By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief
NEW YORK – The late, great writer, reporter and columnist Shelby Strother once wrote in a Christmas Day column, “Remember this – the present is sometimes confused with the package it comes wrapped in. Sometimes the gift is simply the freedom to imagine. There may be no greater one.”
Imagine that and you’ll be given some very subtle insight into the secret of “The Way Back,” a motion picture opening in theaters across America on March 6th.
There’s nothing worse than movie reviews. I find them useless as a movie-goer and challenging as a writer. In the few motion picture reviews I’ve elected to write, I refuse to provide anything close to a “spoiler” nor a rating.
I just won’t do it.
What’s one man’s delicacy is another man’s stew.
Motion picture reviews set a bar of expectation that can only ruin one of the great experiences of entertainment – the feeling you get as a film begins and the producer/director begins to tell a story, usually with visuals and scenery and his camera accompanied by some introductory credits. He’s spent millions of dollars to produce the film and he/she’s telling it just for you!
In “The Way Back,” you are introduced to Jack Cunningham, played by Academy Award winner Ben Affleck, and you are putting 108 minutes of your life into the hands of Gavin O’Connor, the film’s capable director who once brought you “The Accountant,” “Warrior,” and “Miracle,” (which chronicled in a fictional reminder of what happened to the USA men’s ice hockey team at the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games 40 years ago.
Jack Cunningham is a one-time (1993-94) high school star basketball player, living his life as a construction worker in San Pedro, California – the same town he attended high school in years ago. He is asked to step in and coach the team he once played on.
That’s all I’m going to write about the film.
I’ll provide a little insight into what NOT to expect as you sit down to experience this motion picture.
Do NOT expect:
- Hoosiers – with its Gene Hackman storybook moments.
- Rocky II – with its tear-jerking “Win” and “What’re We Waitin’ For” moments.
- Blue Chips – with its Nick Nolte journey into the dark side of college basketball, (although Affleck does a hell of a Nolte impression).
“The Way Back” is a far deeper dive and it utilizes the vehicle of basketball (sport) as a metaphor for the challenges of life, not the W/L’s of a high school team.
“What attracted me to this project was the fact it was a very compelling drama,” said Affleck to a small round-table of sports-focused media last Saturday in downtown New York, a little more than 94-feet from City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge.
“Ultimately, I thought it was kind of a universal, everyman type of a story, like facing adversity and how you deal with that. Sports is a great metaphor for that because sports is something so many people can ‘access,’ because they know what it’s like to have to practice, to work hard, face challenges to grow and evolve.
“I liked the idea of having a relationship with this group of young guys (actors who play on Jack Cunningham’s team). I had never played a coach. I had never played a mentor and, being around them, it reminded me of what it was like when I was 19, trying to audition and break-in and talking to actors who are up for the same roles.”
“One thing I liked about this relationship, the coach got as much out of it as the players did,” noted Affleck.
After watching “The Way Back,” it literally took a day or two to sink-in, but I suddenly realized, I got more out of the film than the coach and the players combined.
Here Now, The Notes: The New York Giants have expressed interest in pursuing Tom Brady, the NFL Network reported. … The Giants join the Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders as potential suitors for the soon-to-be free agent quarterback if he does not re-sign with the New England Patriots. … New York drafted Daniel Jones with the No. 6 overall pick in 2019. The rookie completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 3,027 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 12 starts (3-9 record) after replacing veteran Eli Manning. … But first-year head coach Joe Judge would not commit to Jones as his starter earlier this week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. … Judge has a relationship with Brady, having spent the last eight seasons on Bill Belichick’s coaching staff in New England. And the Giants have deep pockets, with a reported $74 million in cap space available. … Brady, 42, who lost to the Giants twice in the Super Bowl, passed for 4,057 yards, 24 TDs and eight picks in his 20th season with the Patriots in 2019. … The three-time MVP and six-time Super Bowl champion ranks No. 2 all-time in passing yards (74,571) and touchdown passes (541).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston not only underwent LASIK eye surgery this offseason, he also needed a torn meniscus repaired, NFL Network reported. … It’s not clear when the knee procedure was done on Winston, who last season became the first player in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in a season. … JP Peterson, the host of a Tampa Bay-area radio show, apparently was the first person to report the news of both surgeries on Feb. 11. … “Jameis has had LASIK surgery,” Peterson said. “He’s finally gotten LASIK surgery and he had a torn meniscus repaired in his knee that he was playing with for a few games.” … NFL Network reported Friday the torn meniscus needed to be trimmed. Winston, who late in the season was on Tampa Bay injury reports with a knee injury, also had a hairline fracture in his throwing thumb. He still managed to start every game during the regular season. Winston led the NFL in passing yards (5,109), attempts (626) and interceptions (30) and set a career high with 33 touchdown passes in 16 games in 2019.
