Why You Shouldn’t Give a Damn About Athletes and Celebrities

A favorite movie of mine is A Bronx Tale. In a pivotal scene in the movie, the character played by Italian American actor Chazz Palminteri, a gangster named Sonny, has a unique way of comforting a young charge after a Yankees World Series defeat.

The young boy, named Calogero, was upset because Mickey Mantle cried after the heart breaking loss. Sonny, in a rather direct manner, asked why he felt this way – because in a big picture world, Mickey Mantle was a megastar who didn’t give a shit about him, his family, or the struggles they faced every day.

As the boy grew into a man, he never felt the same way about the Yankees again.

The scene has merit – a (perceived) truth was revealed to a boy that couldn’t have comprehended it beforehand. And if Mantle was aloof towards his fans in the ’60s at all, well – he’s got nothing on the modern athlete.

While American families struggled to recover from an economic recession, NBA owners locked out their rank and file players because, much like the NFL before them, they can’t figure out how to divide their billions.

Potential billionaire LeBron James

And while negotiations take place, and the matter eventually gets resolved, please remember that these players, like Mantle decades ago, won’t give a damn about you or your struggles either.

Yes, there are players that care. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints still helps recovering Katrina victims from his home base. Fellow football player Warrick Dunn created a foundation that has purchased many homes for struggling single families. It’s my belief that guys of this caliber are few and far between.

Maybe that’s just perception. We hear so many more stories about players involved in domestic violence, drunken driving, and in the case of Plaxico Burress, literally shooting themselves in the foot. Ironic. We need better from those in the spotlight.

But the athlete, or any celebrity for that matter, is a fallible human being, who’s really not required to care about anything but themselves if that’s their choice.

I am a big Yankee fan. My grandparents loved the Yankees, especially legendary shortstop Phil Rizzuto. I harbor no illusions, though. As much of a fan as I continue to be, I realize the Yankees were, in the past,  the cream of the crop of the spoiled rotten gazillionaire athlete. And that may never change.

But I’ve changed my attitude. And maybe you should too. The next time you arrange your day to spend your hours watching your team’s game and cheer for your favorite player – in lieu of maybe doing something with your family – keep a thought in the back of your mind.

Just like in the movie, Mickey didn’t care.

ARod doesn’t care, and neither does LeBron.

The striking NBA players don’t care about you, just about the bucket loads of cash they will fight tooth and nail over. So return the favor – and don’t care about them so much.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Monday Night Football is on. I’m anxious to see which millionaire plays the hardest tonight….

“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent” – Lorenzo Anello (Robert DeNiro) in “A Bronx Tale”

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Is “The Fighter” The Best In Its Class?

Fans who appreciate movies concerning the “sweet science” of boxing have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal.

When you put the words “boxing” and “movies” together, the first thing that usually pops into the mind of anyone familiar with the two would be the Rocky franchise. I’ve already posted about my admiration for actor-director Sylvester Stallone, and an early obsession with the original Rocky. And the subsequent inspiration it fed me to take on the challenge of losing weight and getting fit in my younger years.

That movie was a definite turning point in the life of this “Average Joe”. It still resonates with me now.

The entire list of franchise sequels (Rocky II-V, Rocky Balboa) that followed were good cinema in their own right, but never really approached the excellence of the original film. As the Best Picture winner at the Oscars in 1976, it propelled Stallone into the stratosphere of Hollywood heavyweight.

Of course, Rocky isn’t the only heavy hitter in the boxing movie genre. Robert DeNiro’s tour de force performance as champion turned loser Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull is a movie I’ve watched repeatedly through the years. DeNiro became Jake LaMotta, training hard to get into fighting shape, then later in the film bloating with excessive weight to display the sad twilight of the fighter’s career.

Ron Howard’s depiction of James J. Braddock in Depression era America in Cinderella Man would have been an inspiring film even without the boxing backdrop. And the cream of the crop might arguably be Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, a formidable film which swept through all the major Academy Award categories.

These movies are not just about the sport of boxing, but about the sport of life and the triumph of the human will.

If I had to rank these films in order of their importance, the list would look like this:

  • Rocky
  • Cinderella Man
  • Raging Bull
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Rocky Balboa

I knew a couple of weeks ago, when The Fighter was released on DVD right after its post-Oscar buzz, I would watch it immediately to see where it would stack up against the movie greats listed above. A true depiction of real life boxer Irish Mickey Ward, I didn’t expect it to measure up to Stallone and DeNiro. Even with the star power of Mark Wahlberg.

I was blown away instead. A staggering movie loaded with once-in-a-lifetime acting performances (see Christian Bale), The Fighter delivered, and then some. Mickey Ward was involved in several of the greatest welterweight matches ever. Even without the boxing and training footage here, this movie would have done him justice.

The is the ultimate against all odds triumph on film, paying homage to films like Rocky.

Sports Illustrated called the film the best sports movie of the decade, and “one of the best since Martin Scorsese backlit Robert DeNiro’s Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull“.

Most interesting to me is the back story to The Fighter. Like Million Dollar Baby before it, the film was rejected by movie studios, even with Mark Wahlberg backing it at the height of his career. But Wahlberg believed in the inevitable outcome that it would be made, and he prepared himself daily for that outcome.

Like Stallone decades before him, Wahlberg refused to give up his dream of making a movie about a once in a lifetime title shot. And I’m glad he did. The Fighter is a movie that compares with Rocky and Raging Bull on an impressive scale…and should inspire viewers with its message of chasing hope and dreams for years to come.