Uncle Badie’s Spotlight Creative Artist: The Legendary Johnny Unitas

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. In honor of the upcoming Superbowl, this week’s Spotlight Creative Artist is the Baltimore Colts quarterback, Johnny Unitas:

One of the NFL’s Greatest. 

 

 

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Dedicated to baseball’s opening day

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “The Natural” (1984):

The post was written for another blog that no longer exists. I enjoyed writing it so much I thought I would post here for y’all to take a looksee. For “The Natural” is one mighty fine movie.

Sometimes all it takes to turn a team around is one man. Team starts the baseball season off with all kinds of potential. Mid-season and it’s down for the count. Then a scout finds this fellow in the minors and sends him up to the Bigs. Suddenly a team that was on the skids is back in the big league.

That fellow is Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) and he has come to save Pop (Wilford Brimley) and his Knights from disaster. He’s got this bat named Wonderboy for a sidekick that is going to help him knock the balls out of the park. Hobbs sits on the bench a bunch of times ’cause Pop don’t think he can play. He’s too old, you see, for ball in the big time. When he does get his chance, Hobbs does what he does. He hits a home run. One of his teammates discovers this lightning bolt, burned into the bat along with its name. The players start wearing the bolt on their sleeves. Now the team is off and winning.

But you never know. When the luck is with you, the luck is with you. For some time, it’s with Hobbs. He can do nothing wrong. Then he meets a girl. She’s with this gambler, see. Next you know Hobbs can’t hit the broad side of a barn. His luck has been sucked out and left him dry. The man who could do nothing wrong is the player who can do nothing right. He’s showing his age. For Pop and the team, that is a bad thing. Their rabbit’s foot is gone. Seems Hobbs walked under a ladder or a black cat crossed his path. Lady Luck ain’t no lady no more.

It’s a gambler that is responsible for the downfall. Remember it was a gambler that jinxed the Cubs in the way-back-when. It was gambling that cost Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose so much. So why should we expect any less from the story of Roy Hobbs? Not that Roy would have thought to gamble on the game. Nope. It would never have come into his mind. It wasn’t money Roy was after. He was after something that is just as addicting as gambling. He was after glory, the glory that had been stolen from him some sixteen years earlier.

But there is more to Roy Hobbs than glory. There is what is true and what is baseball. A love of the game that reaches down into Hobbs’ soul and takes him all the way back to those times he played with his father.

From the moment he pitches against the Whammer (Joe Don Baker) in a carnie side show, we realize this Roy Hobbs kid was meant for something special. That something special is postponed to the end of the movie. We feel cheated just as Roy Hobbs feels cheated. Then, in the final moments of “The Natural”, Director Barry Levinson delivers a home run. Roy Hobbs puts his life in jeopardy just to step up to the batter’s plate. Now that is some baseball.

 

Movie of the Week:”A Knight’s Tale”

A Knight’s Tale, directed by Brian Helgeland.

This is the story about a working class boy making good. It’s also a movie about sports. Not the way we usually think about them. It goes to the essence of why sport became so important. It’s about preparing young men for war. Whether it was the ancient Greeks at Olympus, the Romans chariot racing around the arena, it is always preparation for war. It is about life and death. And it was definitely that way in the Middle Ages. Jousting was their version of football.

If a movie about the sport of jousting can have a smile on its face, that movie is “A Knight’s Tale”. William Thatcher’s meal ticket dies on the road to a tournament. His master, Sir What’s His Name, is over-the-hill and he dies under a tree on a nice spring day. His squire Thatcher (played by Heath Ledger) and his two buddies have a problem. They are hungry, and they have no cash. Squire William isn’t rightly qualified to do a knight’s job. He is a commoner. Only a noble is allowed to get on a horse, pick up a large tree trunk and charge towards another man on another horse and with another large tree trunk. But William has been squiring for a while, doing what a squire does. Learning the knight business.

So off to the joust William goes and does it to the sound of Queen and “We Will Rock You”. Like they say in the movies, he scores one for the gipper. He knocks a man off his horse. You think it’s easy. You try it on the back of a horse, wearing fifty pounds of steel armor and with a wooden lance, nine to fourteen feet long. Just balancing yourself requires skill. Now that William has a taste of success, he wants more.He convinces his companions that more is possible. All it will take is a knight’s version of spring training.

