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'42' shows how far we've come, how far we need to go

By Norman Chad

MANY YEARS AGO I saw "The Jackie Robinson Story" starring Jackie Robinson and thought to myself, "Well cast." Then last week I saw "42," starring Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson, and thought to myself, "Boy, that guy portrayed Jackie Robinson better than Jackie Robinson did." That's the magic of Hollywood.

Other things I learned from "42":

  • Although there's no cheering in the press box, groundbreaking African-American sportswriter Wendell Smith rooted for Robinson the whole way; in his defense, Smith wasn't even allowed in the press box.
  • Robinson was offered $600 a month and a $3,500 bonus by Branch Rickey and agreed to it without negotiation; sad to say, he needed an agent.
  • On Robinson's first Brooklyn Dodgers at-bat, he hit a grounder to third and was called out on a close play at first; alas, I was conditioned to want to see a replay.
  • Even Robinson used to stand at home plate and admire his home run drives before breaking into a home run trot.
  • Back in the day, when you got hit by a pitch they let you lay on the ground while the two teams brawled.
  • You should never start or sign a petition on hotel stationary saying you won't play alongside a black teammate.
  • You speak your mind, they used to send you to Pittsburgh.
  • Pre-Internet, people once wrote letters when they got mad.
  • People used to answer their phones without Caller ID.
  • You can propose marriage over the phone - and get a "yes."
  • When they overbooked a flight back then, they'd sell away your ticket if you used the "White Only" ladies room and you weren't white.
  • But what I learned most shockingly from "42" was this:

    Until 1947 - which was not that long ago - there were no black players in Major League Baseball.

    I did some further research on my own and discovered that, until 1863, blacks were enslaved in much of America. Enslaved? That would seem to be a human-rights issue.

    That led me to a Nate Silver-like statistical breakdown of U.S. history - I know baseball people love numbers - that cast a somewhat dark cloud over our land of liberty.

    For the first 87 years of our nearly 237-year existence as a nation - that's 36.7 percent of the total time since the American Revolution - we had slavery.

    For the first 92 years, blacks were not citizens.

    For the first 178 years, school segregation was legal.

    And for the first 188 years of our 237-year history - wow, that's a long time - blacks were not considered equal to whites, until the 1964 Civil Rights Act came along.

    Think about it - we're so screwed up, we had to enact a law declaring that everyone should be pretty much treated the same, because time and again we've proven we will discriminate.

    Given this backdrop, it seems to me a statistical improbability - if not a downright implausibility - that President Obama got elected or re-elected.

    Which reminds me that Washington, D.C. - whose residents are mostly black - is the only place in these United States without voting rights in Congress. It's called "taxation without representation," it's preposterous and it's somewhat ironic this national disgrace occurs in our nation's capital.

    Ah, but race occupies an odd place in Washington, home of the NFL's Redskins. Having been told by many Native Americans that the term is rather offensive to them, one would think that a reasonably minded person, persons or team organization would change the nickname.

    For Couch Slouch believes, "All men may not have been created equal, but why offend those of us not as equal as the rest?"

    That brings us back to "42," a reminder of how far we've come and how far we still need to go. I guess the only thing that might've made it tougher in 1947 for Jackie Robinson is if he were gay - then again, maybe some folks would've forgotten about the color of his skin.

    Ask The Slouch

    Q. Does The Slouch jog, or work out? (Brian Davison; Charleston, W.Va.)

    A. On these matters, I defer to former University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins, who once said: "Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lay down until it goes away."

    Q. Please tell me you were making up the fact last week that Jay Cutler proposed marriage by text and mailed his fiancée her engagement ring. (Jill Stewart; Fairfax, Va.)

    A. I was not making it up. It fits Cutler's profile anyway - he doesn't like pressure and he's got a quick release.

    Q. Will David Stern fine the San Antonio Spurs for sweeping the Lakers? (Alfred de la Rosa; Nederland, Tex.)

    A. Pay the man, Shirley.

    Q. What type of chilling effect might Carmelo Anthony have on a game of Ultimate Frisbee? (Scott D. Shuster; Watertown, Mass.)

    A. Pay this wise gent, too.

    You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!


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