“How on Earth did (the Robinsons) live through that. How did they do it? How did they endure the taunts and the bigotry for all of that time?” – First Lady Michele Obama on “42”
The answer is fortitude. “42” is a Grand Slam. Created by Warner Bros, starring Chadwick Boseman as (Jackie Robinson) & Harrison Ford as (Branch Rickey), they both did one helluva job, spectacular, one author might add. It is a fabulous period depiction of the truth concerning life and sports in American history. Breaking ground in Major League Baseball, (MLB) to be exact, (America’s game). The film is centered around, “colored” player, Jackie Robinson (Black Jack Robinson), the star of “42”, & his life mostly on the field and somewhat off of it.
Brilliantly Directed by Brian Hedgeland, the film is set in post WWII America circa 1945. Funded by the good folks over at Warner Bros, the film discusses the racial tension in breaking the baseball color barrier by an African American, during a period of Jim Crow, particularly in the south, but felt as far up in the North. The film follows young Jack Robinson, across America, from California to the Negro Leagues, to the minor leagues to Canada, and ultimately making it to the Big Leagues (MLB) successfully joining the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, where he then became the Most Valuable Player (1947 MVP in the MLB) his very first year.
“42” carefully depicts the struggle and demonstrates the “fortitude” it took necessary to break the color barrier, by addressing the epithets of name calling (“nigger) highlighted and not hidden in the film. The physical threats, the taunts of violence on the field by fellow professional players, by teammates, parents, their children, as well as fans. The film encompasses a Disney Like presentation otherwise (feel good presentation) if not for the presence of the former. “42”covers the fear, the angst, the determination, the joy, the pain, the danger, and the resolve it took necessary to be the first. Jackie is the first, not just in baseball, but ultimately for all professional American sports. Today’s professional athlete Black, brown, white, red, yellow need look no further than Jack Robinson; regardless of their status, athletic ability, or salaries – to find a culpable example of what it means to be a professional athlete in America for which it stands. This is a story that should easily resonate and relate with Jeremy “CALLINSIC” Lin (#7 NBA player of Taiwanese descent & former Knick, now playing for the Houston Rockets), to Gabby Douglas (2012 US Gold Medalist Gymnast), to Tiger Woods (PGA Champion of Golf). It is our story unlike any other.
As an athlete, professionally speaking, “Jack” as he was most affectionately known, stole bases as much as he will steal your heart in this film. He went from playing the position of shortstop to becoming a 1st baseman, difficulty is not the word in this feat, for putting his team first which demonstrates not only fortitude but sacrifice.
Off the field, outside of baseball, his love interest, his wife, and mother of his children, companion was Mrs. Rachel Isum Robinson, who in 2013 still survives him. Rachel Isum Robinson is “Mrs. 42” and was Jackie Robinson’s most valuable player ever. She stood by his side and played for his home team until he couldn’t play anymore and something or someone finally waved him in, calling him in to home plate. At which point he walked in, no longer needing to run, for his legs and entire body were tired.
This is a story about rags to riches (going from A to C, ashy 2 classy), this is a story about making it in America, this is a story about triumph, this is a story about heroism, this is a story that the whole family will enjoy from the oldest to the youngest because it’s true. A brief moment in history, not just in sport & race relations, but in demonstration of the fortitude, sacrifice, and spirit which it takes to make it in this place, a country like no other, called America, for better for worse, in sickness and in health, and although not perfect, much better than it was yesterday.