A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Howard Cosell

In life, there are 3 legitimate arguments to the Jackie Robinson story (and by legitimate, we mean that there were issues regarding what it meant in the historical context to all those who surrounded him), and they are:
1) Branch Rickey was all about making money. Sure, there was altruism, but he knew there was money to be made with blacks in baseball in the same way he knew that minor leagues would bring money (and a winning team). That said, when every owner and player of his day went out of their way to keep things segregated, Rickey fought for integration.
2) Jackie Robinson wasn't the best African American player in his day. Had he not died of alcholism and drug addiction related issues, Josh Gibson could have been first (or Satch or Monte or Judy or Cool Papa or Rube or Buck (Leonard or O' Neil) or Martin or (this list could go on and on)...), but none of these men had Jackie's ability to be cool under pressure and take one for the team (with beautiful wife sitting there with her back to the wall of abuse to make sure that all the things that she could keep from getting to her husband stopped short of his ears).
That being said, if U2's "Pride in the Name of Love" was the anthem for King, then this song by Woodrow Buddy Johnson and Count Basie is the anthem for Jackie.
3) The arrival of Jackie meant unemployment and devastation to African Americans employed in the Negro Leagues. To this, the integration and movement towards civil rights was seen as more important than baseball teams, and perhaps it was - except when it puts money in pockets to put food on the table.

If you look closely, you see there is no mention of Malcolm X's feelings about Jackie not being angry enough. Frankly, Mr. Little can stay toasty in Hell with his divisive feelings that filled his life for years and years while campaigning with the Nation of Islam.

What is important is the meaning and celebration of my hero numero uno - Jackie Roosevelt Robinson.
The anthem and pride for Mr. Robinson is surely not Arts and Entertainment's Biography on Jackie. The anthem could very easily be Ken Burns original 9 innings of Baseball and what is said throughout the course of Branch Rickey's beginnings to Jackie's death. The beauty and the evil are both there. The tears and the cheers are there. On A+E, it's "whited" out. For instance, throwing stones at the racist kids who threw them first is seen as Jackie being a trouble maker. Images and descriptions of racism are watered down with scenes from the movie of Jackie's life where he plays himself. Sadly, the second rate acting and the weak script kill much feeling for all of the great things Jackie did. While there is footage of the man in his day and the things he accomplished (stealing home in the World Series, winning the trophy for Brooklyn), it's too little, too late.
Perhaps the only redeeming part was Howard Cosell getting teared up thinking about Jackie Jr. having died in a car crash after drugs rattled his life until he got clean. There was a mention made to Cosell not wanting to say anything from Jackie and Rachel's conversation at the funeral regarding the need for privacy, but in eluding to the pressure of being a junior... and the pressure of being Jackie Jr... we can only imagine the scars of Vietnam, Civil Rights, and what baseball did to his father that took their toll on the son. To this, I never knew Cosell, but in watching, I wonder just what I would think of the man who campaigned with so many great African American sports stars in an effort to bring them closer to the lives of white America (and I wonder what I would have thought after he made his "monkey run" comment)?
And so we learn many things, but if we watch this video - especially before seeing Mr. Burns' masterpiece, we'll never know the true Jackie.
And for that, A&E would have blood on its hands.

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