SYNCHRONICITY: 42 AND 42 – Marilyn Armstrong

Today was Jackie Robinson day in baseball and everyone wore a shirt with the number “42” emblazoned on it. Now, I’m enough of a baseball nerd to know that Jack Robinson’s entry into Major League Baseball was a big deal. A huge deal. It was the true beginning of the break from segregation to whatever we are doing these days.

We watched the movie “42” again. And loved it. Again. You can read the review here and it is one of the best reviews I’ve ever written, along with Garry, the total complete baseball nerd.

The thing is, I’m also a total science fiction nerd — and, speaking of freaky coincidence — Douglas Adams shares my birthday. And we ALL know what he thought of forty-two. It was the number that made the world … well … the world. 42 is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.” It is the answer.

Sadly, the question remains unknown.

So how could Jackie Robinson and the answer to the question “what is the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything” be the same number?

Synchronicity of course. History rhymes and so do numbers. Phone numbers and house numbers and the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. I’m absolutely sure that Douglas Adams knew exactly what he was doing when he picked that number. He knew.


Jackie Robinson and his number, 42, IS the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. It is. Think about it. He broke the world open and it will never, ever go back to the way it was before he did it. 

 

42 – THE STORY OF A LEGEND. THE STORY OF AMERICA – Marilyn & Garry Armstrong

42

We meant to see this one in the theatre, but time slipped away and by the time we were ready to go, it was gone. But that turned out to be fine, because we have a wide-screen television and surround. I bought the movie and we got a private screening. Time for baseball and history. Not only baseball. Not only history.

The integration of sports is taken so much for granted today, younger generations can’t imagine when it was any other way. This is the movie that shows how it happened. It’s a movie about many things.

It’s the story of how and why Jackie Robinson became the first non-white player in Major League Baseball. How this began the integration of all professional sports. It was the beginning of modern baseball as well as the first significant move toward real integration.

That it was our original home town team, the Brooklyn Dodgers makes the story more personal for us. Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers, decided it was time to make a difference. Because he could, he changed the world. Harrison Ford as Mr. Rickey mumbles. He’s also real, touching, human. He actually made me cry. Harrison Ford is not known for nuanced performances, but he gives one in this movie.

JrobinsonI commented that Harrison used to be President, not to mention Indiana Jones. Garry pointed out that owning the Dodgers was far more important. I agreed. Because Garry and I agree: there’s nothing more important than baseball. Especially right now.

Chadwick Boseman bears a strong physical resemblance to Jackie Robinson. He doesn’t sound like him, but that’s quibbling. Nicole Beharie is a pretty good likeness of Rachel Isum Robinson. Who, as Garry pointed out, is even today, old as she is, one fine-looking woman. It was no accident Rickey chose a good-looking couple. He knew what they would be up against and it would be hard enough. Any small advantage they could gain by just being attractive … well, they were going to need it.

It’s hard for people brought up after the Civil Rights Amendment to understand the intensity of the hatred, anger and rage bringing a Black man into baseball caused.

It was 1947, the year I was born. The big war in Europe was over and returning Black soldiers were appalled and enraged that the service to their nation had done nothing to alleviate the oppression of Jim Crow laws. Segregation was not merely as bad as it had been. It was worse. Returning Black soldiers made racists all over America nervous that their position of supremacy was being threatened.

It would take 20 years to make get a civil rights amendment to the Constitution. Twenty more to make it real and twenty-five years more to get a non-white President into office. It will probably take another twenty before people stop noticing race … if indeed they ever do. Race and the judgments we make based on skin color are so ingrained, so automatic, so very American.

More than apple pie or the flag, we the people love to hate. It’s the most universal of all human behaviors. Not our ability to love but our willingness to hate.

Chadwick Boseman not only looks like Jackie Robinson. He has his swing. I assume they taught him the swing, but they did it very well and really got that gritty baseball “feel” into the movie. Everyone plays their part with authenticity, as those of us old enough to remember the real guys can attest. Maybe that’s the problem with many of the critics: they never saw the real guys, met them, cheered for them. Lived and died with them through the long season of baseball. They don’t remember, but we do.

The cinematography is great, moving smoothly and naturally between wide and close shots to give you the feeling of the game and more. Nice, tight segues. What is even better captured is the intensity of the abuse Robinson was forced to put up with, to swallow without complaint while simultaneously playing at the top of his game. I’d like to see any modern player survive this.

In many ways, Robinson didn’t survive it. He lived through it, but it killed him from the inside. He blasted open the door of the future and it cost him dearly.

