Happy Monday, Everyone! What a crazy, wild, emotional week around here! One boy graduated from college (a parental highpoint, to be sure) and the other found himself defeated in the baseball playoffs with his high school team (sad moment with big-boy lips dragging). For the seniors on the team it’s the last game. The end. The finish. The last time these guys will take the field together.
For some, the last time they’ll take the field at all. Which leaves me thinking… what lessons have these boys learned from all the hours, and hours, and hours spent on the baseball field? They’ve seen wins and losses, bad calls, lucky breaks, ugly parent behavior, good coaches, lousy coaches, hot streaks, slumps, golden days, and days when errors abound.
As luck would have it (while I wasn’t attending the final playoff game in the 2 out of 3 series Saturday night, because it didn’t happen) I went to see the movie 42 (the story of Jackie Robinson’s first season in major league baseball) at our little neighborhood theater. I highly recommend it, if you haven’t seen it yet. Take your older kids and your parents or grandparents (I will warn you that there’s one scene in which the manager of another team hurls racial insults at Jackie, so be prepared if you’re thinking of taking younger kids). If you’re old enough to have kids, there’s a good chance that your parents or grandparents remember when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues by being the first black player to take the field.
Take the time to have a family talk about the movie, see what your relatives remember, compare the take-away lessons gleaned by those who lived through it and those (like me) who can hardly even imagine a world with signs hanging over restroom doors “Whites Only” or “Coloreds.” If you’re looking for a good memoir of ordinary life back in the day, check out Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored. Click here to learn more.
If you do go to watch the movie as a family, here are a few “family movie night” discussion questions that might help bring the lessons of 42 home.
Family Movie Night Discussion Questions for 42 The Movie
1. Why do you think Branch Rickey doesn’t admit his real reasons for bringing Jackie Robinson onto the team until later in the season? Why does Branch initially tell everyone it’s all about bringing in more money from black fans and winning more ball games? Do you think he believes this is his reason for breaking the color barrier in the major leagues?
2. Branch tells Jackie he’s looking for a player with the courage not to fight back if he is persecuted, insulted, abused, and hated by players, officials, and fans. How can having a “thick skin” be an advantage in life? How might things have turned out differently if Jackie had given in and lost his temper on the field?
3. Victory is often about adapting to change. How do the various players of the Brooklyn Dodgers and other members of the league adapt differently to addition of Jackie to the team? What happens to those who don’t adapt?
4. 42 is a story of personal courage, of people with the guts to stand up against a situation that is both wrong and accepted by the masses. Do situations like this exist today? Do we all face these situations, even if on a smaller stage, in our own lives? Have you ever experienced one? What did you do? Was there something you’d do differently, if, like Branch Rickey, you had the chance to go back and right an old wrong?
5. Both Jackie and Branch are gifted people — Jackie with talent, and Branch with money and influence. They choose to employ those gifts to change the world, even when they could have followed an easier path. What gifts do you have that could be used to change your school, your community, or the world?
6. Actions speak slowly, but loudly. What do your actions say? Have you ever been disappointed with your own actions in a difficult situation?
7. Jackie’s first season begins to inspire change in young people who watch him play. How can we inspire the people around us?
8. Are Jackie’s teammates, who at first do nothing when Jackie is ridiculed on the field, as guilty as the people who yell racial slurs? When we pretend not to see bad behavior or injustice are we, in effect, saying it’s okay? Do people assume that doing nothing means “I agree?”
9. Was it hard for you to watch the scene in which the Phillies manager, Ben Chapman, yells racial slurs at Jackie Robinson on the field? How did you feel when Jackie’s teammate came out of the dugout to stand up against the Phillies manager’s racism? How can being “Under fire” sometimes propel us to heroism we didn’t know we were capable of?
10. Do you think Jackie would have made it through the season if he hadn’t had the support of his wife, Branch Rickey, and eventually teammates like Pee Wee Reese? How can finding the right people to support us increase our ability to stand up for what we believe in?
11. After showing support for Jackie on the field, Pee Wee Reese receives a threatening letter, but when he takes the letter to Branch Rickey’s office, he soon learns that Jackie has received hundreds of mail threats. Can we ever really understand what another person may be enduring without walking in those shoes? How did you feel when Reese stood beside Jackie on the field as a demonstration of support? Why did he choose to do this? (incidentally, in an interview, Reese once said this: “Something in my gut reacted at the moment. Something about what? The unfairness of it? The injustice of it? I don’t know.”)
12. What’s the biggest lesson you took away from the movie? Which individual did you find the most heroic? Which individual did you most closely identify with?
What about you? Has a movie ever brought valuable lessons into your life? How can stories teach us and affect our ways of thinking? Leave a comment and share your recommendations with us!