There is only one problem. William is not a noble. As William and his fellows head toward the next tournament, they come across a naked man. Says his name is Geoffrey Chaucer. He has had a run of bad luck. He has a gambling problem. But he is William’s answer to a prayer. He is a literate man and a good forger. Good enough to create papers to give William the noble family he needs to be able to play with the big boys. Chaucer transforms William Thatcher into Sir Ulrick. Since there was no internet in those days, nobody can check on the authenticity of those papers.

So far so good. Team Ulrick are off to the medieval version of a city and there they are “taking care of business.” Geof Chaucer, now Sir Ulrick’s herald, proves he can announce his master’s arrival to the joust with flair. But, during the joust, William shows a side of himself that another knight sees as weakness. He shows mercy. For a knight to be a knight, it is not enough to be good at a joust. A knight is a knight when he is chivalrous and chivalry means a knight should be merciful.

Like the good sports movie it is, “A Knight’s Tale” has only begun the struggle of Sir Ulrich’s rise to knighthood. He does it with a soundtrack that really kicks butt. Before our hero can prove his worth on the jousting field, he must prove his worth on the dance floor. Sir Ulrich boogies to David Bowie’s “Golden Years”, giving his fellow party-goers a lesson in dancing. It’s all enough to make the lady he loves fall in love with him. Looks like the working-class fellow is a winner in love and in war. He even impresses a royal.

Then, just as things are looking good for Ulrich, they slip away. When you are on top of the world, sometimes life takes you down a peg or two. Team Ulrich arrives in London for the World Jousting Championship to the music of “The Boys Are Back in Town”. All the hard work they have put in is about to pay off. Unfortunately Sir Nasty, Count Adhemar, has other plans. He has not been won over by Ulrich’s winsome ways. For him, all is fair in love and jousting.

“A Knight’s Tale” has its ups and downs, its winnings and losses. Otherwise it wouldn’t be the sports movie it is. Like the really good ones, it shows us that which is the best in all of us. Sometimes all we can do is crawl back on our horse, take up our tree trunk and charge into battle to the song, “We are the Champions of the World”.

Do you have a favorite sports movie?

Superbowl Blues

Since the month began with the Superbowl, I can think of no better way to end the month than with another pickin’ and grinner ’bout Superbowl Sunday.

We don’t watch the Superbowl for the plays.
We don’t watch it for the ads for cars.
We only want to see another day
When Janet Jackson’s thirty-twos were a star.

It was a tragic turn of events
When Justin Timberlake left his prints
On Janet Jackson’s thirty-twos.
It made all the evening news.

We may not remember the game
But nothing ever will be the same
When Justin’s hands made history.
That day Janet lost her mystery.

We don’t watch the Superbowl for the plays.
We don’t watch it for the ads for cars.
We only want to see another day
When Janet Jackson’s thirty-twos were a star.

It was another bust this year
Katy Perry wouldn’t drop her gear
Lenny Kravitz’s hands were tied
On his guitar they did reside.

So we have to wait till next year
To rah rah rah and to cheer
Till then we’ll roll back the dvr
To the day Janet’s thirty-twos were a star.

We don’t watch the Superbowl for the plays.
We don’t watch it for the ads for cars.
We only want to see another day
When Janet Jackson’s thirty-twos were a star.

Short Story Wednesday: Baseball

Short Story Prompt: “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Ann Porter.

I was delighted with jumping up and down delight when one Saturday my aunt Leah offered, “Let’s go watch some baseball.” I was seven, and she knew how much I loved baseball. Then came the best part when she said, “Your sister won’t be coming. Sofia went with your father this morning.”

Sofia always tagged along and spoiled any fun Aunt Leah and I might have had with her whining and her crying. What’s more I hated all those nights when my sister kept us awake with her squalling, her pounding on the walls, her never letting us get a night, or a day, off from her attention-getting. So you can imagine how glad I was that my father had taken her with him that morning. ‘Cause I hated Sofia as only a brother can hate a sister.

It was a fine Florida April day in 1952, a day not too hot and not too cloudy but just about right. There was even a breeze to keep us cooled off from what might have been a warm spring day. Around about lunchtime, may aunt and I left the two-story house where my aunt lived with my father, my ten-year-old sister and me. We strolled over to the neighborhood ballpark several blocks away.

The field was empty. But we knew it would fill up with players soon. Kids always showed for at least one game of nine-inning on a Saturday afternoon, sometimes more. I ran up the bleachers two at a time till I reached the top, then plopped myself down onto the wood. Aunt Leah followed. She sat down beside me and reached into her big handbag.

