Jackie Robinson and ’42′ deliver needed boost to sports movies

Published: July 1, 2013, 11:59 am, by David Ramsey

Sports movies based on fact are usually only loosely grounded in reality.

“Friday Night Lights” (I’m talking about the movie, not the TV series) turned a superbly reported book into a wildly over-the-top movie that flirted far too often with racism.

“The Express” turned the Ernie Davis story into an excuse to show football violence that compared to combat violence. There is no way Davis, who won the Heisman Trophy before dying far too young, could have survived two quarters of the late hitting he endured in the movie.

“42,” is the story of Jackie Robinson’s first months as the pioneer who busted baseball’s color line. It’s an exciting, though not overblown, examination of a crucial time in sports history and, for that matter, in American history. I had meant to see the movie for weeks. I finally enjoyed this superb show on Saturday.

The movie declines to turn away from Robinson’s struggles, which were very real. He was abused by fans, umpires, opposing managers, and teammates.

But he was helped, too. He found support in his cause. He had comrades. My favorite scene in the movie comes when Robinson is walking down a street in Florida with his wife and a gruff white man approaches them. Robinson understandably expects trouble.

But the white man only wants to offer a simple, plain-spoken statement of support. This is a happy surprise for Robinson.

And for me, too. “42″ is powerful and truthful and subtle.