straight from the field of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, came through loud and clear.
And while it is difficult to imagine a time when sports writers sat in the stands with typewriters on their knees, cellphones did not exist and computers were a miracle yet to be invented, the movie reminded us human emotions are as ageless as time itself.
Bullying. The year was 1947. Or the year is 2013. It really doesn’t matter.
It happened then, it happens now and it will happen again.
Why? It seems lots of times, parents teach their kids how it is done.
A 10-year-old boy was watching the Brooklyn Dodgers when Robinson first made his debut. He was watching the team but in reality the players were just shadowy figures playing out a scene in a day in the life of his childhood. Mostly, he watched his dad. He wanted to be just like his dad when he grew up. His dad, was, after all his hero.
So when his dad yelled to get that nigger off the field, it is no surprise the kid picked up the message, and his voice, like an echo, played the words back.
I reach into my bag of popcorn for another buttery handful and watch baseball history unfold.
I hear the staccato sound of the bat connecting with the ball. I watch as the Dodgers themselves, learn less about baseball and more about life, as Robinson becomes one of them both on and off the field.
And I feel the pride Robinson has to feel when he dons that uniform with the number 42 on the back for the very first time.
I was born into a family of athletes. I was the least athletic but I was good at imagining and was always optimistic about my possible potential. Lucky for me, somewhere along the way I developed a lifelong love of the game.
It seemed I always knew the story of Jackie Robinson. But it was good to hear it again. And to remember how the love of the game is ageless and can rise effortlessly above the barriers of prejudice, racism and hatred.
It’s good. It’s a homerun sort of feeling. There’s really nothing like it!
— ON THE OTHER SIDE