What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is on my list of essential films.
The British Navy of the late 18th Century was hardly what you would call a bastion of human rights. The duty was harsh, the conditions were even worse, and there was no choice as to whether you were joining. There were no “draft dodgers” for the Royal Navy; sailors needed to man His Majesty’s fleet were “recruited” by “press gangs,” which was essentially legalized kidnapping.
Naturally, maintaining order in such conditions was a challenge, but they had no shortage of sheer brutality with which to do it. There were various means for enforcing the law of the Admiralty, such as floggings, being spread-eagled to the rigging, or my personal favorite, keel-hauling. This was a punishment in which a sailor which was to a line looped beneath the ship, then thrown over one side and dragged under the ship’s keel. Since the hull of the ship would invariably be covered in razor-sharp barnacles, there were two option for being keel-hauled; fast or slow. “Fast” meant less time in the water, but also resulted in being run along the nautical cheese-grater that was the bottom of the ship, which generally resulted in life-threatening lacerations, loss of limbs, and even decapitation. “Slow” meant the sailor’s own weight would submerge him to adequate depth to avoid the barnacles, but the longer time in the water more than likely resulted in drowning.
In 1787 under the command of Captain William Bligh. the HMS Bounty leaves England on a two-year mission to pick-up a load of breadfruit trees and deliver them to the West Indies as foodstuffs for British sugar colonies. Along the way, Bligh show he is not only a firm believer in the aforementioned brutality of the British Navy, but he enjoys meting it out. You get a sense of this early in the film when he order the administration of 20 lashes to a man who is already dead.
Bligh’s penchant for cruelty takes no time at all to create friction between himself and first officer Fletcher Christian. This builds throughout the movie via one act of sheer cruelty after another. The relationship between the captain and the first officer continues to deteriorate until Christian catches the ship’s jailer beating a shackled prisoner. This pushes Christian over the edge and drives him to lead the ship’s company in an armed revolt, after which they set Captain Bligh and a few remaining loyal to him adrift in a lifeboat. Despite being cast off in a open boat 3,500 miles from a friendly port, Bligh vows to survive so he can see Christian hanged for mutiny from the highest yardarm in the British Navy.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
There’s more than one in this movie. For example, one could compare Tom Brady winning two out of the last three Super Bowls with teams comprised of little more than himself and 52 chunks of lunch meat to be a feat much like Bligh’s survival at sea for two months in a leaky boat; his masterful skill trumping the fact everybody hates him. But that story is boring because we all know it.
The analogy that really shines from this movie comes as a lesson in leadership, especially in the approach. That’s why sports has a long history of mutiny. The similarity is the sports world is full of Captain Blighs. The difference is the mutineers are rarely as noble as Fletcher Christian. What higher cause was Latrell Sprewell defending when he tried to strangle P.J. Carlesimo? How many times do you think Billy Martin (a guy who beat the shit of his own pitcher) would have loved to set George Steinbrenner adrift? The latest example comes from the Minnesota Vikings, who as only they could do, had a mutiny which wasn’t that much of a mutiny.
Be it the Bounty or the big leagues, the common thread in all mutinies is a rebellion against authority, which rightly or wrongly stems from the administration of discipline. Now, there’s a major difference between a guy who can’t handle having expectations set upon him and a guy who whips dead bodies, but there’s no difference between somebody who can’t accept fair discipline and a wielder of the proverbial “iron fist.” They both eventually will destroy even the best team.
The Moral of the Story:
Discipline is like a good hot sauce. A little goes a long way; too much can get you set adrift.