What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is not on my list of essential films.
NOTE: This installment of Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies is being done as part of something called the “M. Emmet Walsh Blog-A-Thon.” A celebration of all things Walsh on his 84th birthday, about whom Roger Ebert once said “any movie with M. Emmet Walsh in it couldn’t be all bad.” He was spot on with that, hence our celebration of Walsh’s work.
“Fletch” is your prototypical 80s comedy which was essentially Chevy Chase’s “bread and butter.” In that pantheon, this isn’t Chase’s best offering, but short of the original “Vacation,” but it’s my favorite. Chase plays Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher, an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times. The plot centers on his dirt-digging on drug trafficking on the beaches of Los Angeles. While posing as a heroin addict, Fletch is recruited into a murder-for-hire scheme, but he smells the “proverbial rat.”
Fletch’s suspicion is triggered by the fact that Alan Stanwyck (played by Tim Matheson) is hiring Fletch to kill him, not somebody else. Stanwyck offers a covers story that he is suffering from terminal cancer, and wishes to avoid the suffering. Fletch then begins investigating Stanwyck, at which point he discovers the “cancer story” is bogus. Upon further investigation, Fletch uncovers Stanwyck’s financial shenanigans.
Meanwhile, LAPD Chief Jerry Karlin (played by Joe Don Baker) begins to get wise to Fletch’s snooping around the beaches. Karlin admonishes Fletch to drop his investigation as it threatens the police department’s undercover operations aimed at busting the drug dealers. However, when Fletch declines, Karlin threatens to kill him.
As one could understand, getting a death threat might make one wonder what that the threat-maker is hiding. This instinct is obviously ratcheted up in an investigative reporter; as such, Fletch starts checking into Chief Karlin. This is when he witnesses Stanwyk and Chief Karlin making a suspicious briefcase exchange, but he can’t nail down exactly what is happening. However, the fact that he later gets chased out of town by the LAPD tells him he’s onto something big. It is when Fletch goes to Utah to visit Stanwyk’s parents that he uncovers Stanwyk’s scheme, and his relationship with Chief Karlin.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
Hello, I’m Chevy Chase…and you’re not.
During the original days of Saturday Night Live…you know, back when it was still funny…those words didn’t have much meaning to a pre-teen J-Dub. After all, I wasn’t Chevy Chase. It wasn’t until a teen J-Dub saw the 1985 Chase vehicle “Fletch” I realized just how much I had in common with Chase.
First off, we’re both big guys who had a borderline unhealthy fascination with the Los Angeles Lakers. You start to notice this when you realize Fletch has a basketball hoop mounted in his apartment. Guess who else did that in his first bachelor apartment? You guessed it; a post-teen J-Dub.
If that weren’t enough, there’s a “dream/fantasy” sequence which finds a drowsy Fletch on his couch with vision of actually playing for the Lakers. This takes us back to the teen J-Dub, who spent hours upon hours perfect his “Kareem Sky-hook,” all the while entertaining fantasies of growing to be the next great Laker big man.
The problem is that I didn’t make it to 7’2″. I didn’t even make it to Chase’s 6’5″ (6’9″ with the afro). I topped out a smidge over 6′, and with a body more like an olympic weight-lifter than an NBA center. Another difference between Chase and is I do not share in his proclivity for slap-stickish, pratfall-filled physical comedy. However, that fact is washed over by the fact we both still have a sarcastic, biting style for delivering a joke.
But the real kicker in all of this comes in the scene between Fletch and Chief Karlin which really sets the tone for their relationship.
Like Fletch, I share a seething hatred of Tommy Lasorda. I’ve written about that more than once, but this is my favorite.
The Moral of The Story:
Right now, the Lakers could use both me and Chevy Chase.
Also, bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia.
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