In NFL scheduling, the Arizona Cardinals will play one of the club’s eight regular-season games in 2020 in Mexico City, with the Cardinals to learn next month the date and opponent for the NFL International Series contest. … The Cardinals played in the first NFL game in Mexico City in 2005. … “Two years ago when the NFL awarded Super Bowl LVII to Arizona and State Farm Stadium, we understood the requirement of hosting an international game before 2023,” Cardinals chairman and president Michael Bidwill said in a statement. “We are thrilled to learn that this game will take place at Estadio Azteca where we received such an enthusiastic reception in 2005. We are extremely grateful for the support we receive from fans in Mexico and look forward to an incredible experience.” … All opponents have been determined for the NFL’s 32 teams. The candidates to play the Cardinals in Mexico are the NFC West rivals — Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams — in addition to the Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. … The Cardinals beat the 49ers, 31-14, in front of a then-NFL record crowd of 103,467 in 2005.
Diamond Dust-Ups: A bipartisan group from Congress is leading the drive to see the late Curt Flood elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 50 years after he challenged the power of Major League Baseball owners. … This past Thursday, Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) held a news conference in Washington, D.C., urging the Golden Era Committee to elect Flood when it meets in December. More than 100 lawmakers signed a letter in support that was sent to Jane Forbes Clark, chairwoman of the Hall of Fame. … For you youngsters out there, Flood was a center fielder with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1958-69 and was part of two World Series-winning teams. A three-time All-Star, he won seven straight Gold Glove Awards (1963-69). … Following the 1969 season, the Cardinals traded Flood to Philadelphia. In December of that year, Flood sent a letter to commissioner Bowie Kuhn, refusing the trade on the grounds that the reserve clause, which gave teams control over players, wasn’t right. … The following month, he sued Kuhn. And while the courts ruled in favor of the commissioner, Flood’s actions led to the game-changing concept of free agency in 1975. (See: Seitz Decision: Messersmith 1975)
“Curt Flood changed the game of baseball when he courageously spoke truth to power in the name of what was right,” Trone said. “Flood sacrificed his own career so players after him could have free agency, leaving one of the biggest impacts on the game to this day. It’s about time we all come together to recognize these distinctly American actions and induct Curt Flood into the Hall of Fame.” … Blunt agreed. … “A copy of the letter Curt Flood wrote in 1969 is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and he should be there too,” Blunt said. “As a lifelong Cardinals fan, I have always admired the talent he brought to the game and his bravery off the field. He deserves to be honored with his rightful place alongside America’s greatest baseball players.” … The legislators were joined Thursday by representatives from the players unions from other major sports, who are backing the effort. … “Curt Flood’s historic challenge of the reserve clause a half century ago transcended baseball,” the associations representing NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS and NHL players said in a statement posted to social media. “He courageously sacrificed his career to take a stand for the rights of all players in professional sports, bringing the issue of free agency to the forefront of national discussion.” … Flood sat out the 1970 season, and that November, he was traded to the Washington Senators. He agreed to a contract with the Senators but played just 13 games in 1971 before retiring. … He had a career .293 batting average and hit 271 doubles and 85 home runs to go with 636 RBIs. … His name appeared on the Baseball Writers Association of America Hall of Fame ballot 15 times. In his final year of eligibility in 1996, Flood gained 15.1 percent of the vote. … Flood died in 1997, just two days after his 59th birthday, of complications of throat cancer.
Major League Baseball achieved historic diversity with its umpiring staff on Thursday, naming Kerwin Danley the first black crew chief and Alfonso Marquez the first Latino-born crew chief. Danley, 58, is a 23-year veteran who has worked two World Series (2008 and 2018). … Marquez, 47, was born in Mexico and has been umpiring in the majors for 20 years with three World Series assignments (2006, 2011 and 2015). … The league also promoted Dan Iassogna and Jim Reynolds to crew chief positions and announced the retirements of former crew chiefs Gary Cederstrom, Dana DeMuth, Mike Everitt and Jeff Kellogg. … Five new full-time umpires will join the major league ranks in 2020, including Ramon De Jesus, the first Dominican-born ump. Nic Lentz, Ryan Blakney, Chris Segal and Jansen Visconti also earned full-time positions.
Jack McCormick has assumed the role of Senior Director, Club Relations, for the Boston Red Sox. … McCormick enters his 32nd season with the Red Sox, having spent the previous 24 years as Senior Director, Team Travel. In his new role, McCormick will be involved in alumni relations and represent the Club at various baseball-related functions, ceremonies and charitable events, while advising Mark Cacciatore on team travel matters. This will be his 52nd season working at Fenway Park, a stretch that began in 1969 during his time with the Boston Police Department. … The Sox also made personnel moves for Sports Medicine, Player Development, Baseball Analytics, International and Amateur Scouting,
Digital Sports Desk posts a once-a-week Sunday Notes column entitled: “While We’re Young Ideas.” It’s a throwback of sorts to the days when sportswriting and the baseball beat were the best jobs in the entire sports industry, maybe the entire world. One of those sportswriters was named Dick Young and he wrote “Young Ideas” with a “Diamond Dust” section for notes and quotes. … We continue that tradition with respect and welcome feedback and suggestions (psst, they call ’em pitches) for mentions within “While We’re Young Ideas” or Digital Sports Desk. Please follow and encourage (at least) another person or two to plug into (@DigSportsDesk) (@WhileYoungIdeas) and (@terrylyons).