From Gunga Din to Ray Lewis and T.O., talk 'o football and folly
Posted: Friday November 19, 2004 2:26PM; Updated: Friday November 19, 2004 5:12PM
First a desperate, rather frantic e-mail from Alfred G. of Santa Monica, Calif.: "Did you really interview Paul Brown during Don Shula's rookie year, and then JimLee Howell? Or were you just having a joke?"
Having a joke.
E-mailer of the Week. An easy choice, as it always is when someone plugs into an obsession -- in this case a personal obsession with Gunga Din. From Bruce Leslie of Bedford, Mass.:.
"Another image of Gunga Din flashed through my mind. When Cary Grant is locked up, he asks Gunga Din for a tool to break out. Din brings him a dinner fork, but when Grant asks for something bigger, Din brings an elephant. Maybe the Dolphins need to put Din in charge of player acquisition."
Well said, sir. Step forward and claim your honorarium. Have I spelled that right? Your honorium, uh, honorrhea. Your prize. Why am I so obsessed with that movie? (The elephant's name is Annie, by the way, and when Din, played by Sam Jaffe, brings Cary Grant the fork, Grant says, "I don't want to break out of a bloomin' pudding!") Because it was not only a rip-roaring adventure story, but it was loaded with double entendres, many of a very clever political nature.
One of the great screenplays in movie history, and for good reason, too. Just look at the writers who collaborated -- Fred Guiol, Joel Sayre, who wrote that funny football story called Rackety Rax that I mentioned a few columns ago, about how the mob creates a team, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, a legendary duo for many years, and, catch this, uncredited but nevertheless in the lineup, William Faulkner.
An example of a political double entendre? Well the movie came out in 1939, when a fear of all things Asian was sweeping the country. The Yellow Peril, for example, was a famous phrase of the Hearst papers. Toward the end of GungaDin, Cary Grant and the other two sergeants, as well as Din, are holding the guru, who is a thuggee, a leader of an Indian sect, hostage -- or it could be said, vice-versa -- on the rampart of the tower, which is pure gold. Grant, calculating the value of the thing, says to the guru, "You torturer, setting that in front of me eyes. Is there no limit to the cruelty of the Oriental mind?" A putdown of the national hysteria. The movie was full of stuff like that. Thank you for tuning in, Mr. Leslie.
Oh yes, one more reference. In my early years of employment at SportsIllustrated, I tried to slip a Gunga Din quote into one of my stories -- "Who is this ugly little savage to snarl so boldly at the British lion?" Naturally, it got chopped immediately, and for a while I was subjected to very strange looks. Who is this ugly little person we hired? Etc.
I thought my rankings would be demolished at a fast and furious pace, but either the rippers are hibernating or Andrew took pity, because only one is included, and here he is: Kent of Regina, Sasketchewan, signs off as, "Once an ally, now an enemy." Oh man, c'mon now. You can't kiss off your allies so quickly. What if we would have done that in World War II, for instance? My treatment of the Bears has ended our alliance. Calls me crazy, Kent does. OK, after three weeks in October, they were sitting at 1-5 and had just benched their back-up QB in favor of a guy who went 9-for-19 for 69 yards and a pick. I had them last in my rankings and no one was complaining.
Then they beat the 49ers, clinching it on a long interception return, during which the guy fell down, got up, ran for the score, amid furious protests from the Niners -- one of the few teams with as many problems as the Bears -- that he had been touched down. Touched down nullifies touchdown, ha ha. Z lifts Chicago three places, up to No. 29. Then came a win over the Giants in which the QB, Krenzel, was 8-for-21, but Kurt Warner and the New Yorkers were even worse. OK, up to 27 they go, moving ahead of two other teams with three wins, same as them.
Following came a victory over the crippled Titans, the game being resolved on a rare safety in OT. Up to 24 they go. Detroit, another 4-5 team, is ranked lower. OK, I agree with you right now that they should be higher. If I had it to do over again, I'd probably have the Bears ahead of Cleveland, maybe one or two others. But in my judgment they're kind of a lopsided team, decent on defense but still deficient in the QB department. I've already written that Alex Brown is probably the best DE in football at this point.
Finally, Kent's suggestion that I use statistics to rank teams. A very rank suggestion. That's exactly what I'm trying to get away from. Yardage? Nah, there's always meaningless gimme yardage at the end of games. Point differential, which is very big among the computer-ranking set? Fooey! One blowout sets you up for the season. I hope this answers your questions, Kent, and perhaps you'd reconsider that enemies pronouncement, especially since I feel that Regina is one of the prettiest and friendliest places I've ever visited, and Linda, I see you shaking your head and wagging your finger at me, and just cut it out, OK?
A nice selection of readers has joined my anti-NFL militia. Ross of Empire, Mich., can't stand the hypocrisy, the sleaze of some of the promotions, then the Red Alert concerning GerardWarren's quote. Charles of Arlington, Texas, feels that it's presumptuous of the league to try to legislate intensity. Yeah, I'm with you except when you list Conrad Dobler in your gallery of heroes. Uh, no. A filthy player. Used to tape metal strips to his calves so his leg whip could do more damage. Put a lot of people out that way. Eric of Providence, R.I., says the league over-reacted to one guy's trash talk, and Liam of Washington D.C. had such an interesting take on the Warren quote that he's gonna get a whole paragraph to himself.
Why couldn't one take the quote, "Kill the head and the body dies," to mean, he asks, if you kill the head of the team the body of it, i.e., the team itself, dies? This is what we need more of from our e-mailers: Analytical thinking. Symbolism and plenty of it. Of course you and I both know, Liam, that it's a real long shot that Gerard is given to symbolic thinking, but I love your take on it.
And my summation? Well, I've said it often enough. The league is into promotion and image, and there are few people in that office who either love or care about the game itself. You just have to understand their take on things. They're not bad folks. I get along just fine with some of them.
While I've got the aforementioned Liam in my sights, let me try to answer his second question, about why a highly productive back such as Shaun Alexander doesn't seem to have much of a following. I don't know. Next question. I see the Flaming Redhead becoming a Flaming Redface ... come on, Linda, I was only kidding. There's just something about him. It seems to come too easily ... "smooth" might be the word. There's no struggle, no anguish. He's kind of like Eric Dickerson, a glider, although Dickerson was faster. It's a puzzler, isn't it?
Ben of Phoenix wants to know what I thought about T.O. and the Monday night intro. Dare I admit this? I don't watch the first few minutes. I can't stand Hank Williams, Jr., and all that crap. The game's on Ch. 7 in the New York city area, I flip it one notch higher, to Ch. 8, which is WNJN, the New jersey educational channel, watch a few minutes, and if it's something really interesting, such as the feature they had on the Inca remains in Jersey City, I tape it on my second VCR, and then flip the switch back to ABC just in time to see Michele Tafoya asking some coach for his game plan. Is this, like, the squarest thing you've ever heard? I'm sure everybody out there is shaking his or her or its head. Sorry, but I never got to see that blockbuster intro the whole world's talking about, and, honestly, nah, I won't say I couldn't care less because that sounds too smug. Let's make it positive ... I could care less, how's that?