“Guess what?” she asked, looking down at me with her warm, green eyes.

I shook my head. I didn’t know.

She pulled out a brown paper sack. “Peanut butter sandwiches,” she said, opening the sack. “Your favorite.”

Aunt Leah unwrapped a sandwich and passed it over to me. I bit into the sandwich. It filled my mouth with the creamy stuff. She took a thermos out of her handbag and twisted it open and poured water into its cap and handed it over to me. I drank the cold, delicious water, then had another bite from my sandwich. I looked up at her and smiled. She smiled back at me, then began one of the sandwiches herself.

What a day, I thought, looking down on that diamond. I felt like I was on top of the world, though I was just on top of some bleachers at a ballpark. Gobbling down a second sandwich. Drinking water out of a thermos. Ready to watch the neighborhood kids play some baseball. And best of all. I had my aunt all to myself. There was no sister there with us to spoil the fun.

Aunt Leah finished her sandwich, then poured some more water into my cap and filled a cup for herself that she had brought from home. Then she said, “It comes from the world of Amador, this water. Taste how sweet it is.” We both drank, I gulping the liquid down, she taking a sip. “It’s the water the unicorns drink.”

Really? I said with my eyes. I finished off my second sandwich, took a final drink and waited for her to go on.

“Oh, yes. You know about Amador, don’t you?”

I knew about Amador. But I loved my Aunt Leah telling me the stories with her soft, musical voice. I shook my head no, then passed my empty cup, the thermos cap, back to her. She twisted the cap back on, put the thermos and the empty paper sack back into her handbag.

“Amador is a special place,” she began, “a parallel world to this one. In it, most places are green and there are flowers like you’ve never seen.”

As she told her story, two teams hurried onto the baseball diamond. They were teenagers, these boys, and they looked like they were ready for some baseball with their gloves and bats and caps. Man, I loved baseball. Just the sound of the names of Ted Williams and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio on the radio gave me goose bumps. A tall slim boy walked over to the pitcher’s mound, ready to slay any kid who came to bat with his fastball.

“There’s green everywhere, except in the Northlands. There is no green there–”

A chubby, red-headed kid with a bat in his hand stepped up to home plate and raised the bat to his right shoulder.

“–only cold and ice and snow in that forbidden place.”

The pitcher, taller than the others on the field, wound up his arm, then he released the ball.

“You know about the Snow Queen, queen of the Northlands.”

The ball rushed toward the red-headed boy.

I knew about the Snow Queen. I hated the Snow Queen and the icy Northlands she ruled.

Red swung at the fastball.

“She gave an order this morning.”

Strike one.

An order?

The catcher threw the ball back to the pitcher.

“She sent her evil minions south.”

The pitcher stuck his glove out and caught the ball and smiled.

I didn’t know what evil minions were but I knew I wouldn’t like them if I met them. Maybe they looked like my sister Sofia. The thought made me giggle.

Strike two. The catcher sent the ball back to the pitcher.

“The evil minions were commanded to find the unicorns and murder them.”

Strike three.

The batter dropped his bat and left home plate.

“Way to go, Jack,” the third baseman called over to the pitcher.

Jack turned to his third baseman and grinned. But I wasn’t grinning. Tears filled my eyes.

“It’s okay,” Aunt Leah said. “There’s no reason to cry. The unicorns were saved.”

I wasn’t crying because of the evil minions. I was crying because I could never be a Jack or one of a gang of kids who got to play baseball. Instead I was just a sickly, pale shrimp of a kid, wearing his thick glasses, sitting with his aunt in the bleachers and not on the playing field. I slipped my glasses off and wiped the tears away, then they went back on.

“The Great Warrior,” she continued, “Smythicus stopped the minions at the border of the South. In fact, he said to those darn minions, “No evil minions will ever harm the unicorns of this land.”

Another boy, this one wearing a red shirt, walked over to the batter’s plate. He had a smile on his face like he knew something nobody else did. He reminded me of Bobby Thomson. I had the Scotsman’s Bowman card, and I’m telling you, this kid looked just like him. And I knew all about “The Flying Scotsman” and his “shot heard ’round the world.” I had listened to the game that won the Giants the National League pennant on my father’s Philco radio.

“Smythicus,” Aunt Leah said, “had a large broadsword. It was named Silver. Like the Lone Ranger’s horse. And it was a killer of evil minions.”

