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 Fourth Annual Doris Day Blog-A-Thon being hosted by Love Letters To Old Hollywood. She’s a film blogger whose profile says she’s an Indiana native, and I’m a transplant to the Hoosier state. So, hopefully when I participate in one of her blog-a-thons, she gets a little feeling of being “Back Home Again In Indiana.”
Forgive me for the gratuitous Jim Nabors/Indiana reference, but I couldn’t think of a better sports-related lead-in for this slice of 1960’s nostalgia….espeically when you get to the end of this installment’s hidden sports analogy.
You can see all the contributors to this blog-a-thon here:
The subject of this blog-a-thon plays Abby McClure, a widow with three sons and a lumberyard left by her late husband. Abby has a sister Maxine (played by Pat Carroll) who is also an amateur if not relentless match-maker. As such, Maxine tricks Abby into calling a widower she knows named Jake Iverson (played by Brian Keith) and inviting him to the dinner party she is having that night. Jake is already being pursued by femme fatale Cleo (played by Elaine Devry); a pursuit in which Jake is not interested. Already weary of one woman chasing him, Jake is put off by Maxine’s match-making. Jake conjures up an excuse to leave, and does just that.
But later that night, Jake gets caught in his lie when he runs into Abby at a supermarket. There’s clearly a spark, and they agree to meet a drive-in run by a wise-ass named Herbie (played by George Carlin). Here’s where the romance begins; the two are there until 2 A.M. However, the burgeoning romance is immediately in disfavor with Jake’s teenage daughter Stacey (played by Barbara Hershey) and Abby’s three sons Flip, Mitch, and Jason (played by John Findlater, Jimmy Bracken, and Richard Steele respectively). The uncooperative, even obstructionist behavior of all the children means neither Jake nor Abby can be comfortable at the other’s home. As neutral and distraction-free territory, the drive-in becomes where the romance fully blooms. Now that Jake and Abby are in love, they decide to elope. They don’t tell the children they have married until the next day when they are discovered together in bed.
Now that they are what we call today a “blended family,” the battling really begins. Abby’s three sons are in a constant state of conflict with Jake’s overly-possessive daughter, although Filp and Stacey are in agreement on their vehement opposition to the idea of having a “step-parent.” Even the pets, Abby’s sheepdog and Jake’s poodle, are incompatible. To top it all off, neither Jake or Abby’s house is large enough to house the newly-blended clan and Abby’s live-in maid Molly (played by Alice Ghostley), forcing them to borrow a camper and use it as a temporary bedroom.
However, one night Jake and Abby have an argument; as a result the next morning Abby drives off in a huff after dumping Jake out wearing only his boxer shorts. Jake finally gets Herbie to lend him some clothes and drive him back to his house. This is when Abby returns to her house only to find Jake gone. She heads for the drive-in, where she meets a band of hippies she recruits to join in the search for Jake. But along the way, Abby’s camper collides with a truck full of chickens. As a result, Abby and the hippies are arrested.
But when Jake hears of the accident, he and the children rush to Abby’s aid, but somehow they manage to collide with the exact same truck full of chickens. The truck driver loses his mind and attacks Jake, but the children and the pets unite and spring to his defense. Once they get to the police station, Abby, Jake and the children reconcile and literally become one big, happy family.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
Blending two families into one isn’t easy. Neither is blending the world of sports fans and classic cinema buffs, but I keep beating my head on that wall. Considering that, imagine trying to merge rival sports leagues. Leagues have successfully merged before,, but no birth of a new hybrid league had more labor pains than did the 1976 merger between the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA).
It didn’t take long watching Abby and Jake in the drive-in to know a marriage was inevitable. Owners of the both the NBA and ABA could see that a merger was coming because the moribund economy of 1970s America meant both leagues had some money problems. But like Abby and Jake’s children and pets, the players weren’t keen on the idea of a merger. Unlike Abby and Jake’s kids, the player’s union had lawyers.
At the time, Oscar Robertson was de facto royalty amongst the players, and lending his name to the players union’s lawsuit against the owners gave it a major level of gravitas. As such Robertson v. National Basketball Association could not be simply swept aside. The player’s argument was that competing leagues were driving up player’s salaries, so the league’s merger created an anti-trust problem. From the time it was filed in 1970 until it was settled in February 1976, the lawsuit prevented any merger from taking place.
Once the lawsuit was behind them, the merger which had taken years was completed in a matter of months. By June 1976 it was all over, but not before the ABA had considerably weakened it’s bargaining position through it’s own in-fighting. While The NBA’s financial situation was bad, thing for the ABA were downright dire. As rough as things were for the established NBA, they were still better off than upstart ABA, which is why prior to the 1975–76 season the ABA’s Denver Nuggets and New York Nets tried to jump ship to the NBA.
Don’t forget that at this point, the merger was anything but a certainty, and the ABA was starting to look like a sinking ship. The attempted defection of the Nets and Nuggets created a lot of bad blood in the ABA as it made the owners of those two teams look like the first rats heading for the lifeboats. What heightened the sense of urgency and despair for the ABA owners it the fact that any merger might mean the dissolution of some of their clubs as the two leagues did overlap in many markets/regions.
Several of those clubs ended up having decisions made for them due to their financial condition. The ABA franchises in San Diego and Utah folded at the end of 1975. The Memphis franchise relocated to start 1976 as the Baltimore Claws, but they went belly-up after only three pre-season games in 1976. Finally the Virginia Squires, who had been one of the league’s poorest performing teams threw in the towel early in 1976.
By the time the two leagues consummated the merger in June 1976, there were only six remaining ABA franchises. As part of the merger, the NBA accepted four of them to join the new hybrid league; the Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers, the New York (now Brooklyn) Nets, and the San Antonio Spurs. The Kentucky Colonels and the Spirits of St. Louis were folded and their players were put into a dispersal draft.
After all the acrimony, now finally the ABA and the NBA are one big, happy league…
That only leaves us with the foreshadowed connection to the home state of this blog-a-thon’s host. In the nine-year history of the American Basketball Association, no team appeared in more ABA Finals (5) or won more championships (3) than the Indiana Pacers.
Frankly, I think it is entirely possible the 1973-74 Pacers may very well have been the best team in professional basketball, period.
Come at me, bro…
The Moral of the Story:
Sports…right up there with politics for making strange bed-fellows.
P.S. Fans of the “The Brady Bunch” will immediately see this movie’s role in the inspiration of that show. After all, Allan Melvin appears in both.
P.P.S. Speaking of 70s sit-coms, fans of M*A*S*H are bound to see some familiar faces in this film…
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