Why did Rickey do it? There was a strong moral component. Rickey believed it was the right thing to do and the right thing to do for baseball. But above all, it was a sound business decision. There was a huge pool of talent out there and the Dodgers needed all the help they could get. By bringing in first Jackie Robinson while simultaneously planning to bring up more Black players, Rickey figured he was going to do some serious winning. He was right.

Leo Derocher
Leo Derocher

Christopher Meloni, ex of Law and Order: SVU, nails Leo Durocher, the crazy, quirky Brooklyn Dodger’s manager. He actually looks like Durocher.

If you love baseball, see it. Even if you don’t love baseball, see it anyway. See it for the history, to remember how hard the battle for equal rights was, is and will continue to be. How much baseball, the American pastime, has always been at the center of the American experience.

And finally see it because it’s the story of a genuine red-blooded American hero. In every sense of the word.

From Garry Armstrong:

I have to admit I was tearing up in places even though there’s no cryin’ in baseball. Critics aside, this was no pleasant Hollywood fable but a fairly authentic account of Jackie Robinson, the man and the player and the times that swirled around him.

Much of this is first-hand recall for me. I was 5 years old and already a budding baseball fan in Brooklyn in 1947 when the young player wearing number 42 became a household name. I remember all the excitement in my neighborhood. Some of it I understood. Some of it I didn’t. The newspapers and radio were full of the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson and how what they were doing would perhaps cause problems all across the country.

I remember angry things shouted by White people we encountered. I recall some very nice comments offered by White people who frequently said Jackie Robinson was “a credit to your people.”

I followed the Dodgers very closely over the years. I knew their lineup by heart, could emulate their swings and could recite from memory details of their personal lives along with the baseball stuff. In later years, I’d have the good fortune to meet many of the Boys of Summer including Peewee, Campy, Big Newk, Ralphie Branca, Gil Hodges, The Duke (My hero) and Jackie Robinson.

Later, as a reporter, they gave me their own first hand accounts of what it was like – that memorable year of 1947. I would also hear from Red Barber, the legendary sportscaster who called almost all of the games during the ’47 season for the Dodgers. One poignant memory involves a conversation with Campy (Roy Campanella) and Jackie Robinson. I was now a young reporter and a familiar face to many of the aging Dodgers. Campy was always “the diplomat”, pleasant and smiling.

Jackie always seemed angry. I thought he was mad at me sometimes until Campy said he was just “Jackie being Jackie”. The conversation was about how young Black people conduct themselves. Jackie thought many were irresponsible. Campy said they were just kids doing what kids do. Jackie glared at Campy and then smiled at me saying. “You get it, don’t you?”. I just nodded.

Sorry I strayed from the movie but it evoked so many, many memories. And, thanks Harrison Ford, for a splendid portrayal of Branch Rickey!

THE YEAR THE DOOR OPENED – Marilyn Armstrong

I have often written that 1969 was my favorite year … and explained why.

As a start, it was epic from a news viewpoint.

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July 1969. I watched it. I had a baby that year and it might not have made the networks, but it was big news at my house.

English: Neil Armstrong descending the ladder ...

So, as a new mother, I got to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. A real live guy walking — leaping — on the moon! We viewed it on CBS. It was obvious Walter Cronkite wanted to be up there with Neil and the rest of Apollo 11. He could barely control his excitement. He was nearly in tears. Me too.

The great Arthur C. Clarke was his guest for that historic news event. Neil Armstrong died a couple of years ago, an honorable man and a true American hero.

How I envied him his trip to the moon. I always tell Garry that if the Mother Ship comes and offers me a trip to the stars, I’m outta here. Maybe there would be room for him, too and we could travel together to the stars. Our final vacation. I hope the seats have better leg room than what we usually get.

Woodstock was a 1969 event too. Rumors were flying about this rock concert which would totally blow up the music world. I had friends who had tickets and were up, up and away. I was busy with a baby and wished them well.

There were hippies giving out flowers in Haight-Ashbury, but I was happier that year than I’d ever been before. I didn’t need to be in San Francisco. I was entirely okay with being right where I was.

I was young, healthy. I was sure we would change the world. End wars. Make the world better — for everyone. I was young enough to believe that our beliefs were enough make the changes and those changes would last forever. All the changes would be permanent.

It never crossed my mind that 50 years later, we’d be fighting the same battles again. I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as happy had a realized that nothing is permanent. No legislation is forever.

I figured we just needed to love each and it would fix everything. I still think if we had all learned to love each other, it would have fixed everything. For some strange reason, I thought the people I knew and cared for were all the people.

I never realized there were so many other people who hated everyone. People who loved no one, not even themselves. They would never be happy. Or allow anyone else to be happy either. 

I had a baby boy and I sang “Everything’s Fine Right Now.” The song made a great wonderful lullaby and also, it made my baby boy laugh. 

