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 Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blog-A-Thon being hosted by Once Upon A Screen. This isn’t the first blog-a-thon I’ve done with her; I took part last year in a blog-a-thon dedicated to character actors. Hopefully, this won’t be the last time I get to participate in one of her projects!
To see all the participants in this blog-a-thon, click here.
Off the bat, let me explain how this movie qualifies for a Hispanic Heritage blog-a-thon. When I saw the announcement for this event, I went back through the archives of Dubsism to see how many Hispanic actors have been in movies I’ve done in my series Sports Analogies Hidden in Classic Movies. The most recent featured NFL Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz’ cameo in 1983’s “The Right Stuff.” There’s also been Esai Morales in “Bad Boys,” and Jose Ferrer in “The Caine Mutiny,.” and most notably for this blog Joe Kapp in the original “The Longest Yard,”
But the one actor who shows up two times is Erik Estrada, having been in both “The New Centurions” and “Airport 1975.” Today, I’m going to complete the Erik Estrada 1970’s trifecta by doing 1976’s “Midway”…and there’s a reason for that. I’ll get to that in a minute.
As far as “Midway” is concerned, the film chronicles the pivotal battle in World War II in the Pacific. The Japanese had gone largely unchecked in its advance across the Pacific, and after the damage inflicted on the American navy at Pearl Harbor, they out-numbered the American naval forces by four to one. That meant at the beginning of 1942, the garrisons at Midway and the Hawaiian Islands were one of the last bulwarks against a Japanese invasion of the American mainland.
“Midway” opens with the “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo in April 1942 and follows the progression of the early days of the Pacific war to the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, all of which serves as the run-up to the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Due to the aforementioned Japanese advantage in naval assets, the Americans are forced to rely on a battle plan centered on cunning and deception.
What the Japanese don’t know is that their communication code has been compromised, allowing the Americans to use a bit of chicanery to discover what the objective of the Japanese attack is. While Admiral Nimitz (played by Henry Fonda) has a hunch the target is Midway Island, he orders a fake message to be sent about Midway’s water supply. The subsequent Japanese response confirm’s Nimitz’ suspicion. Nimitz then sets up his own ambush of the Japanese flotilla, destroying four aircraft carriers and effectively ending the Japanese ability to threaten the American mainland.
For some reason, the makers of this movie felt the the story line of one of the defining battles in all of American history didn’t have enough heft to carry a film. They injected two sub-plots; one of which actually matters to the story, and the other which never feels like more than “slapped in for no real reason.” The one that matters to this movie centers on Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (played by Toshiro Mifune), and how he was always reluctant to attack the Americans at Pearl Harbor for fear they were awakening a “sleeping giant.” Yamamoto also was wary of an invasion of the American west coast knowing that “there would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” As such, throughout this movie, Yamamoto always has this “sixth sense” about Nimitz and the Americans like “Darth Vader” when he senses Obi-Wan Kenobi is on the Death Star. Like Vader, Yamamoto’s sense of danger comes to fruition.
Then there’s the sub-plot this movie could have easily lived without. This one revolves around Captain Matt Garth (played by Charlton Heston) and his son Ensign Thomas Garth (played by Edward Albert). Like “Chili Bean” Ramos, they are both naval aviators who will be in this battle. Captain Garth is a senior officer who is involved in various phases of the American planning and execution of their battle plan, while Ensign Garth is new aviator who is romantically involved with an American-born daughter of Japanese immigrants, Haruko Sakura (played by Christina Kokubo).
Obviously, this sub-plot was intended to illustrate the plight of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War, but they totally putted short of the cup. If you’re going to delve into that subject, either go big or don’t go. This movie simply wasn’t the platform for going there.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
Judging by the casting of the 2019 re-make of “Midway,” the makers of this movie learned the lesson, neither of the Garths or Haruko Sakura are listed. But there’s another omission which trips my radar. The IMDB page for the cast of this movie doesn’t list the “Chili Bean” Ramos character in the cast. While one can say that “Chili Bean” Ramos was a minor character and that’s why he was omitted from the movie, but I also can’t help but wonder in today’s “cancel culture” somebody, somewhere has a problem with the name “Chili Bean.” I would love to think that isn’t the case, but like Toshiro Mifune’s “Yamamoto,” I sense danger.
Now, if somebody in the know calls me and says “no, that’s not the case” then all this is much ado about nothing. However, if my “Spidey-Sense” proves to be correct, the removal of “Chili Bean” Ramos is today’s hidden sports analogy…one founded for the namesake of one of our Dubsy Awards. The Joe Kapp Award for Being Run Out Of Town is given annually to a figure in the sports world who…just as the name implies…got run out of town for one reason or another.
For purposes of the Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blog-A-Thon, it is important to know that Joe Kapp was an American football quarterback who led the University of California Golden Bears to the Rose Bowl in 1959. Despite being an All-American and leading the nation in offense, Kapp was not drafted or signed by any National Football League (NFL) teams.
This was largely because the quarterback position was reserved for whites; minorities weren’t thought to possess the needed intelligence or the leadership qualities. The dirty little secret was that Kapp was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico to a father of German heritage and a Latina mother whose maiden name was Garcia. As no American teams were interested in Kapp, he spent the first eight years of his professional career in the Canadian Football League (CFL) with the Calgary Stampeders and the British Columbia Lions.
In 1967, the Minnesota Vikings were led by general manager Jim Finks and head coach Bud Grant, both of whom had been involved with the CFL and knew Kapp was a top-flight quarterback. They engineered a trade between the CFL and the NFL to obtain the rights to Kapp, who led the Vikings to the NFL Championship in 1969.
Kapp’s “tough guy” style of play led to several less-than-politically correct nicknames, such as “Injun Joe,” “Chicano Joe,” or my personal favorite, “Zorba the Viking.” But just like I say about movies, that was a different time…and with different norms.
Kapp embraced the nicknames, using them to make sure the world knew he was proud of his Hispanic heritage. But the one thing he didn’t embrace was the NFL trying to screw him out of his money.
Prior to the 1969 championship season, the Vikings had exercised the option clause of his contract, which meant Kapp played that season under the terms of the previous year’s deal, despite the fact he was instrumental in turning the mediocre Vikings into a championship-caliber squad. As a result, Kapp became a free-agent prior to the 1970 season. Again, no NFL teams were interested in Kapp despite the fact he had just led the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl.
Finally in September 1970, the Boston Patriots signed Kapp to a three-year contract for a total value of $500,000, making him the highest paid player in the league at the time. Despite being handsomely paid, Kapp played poorly as did the Patriots, finishing the season with the league’s worst record at 2–12. After the season, the Patriots tried to renege on the deal they made with Kapp by saying it was not a three-yeat deal; rather it was a “pro ‐ tempore agreement” to enable him to play for the Patriots. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle backed up the Patriots, stating Kapp could not work out with the team until he signed a “standard” player’s contract.” Kapp refused, stating he had already signed a contract. Kapp left the Patriots training camp,since he was no longer being paid, and the newspaper headlines exclaimed “Kapp Quits!”
Kapp never played a down of football again; and the NFL became became just like the 2019 re-,make of “Midway.” Be it “Chicano Joe” Kapp or “Chili Bean” Ramos, their absence indicates the presence of a pretty clear message.
The Moral of The Story:
Erasing history for the sake of “political correctness” is as dumb as the racism you’re pretending doesn’t exist. Again, if you’re going to tackle such a subject…go big or don’t go at all.
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