42 is one of the best movies I have ever seen. In spite of what you may have heard, it is not primarily a movie about baseball, but rather a movie about the power of the human spirit to triumph over evil. It is a movie about the power of personal character, the power of faith, and the power of family. Yes, it is a movie about Jackie Robinson, one of the most famous major league baseball players who ever lived, but what moved me most when I recently saw the movie was not the strength of his baseball skills, but rather the strength of his character.
Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, said this week, “There are a lot of great things that have happened over the years, but I have often said that Jackie Robinson’s coming to the big leagues is not only the most powerful moment, but the most important moment.” He made this statement while visiting Milwaukee this week where he spoke with students of Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts about the movie. Accompanying him that day was a very special guest, a woman by the name of Sharon Robinson, who just happens to be the daughter of the late, great Jackie Robinson.
The middle school students were treated to a special showing of 42, the movie that tells the story of Jackie Robinson’s rookie year with the Brooklyn Dodgers. On April 15, 1947, Robinson became the first black man to play Major League Baseball. While the movie highlights Robinson’s amazing athletic strengths, it is his strength of character that is most memorable.
When Jackie’s daughter, Sharon Robinson, asked the students, after having just seen the movie, how they would describe her father, the things they commented on were his bravery, self control, strength, power, determination, and the fact that he never gave up. I find it fascinating that they all spoke about Robinson’s character, and not his ability to steal bases or hit with power to the opposite field.
The movie makes it clear that there were three factors that gave Robinson the strength to endure the horrific racism he encountered. The first was his own personal strength of character. The second was the moral compass of his Christian faith. And the third was the strength of his marriage to his wife, Rachel. All three are movingly portrayed in the movie.
Bravery. Self-control. Strong and powerful. Determination. Never giving up. This is how the middle schoolers remembered Jackie Robinson. Wouldn’t we all want to be remembered in this way? We don’t need to be national icons to exhibit these qualities. What we do need though is strength of personal character, a strong moral compass, and strong, supportive relationships.