It was the year of the Miracle Mets. I watched as they took New York all the way to the top. New York went crazy for the Mets. A World Series win. 1969. What a year!

I wore patchwork bell-bottom jeans and rose-tinted spectacles. I had long fringes on my sleeves and a baby on my hip.

Music was wonderful. How young we were! We could do anything. The world belonged to us. I just knew it.

Decades passed; youth was a long time ago. The drugs we take control our blood pressure, not our state of consciousness. Today’s drugs aren’t much fun, but along with replacement heart valves and implanted breasts to replace the pair that tried to kill me, they keep me alive.

1969 was my year. But in its own weird way, all the years have come around again and today’s young people are fighting the same old battles — again. Fighting to get the assault weapons out of the hands of people who kill kids in schools and trying to make the world right. I want them to do a better job than we did.

Often, these days, I wonder what we accomplished. I’m sure we accomplished something. We probably brought the close of the Vietnam war, but so late and so many were dead by them. Maybe this group of kids who seem so determined and seem to get that voting is going to be how they will make the system work — maybe THEY will  make things change and somehow keep the change alive.


Nothing lasts forever. Freedom is not free.

Regardless of how hard we work and how much we change the world, like a rubber band,  “the world” will go back to where it was. The generation that follows change will forget how they got their freedom, so the next one will have to fight again. Freedom is the thing we fight for. Not once, but over and over and over again.

Freedom doesn’t come for free.

TRACES OF THE PAST – SUNDAY FEBRUARY 25 – Part II

BLACK & WHITE SUNDAY: TRACES OF THE PAST Y3-08


I had two things I wanted to post, but they are so different in mood and appearance, they seemed to need different posts. These are pictures from the Baseball Museum in Cooperstown. Probably doesn’t mean much to anyone who comes from a country where baseball isn’t played, but if you are a baseball fan, it’s a big deal. Garry and I are fans. Garry is a very serious fan. I’m a “heavy lightweight” in the fan department.

Old bats used by Gill Hodges, Garry’s special favorite old Dodger hitter.

We’ve been to the museum twice. I don’t know if we will get there again, but it is a lot of fun and  in a beautiful location in upstate New York.

Red Sox back in time. It looks little different than new equipment — or clothing. Baseball doesn’t change much — not like other games.

Lacking cathedrals, I will have to settle for other things. “American” old isn’t like European or Middle Eastern “old.” Comparatively speaking, white culture is new and Native culture that can be photographed is rare in this area. We lack castles and cathedrals — so we everything we have to show is “relatively” old. Compared to “now.”

mergeyes_widget

2018 OLYMPIC FEVER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve been enjoying the Winter Olympics this year more than usual. Unlike past Olympics, I read nothing about the American athletes beforehand. I have no favorites in any sport. I have no skin in the game. For me, it’s less of a competition this year and more of an athletic exhibition. I can just relax and watch these amazing athletes do their thing.

Watching has become something of a Zen experience for me. I get totally absorbed in each event I watch – even sports that are relatively new to me. I’m now obsessed with the snowboard events. Even the jumpy, twirly ones I never cared for in the past.

There’s one event called the Snowboard Cross, which is awesome. It’s called NASCAR on snow. Six snowboarders jump off a nine and a half-foot high ledge onto a crazy course of jumps, bumps and scary turns. The skiers spend half their time in the air. Skiers fall regularly and crash into each other. The skier in last place can end up being the only one to finish the race! High drama! Anything can happen! I’m hooked!

For each event, I listen carefully to the commentators and instantly learn the key technical elements to look for in each performance. I particularly love watching the skiers. The rhythm of the skis swishing and swooshing their way down the steep mountains is mesmerizing. I follow each skier and get into their rhythm as they go through the course.

The skating events are more exciting to me. It’s like watching a super graceful but high speed dance performance. I’ve always loved all forms of dancing on the ice, since I was a child. So I have a long history with this sport.

This year I fell in love with the German Pairs team in their first, short program. They had the routine that was the most fun and interesting as well as technically off the charts. But it didn’t seem like they’d be able to catch the Chinese team in first place and win the Gold. In the clinch, they put in an amazing, near perfect long program and got the highest Olympic score ever! They won the Gold by hundredths of a point. I was off my seat, cheering!

But mostly, I find myself peacefully staring at the TV for hours each night. With my ADD, that is really an unusual occurrence. I get totally absorbed and totally relaxed. It’s extra special to be sharing this experience with an equally enthusiastic husband.

Having the Olympics in my life every day is a refreshing change from our usual routine of TV shows and online shows. I’m really enjoying this immersive experience. I watch the clock and wait patiently for the evening Olympics show to start. It’s nice to have something different to look forward to every day. I give the 2018 Winter Olympics top scores!

THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT

The subject has been on our minds lately, probably because it’s almost baseball season and the slugger the Sox need has refused to sign a contract.

“It’s not about the money,” he assured everyone. The current offer is at $125 million for 6 years, but he wants to play outfield rather than designated hitter — which is what we need. The Sox have three brilliant outfielders who can also hit, so that’s not happening. Martinez isn’t getting more money and he is definitely not getting third base.

Since no one else has made him a better offer, there’s a possibility this great player is going to wind up sitting out the season or going to Japan because he won’t sign a contract. There aren’t many teams with this kind of money to offer. The Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox are pretty much the big three for big money and this guy has said no to all of them.

No contract? No baseball.

Meanwhile, we are also watching reruns of “Blue Bloods.” Danny the cop with PTSD and his lovely wife Linda are going through a variety of marital issues. He says “You have to quit doing that.”

And she says “Or yeah? Or what? Eh? Whatcha gonna do about it, huh?”

And I say: “Until the new contract season comes up.” This is a rerun, so I can see the future. I know she’s going to die at the beginning of next season – belatedly — because she can’t renegotiate her contract.

That made me think about how life would be if our marriages were based on contracts and negotiations. With agents and lawyers. Lists of  requirements and assurances from the medical team that we’re okay to play five more seasons. All the things we are required to do or no renewal for upcoming seasons.

Sorry buddy. Empty out your locker and good luck in your next endeavor.

This might result in all of us getting better terms for our relationships or maybe not. More likely, a lot of lawyers and agents get richer. We get poorer, and a bunch of married people discover they have not been renewed for the upcoming season. I can see us negotiating for a five-year contract, with someone saying “Of course, this contract is based on a doctor’s assurance that you are in good health.”

Oops.

Poor people would have to work month-to-month because they can’t afford an agent. We’d be lucky to even make the team. On a more positive note, there would be no need for divorce. It would be simple, matter-of-fact business arrangement.

Sorry. Your contract has not been renewed.

LOSING IS THE OTHER SIDE OF WINNING – SUPER BOWL LII

Since the Patriots became a “real” football team in 2001, there have been 18 super bowls. The Patriots won five. Lost three. The other 10 Super Bowls were won by other teams and the Patriots weren’t in the game.

The Patriots won 5 Super Bowls — one fewer than the Steelers, by the way — and lost three.

So this rumor that the Patriots never lose was never true. They only played fewer than half of the games — and didn’t win all of them.

The Patriots lost Sunday. Aside from whatever internal stupidity made Bellichick decide to exclude our best defensive player, it was a great game. The Eagles won by playing better and harder than the Patriots.

Super Bowl XXXV (Jan. 29, 2001): Ravens 34, Giants 7
Super Bowl XXXVI (Feb. 3, 2002): Patriots 20, Rams 17
Super Bowl XXXVII (Jan. 26, 2003): Buccaneers 48, Raiders 21
Super Bowl XXXVIII (Feb. 1, 2004): Patriots 32, Panthers 29
Super Bowl XXXIX (Feb. 6, 2005): Patriots 24, Eagles 21
Super Bowl XL (Feb. 5, 2006): Steelers 21, Seahawks 10
Super Bowl XLI (Feb. 4, 2007): Colts 29, Bears 17
Super Bowl XLII (Feb. 3, 2008): Giants 17, Patriots 14
Super Bowl XLIII (Feb. 1, 2009): Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
Super Bowl XLIV (Feb. 7, 2010): Saints 31, Colts 17
Super Bowl XLV (Feb. 6, 2011): Packers 31, Steelers 25
Super Bowl XLVI (Feb. 5, 2012): Giants 21, Patriots 17
Super Bowl XLVII (Feb. 3, 2013): Ravens 34, 49ers 31
Super Bowl XLVIII (Feb. 2, 2014): Seahawks 43, Broncos 8
Super Bowl XLIX (Feb. 1, 2015): Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
Super Bowl L (Feb. 7, 2016): Broncos 24, Panthers 10
Super Bowl LI (Feb. 5, 2017) Patriots 34, Falcons 28 (OT) 
Super Bowl LII  (Feb. 4, 2018) Eagles 41, Patriots 33

Garry says those statistics sound wrong, but they are accurate.

The wins and losses are not really the issue. The Patriots have been a wonderful team for its fans. Whether or not they made it to the Super Bowl, they have always been magical to watch, a pleasure for New England fans. It has been a privilege to have had them to root for these past 17 years. I’m sure we’ll be rooting for them next year, too.

Win or lose, they are a fine team. I just thought a little perspective via statistics was in order.