I didn’t think I would get all shook up by a baseball movie.
The other night, I saw “42,” and there were a couple times when I almost bursted out crying. I had read a lot about this docudrama about Jackie Robinson, the first non-white man to play major league baseball when he begun playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940's after playing in the Negro leagues, but I frankly wasn’t ready for how powerful and moving this film is.
This isn’t your typical movie about the glory and glamor of sports. And it’s not exactly a feel-good movie about making history. Sure, there are plenty of heroics and excitement, but they are more like those seen in a war zone rather than a playing fields, with Robinson facing boos, nasty racial epithets and violent threats from fans and players and with teammates and the whole team not welcome in some places. That this ugly, war zone of hate is this country is most disturbing (and seeing that Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love,” a city known for its Quakers, was so viciously racist at the time is particularly eye-opening and jolting).
Robinson was famously told “to be man enough not to fight back,” and he famously was. In the film, it is absolutely heart-breaking to see him break down and let out all his rage in private.
Perhaps the reason why I was shaken up so by this movie is that I can relate right now. This Spring, as baseball season is well underway, I, as a gay man and with the nation waiting for key decisions, I know a bit of what Jackie Robinson felt.
If my heart didn’t break, it definitely sank when I read about the proposal by top officials of the Boy Scouts of America, up for a vote later this month by members, to resolve the controversy over the organization’s anti-gay stance by letting gay boys be scouts while continuing to exclude homosexual adults as leaders. As unsatisfying as this compromise position is to virtually everybody for numerous reasons, what I found really upsetting was the reaction to it, with people on both sides of the issue once again saying damaging, ugly things about the other. “I think it’s strictly the religious people saying, ‘They’re terrible people, they’re not moral,’” said Howard Menzer, who heads Scouting for All, a San Diego advocacy group, as Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative Family Research Council, called the proposal “an affront to the notion that Scouts are brave, reverent and ‘morally straight.’” Of course, what this means is that no matter what is ultimately decided, school people, if not everyone, will be unhappy to say the least.
It is hard not to feel, as a gay man, like the eye of a nasty storm, with a vital aspect of who I am being picked over and tossed about. At the risk of mixing sports metaphors, I said in an earlier post about court rulings on same-sex marriage, that I don’t like being a football, being punted between the opposing sides.
This is all the more the case as the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, are in the hands of the U.S Supreme Court, with decisions due by July. Yes, it is encouraging that many commentators are saying there will be a partial ruling, if not a broad-based, nationwide ruling, in favor of gay marriage and that a few Republican U.S Senators have changed their minds and now endorse gay marriage, we really don’t know what the decision - which will no doubt make some unhappy - will be until it’s announced. And while it is encouraging that an active, professional, male athlete (a black one, to boot) has come out as gay for the first time - a situation not unlike Robinson’s - and that a state lawmaker (also black) in Nevada (!)recently came out, it is just plain not nice that U.S Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has compared homosexuality to murder.