Bobby Thomson stepped to the batter’s plate on October 3, 1951. It was the ninth inning. He squinted at Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca. The radio announcer said he liked to squint. It made the pitchers nervous. But Branca wasn’t buying any of Bobby’s squinting that day. Branca wasn’t nervous at all. At least, that’s what the guy on the radio said.

Branca threw the ball a first time, then a second time. Bobby whacked that ball out of the reach of the left fielder and into the stands. That hit gave the New York Giants a miracle and a trip to the World Series. Boy, that Number 23, that Bobby Thomson sure could hit.

“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” the announcer Russ Hodges screamed out from the radio. “The Giants win the pennant and they’re going crazy! New York is going crazy!” If I could’ve done cartwheels, I would’ve. If the Giants could win the pennant, anything was possible. A scrawny, sickly kid like me might even get to play baseball one day. Man, I loved those New York Giants that day, and I was glad they had beaten “dem bums” from Brooklyn.

Though, if I had given them a chance, I would’ve come to love the Dodgers the next year just like I loved the Giants. I would’ve been a fan from then on till they picked up and betrayed everything that was holy by sneaking out of Brooklyn and moving off to California. You could not play decent baseball off in sunny California. Too sunny. That’s why Florida didn’t have a baseball team and never would, I reasoned. To play real baseball like the majors did, you had to be from Boston or New York or Philadelphia or Chicago. Not a sunny city among them.

The kid at the batter’s plate tipped his cap the way Bobby Thomson must’ve done before he hit that ball out of the park. But he sure couldn’t hit like Bobby. The ball flew by him a third time and he swung. He swung hard. The kid struck out.

“But Smythicus,” Aunt Leah went on, “he didn’t kill the evil minions. He wasn’t that sort of a Smythicus. He didn’t like to kill. He hit them with the side of his sword and they hated that. So these evil minions of the Snow Queen left the unicorns alone once upon a time. And everybody lived happily ever after.”

I had lost interest in Amador. There was no baseball in Amador and no Bobby Thomsons. I looked up at my aunt and grinned. She hugged me and ran her fingers through my hair and said, “Isn’t that Smythicus something. How he saved the unicorns?”

Another kid stepped up to the plate to bat.

She loosened her hug, then looked away for a second. When she looked back, tears were in her eyes. Could she be wishing that she could play baseball the way I wished it? “Nathaniel,” she said. My Aunt Leah never called me Nathaniel and there was a seriousness in her voice. Something must be wrong, but what? “Nathaniel,” her voice choked. “Sofia is going away. She won’t be back…for some time.”

Did I hear right? My sister Sofia was going away? I would have Aunt Leah and my father all to myself. No more Sofia nightmares. No more screams in the middle of the night. No more pampering. Sofia was always getting all the attention. She was going away.

I wanted to shout a big yes. But I didn’t. There was a sadness on my aunt’s face I had never seen.

“Your sister,” Aunt Leah said as the left-handed batter hit a home run. “She’s been ill for a very long time. Since the night you were born and your mother left us. Your father and I thought we could make her better. But we can’t.” She was almost crying, tears welling up in her eyes. “We can’t make her better. She is very sick.”

Sick? Why was she sick? She wasn’t sick. She was just trying to get her way with my father and my Aunt Leah. The showoff.

“Your father has taken her to a hospital.”

A hospital? My eyes grew bigger as I choked on the thought. Why a hospital?

“There are doctors there who can help her.”

Doctors? A hospital?

“Sofia has awful nightmares and very bad headaches.”

But she was faking. I looked down at the bleachers. She was just faking.

“She goes for days with one of those headaches.”

Sofia gone? No. No.

“We’re going to have to get along without her? At least for a while.”

I won’t see Sofia? But why? She’s my sister. She may be a creep but she’s my sister.

“We think the doctors can give her some relief, maybe make her well. We just have to be patient. One day she’ll come back home. Okay?”

Aunt Leah took my hand and squeezed. Then I started crying. She took me into her arms and held me close. I pushed her away, then grabbed her. I bawled my eyes out, and she cried too. Sofia was not going to be at home. Sofia, screaming Sofia, pampered Sofia, sick Sofia, my sister Sofia. I just knew that I would never see her again.

Recovering from her crying, Aunt Leah said, “We’ll visit her at the hospital, you’ll see. And they might just let her come home for visits.”

I knew I would never see my sister, my only sister, ever again.

That was the day I went home and ripped up all my baseball cards.

Next Wednesday’s Prompt: “The Lady With the Pet Dog” by Anton Chekhov.