Me: “What’s it about?”
She: “Jackie Robinson.”
Me: “Who is Jackie Robinson?”
From this exchange you can see that this here American male has a huge culture gap – well, probably more than one huge culture gap. I know very little about any sports. I don’t know players or athletes until they do something stupid and create a scandal, or until a movie is made about them.
42 is the number on the uniform of Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play in Major League Baseball. It chronicles his rise from being recruited in 1945 by the Brooklyn Dodgers through 1947, when he was already a hero.
Jackie Robinson is played superbly by newcomer Chadwick Boseman. His boss and, as it turns out, mentor is Branch Rickey, the general manager of the team, played by Harrison Ford. Rickey is convinced that the game of baseball, that he so loves, is unfair, because some of the best players are not allowed to play. He decides to fight incredible odds by bringing in Robinson and he continues to back him all the way.
Robinson, it appears, can do no wrong. He is the perfect athlete, role model, husband, team-mate, and activist. In a nation where segregation still permeated the culture, it was Robinson who had to break through those barriers. He knew that more was at stake than just his own career. He was a true hero.
Watching 42 brought tears to my eyes as the movie progressed, sitting in a dark theater, being glad to be allowed to live in a nation that has, at least conceptually, conquered the barrier of race. This does not mean we are done. This does not mean bigotry is erased. This does not mean that we don’t have miles to go before racial equality really becomes commonplace. But as I watched this movie I could not help being glad knowing there was a black man in the Oval Office who was there because he could stand on the shoulders of giants, one of which was Jackie Robinson, who fought the battles that cleared the way decades before the man in the Oval Office was even born.
The number 42 is now retired from all of baseball.
This movie taught me much about baseball’s history of that period – and the love this country has for it. It’s one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.