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 The “Cops” Blog-A-Thon.” This is all about commemorating National Police Week, this one is all about your favorite big or small screen cops. This event is being hosted by yours truly, Dubsism.
This movies starts as a tale of three rookie cops and the relationships between them and their training officers. The one of the most import to this film is that between rookie cop Roy Fehler (played by Stacy Keach) and 25-year veteran Andy Kilvinski (played by George C. Scott).
For all intents and purposes, the marriage of Fehler and Kilvinski seems a perfect one. Fehler is a “book-smart” guy; he intends to attend law school, whereas his training office speaks in “Kilvinski’s Law;” pearls of wisdom which are reminiscent of Euclidean geometry postulates, but actually are rooted in his quarter-century acquiring a post-doctorate level of “street wise.”
The best example of this comes when Kilvinski applies his law to what he considers to be the pointlessness of prostitution laws. One night, instead of subjecting a bunch of workling goirls to fines they can easily afford, and to avoid hours filling out paperwork which will ultimately mean nothing, he rounds up a paddy wagon full of hookers, plies them with liquor and drives them around all night. They can’t work, Kilvinski doesn’t have to actually arrest them, and according to “Kilvinski’s Law,” that’s a victory because going through the usual procedure nets the same result; the hookers are only not working the street for that night.
While the relationship between Fehler and Kilvinski grows, Fehler’s marriage begins to fall apart. Dorothy Fehler (played by Jane Alexander) becomes disillusioned with Roy’s increasing love of being a cop. As a result, he neglects his family and drops out of law school. A major turning point occurs during a convenience store holdup when Roy tells a couple in an illegally-parked car to move. The problem he doesn’t realize this is the “get-away car” for the robbery, and he ends up taking a shotgun blast.
Despite the severity of his physical injury, Roy gradually recovers but there is some major psychological trauma coming. First, the rookie cops hit their one-year anniversary as police officers; at the same time Kilvinski marks his 25th, which means mandatory retirement. Not only does Roy lose his mentor, he is re-assigned to the vice squad. That is the final blow for his wife Dorothy who leaves him.
With his mentor and family gone from his life, Roy sinks into depression and begins drinking on the job. On the bright side, Roy responds to a burglary call; the victim happens to be a nurse named Lorrie (played by Rosalind Cash) who helped him during his recovery from shooting. It becomes clear a relationship is forming between Ray and Lorrie, but in a classic “one step forward , two steps back” scenario, later during that same shift, Roy botches an encounter with a prostitute which leaves him clinging for life to the hood of her car as she speeds away. Somehow, he avoids serious injury and/or death, but the resulting investigation reveals he was drunk on duty; an infraction for which he draws a three-week suspension.
Lorrie helps Roy recover from his bumps and bruises, and their burgeoning relationship seems to help Roy rediscover his sense of self. Meanwhile, Kilvinski makes a return to the station from his retirement because he lonely and misses police work. He also subtly imports a lesson he has learned in retirement to the young cops. Kilvinski regrets never having spent more time on his personal life, and Roy identifies with that having already lost his wife and child.
As such, Roy’s involvement with Lorrie continues to grow, spurred by what happened to Kilvinski as a constant reminder of the value of personal relationships.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
To counter the brutal darkness of this movie…yes, certain events were omitted for the purpose of avoiding spoilers…today’s hidden sports analogy is decidedly lighter. Like this movie, the 1987 Minnesota Twins are an exercise in young talent nurtured by veteran experience.
When one thinks of George C. Scott movies, 99.9999% of the first responses will be either “Patton” or “Dr. Strangelove.” I’m in that group as well; how can you not love either those films? But it is “The New Centurions” that really drove Scott to #3 on my list of favorite actors. Scott’s “Andy Kilvinski” is the glue that holds this movie together; Scott’s masterful blend of comedy and tragedy made Kilvinski the perfect mentor for the cast of young cops. At the point Kilvinski leaves the movie, it doesn’t take long to see his departure is going to have detrimental consequences.
In 1987, the Minnesota Twins were that great young cast of rookie talent mixed with veteran leaders, but they didn’t have that one guy who made everything gel like Kilvinski did. That was until they pulled off a trade deadline acquisition of Don Baylor. Baylor was a previous league Most Valuable Player, and had just been to the World Series the year before with the Boston Red Sox.
Baylor’s career with the Twins lasted only regular season games and seven post-season games, but like Kilvinski, his impact was immeasurable. Despite the fact he batted .286 over the final month of the season, he didn’t have many big moments on the field. However, he clearly had an impact. Having won a World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979, Hall-of-Famer Bert Blyleven provided that Kilvinskian veteran leadership to the pitching staff; Baylor brought it for the bats. The Twins offense was based around sluggers Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, and future Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett. But Baylor taught them how to win.
The Twins sorely needed this veteran leadership as their manager was in his first full season as manager. While Tom Kelly turned out be a pretty damn good manager, at the time he really had no major league experience; Baylor was three years Kelly’s senior and was in the 18th season in the bigs. Another Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan once said that Baylor acted like a manager when he was a player and he knew that Baylor would eventually be a major-league skipper.
That became crystal-clear during the Twins’ run to the 1987 World Series title. It would be nearly impossible to overstate Baylor’s importance to Kelly and the Twins in 1987. That became even clearer in 1988 after Baylor’s departure when the Twins missed the post-season entirely. By 1990, Baylor was out of baseball and the Twins had reverted to being a last-place team.
The Moral of The Story:
Pay attention to your elders. They’ve learned stuff you need to know.
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