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 Joan Collins Blog-a-thon being hosted by Gill from RealWeegieMidget Reviews. This is the tenth event in which I’ve participated where she was either the host or co-host, including the time we held the Send In The Marines blog-a-thon together. In fact, the Disaster Blog-a-thon I held with Quiggy from the Midnite Drive-In was completely Gill’s idea. That’s why I’m sure this won’t be the last time I work with her; she comes up with too many great topics!
Jim Douglass (played by Gregory Peck) is a man on a mission. Six months ago, he was a rancher doing rancher things until his wife was murdered by a gang of outlaws. From then on, Douglass stopped being a rancher and became a man set on revenge.
On his quest, he rides into the nearby town of Rio Arriba where four men fitting the description of his wife’s killers are in jail awaiting being hanged. Douglass is not allowed to enter the jail, so he is taken to see Sheriff Eloy Sanchez (played by Herbert Rudley). The Sherriff allows Douglas to confront the four men; Alfonso Parral (played Lee Van Cleef), Bill Zachary (played by Stephen Boyd), Ed Taylor (played by Albert Salmi) and Lujan (played by Henry Silva). Douglas believes these are the men who killed his wife, but they deny ever having seen him before.
Since this town has never held an execution, they bring from another town a hangman named Simms (played by Joe DeRita). He arrives in Rio Arriba the same day as Douglas; the relationship between the two is immediately chilly.
Later, Douglass re-unites with a woman named Josefa Velarde (played by Joan Collins) whom he had meet five years earlier in New Orleans. Then, Josefa had been filling her time hunting for a husband, but now she’s in this area tending to her father’s ranch after he passed away. In turn, Douglass reveals that he has since married, but is now a widower with a daughter. However, Josefa doesn’t discover the true nature of his widower status until the local priest (played by Andrew Duggan) tells her how Douglass’ wife died.
The big plot twist comes when the executioner Simms proves to be an impostor. While pretending to evaluate the men he is supposedly to hang, Simms stabs Sheriff Sanchez. A struggle ensues, during which the Sheriff kills Simms. But during the struggle, the four inmates manage to get the Sheriff’s keys and escape, taking a hostage with them.
Despite the fact he’s wounded, Sheriff Sanchez staggers into the church service to warn the townspeople that the prisoners have escaped. A posse is immediately formed to hunt down the escapees, but Douglass refuses to join them. The posse engages in the classic western trope of “heading them off at the pass.”
Later, Douglass sets out on his own to track down the fugitives. But they reach the pass first, where they leave Parral behind to prevent anyone from following them. Douglas catches up with the posse at the pass, where Parral has them held down. This is where Douglass’ journey to being a one-man revenge machine begins.
Douglass manages to out-maneuver Parral and corners him. Douglass shows Parral a picture of his murdered wife which he keeps in the cover of his pocket watch. Parral denies having ever seen her, but Douglass doesn’t believe him. He accuses Parral of being one of the men who killed his wife. Parral pleads for his life, but Douglass kills him anyway.
The next escapee Douglass encounters is Taylor. While Douglass lassos Taylor by the ankles, hangs him upside-down from a tree and leaves him to die, the other two fugitives Zachary and Lujan reach the house of John Butler (played by Gene Evans). Butler is a prospector, but more importantly, he’s Douglass’ neighbor. At this point, Zachary kills Butler and Lujan steals a sack of coins from his freshly-dead body. Zachary then rapes their hostage Emma, but Lujan sees someone approaching in the distance and tells Zachary they must leave.
Moments after after Zachary and Lujan flee. Josefa and Douglass arrive at Butler’s cabin. They discover Butler’s body, meanwhile the posse arrives to discover what has happened to Emma. Douglass orders the posse to pursue Zachary and Lujan while he return to his own ranch to get fresh horses.
The problem now is that on arriving at his ranch, Douglass discovers the fugitives have stolen his horses. He leaves Josefa with his daughter and sets out after Zachary and Lujan. Douglass catches up to the posse just before they arrive at the Mexican border. Once they reach the border, the posse refuse to cross it. Douglass then proceeds into Mexico alone.
He finds Zachary in a bar and shows him the photo of his wife like he did with Parral and Taylor. Just like the previous two escapees Douglass has confronted, Zachary denies ever having seen her before. Again, Douglass lays the accusation of murdering his wife on Zachary. Like Parral and Taylor, Douglass kills Zachary.
After killing Zachary, Douglass spots Lujan making yet another escape. He flees to his own home with Douglass hot on his trail. Upon greeting his wife, Lujan discovers his son is ill. When Douglass arrives, he finds Lujan fetching water. But Lujan’s wife knocks Douglass out with a clay pot as she sees he has bad intentions. Douglass regains consciousness to see Lujan holding him at the point of his own gun.
Once again, Douglass produces the picture of his wife only to have Lujan offer the same denial as the other three. Douglass then asks Lujan why he is riding one of Douglass’ horses, to which Lujan says that the four escapees rode past the Douglass ranch on their way back from the border. Douglass then points out the sack of stolen coins Lujan possesses and states the that whoever killed his wife stole that sack from her, which contained the family’s life savings. When Lujan tells Douglas that he took the bag from Butler’s dead hand, Douglass realizes that it was in fact Butler who murdered his wife.
Douglass struggles with the realization that he’s killed three men who had nothing to do with his wife’s killing. Upon returning to Rio Arriba, he goes to the church to beg for forgiveness. The priest tells Douglass that he did what he believed was right and that he deserves credit for not taking solace in the fact that they were outlaws anyway.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
Today’s hidden sports analogy starts in a place about as diametrically opposed as it could be from the setting of a western in the 19th century; Boston in 2011. But be it Boston or Rio Arriba, today’s hidden sports analogy is every bit the tale of revenge as is The Bravados. In 2016, there was a similar story set in the world of baseball.
2011 with the Boston Red Sox became the essential cautionary tale of “how quickly they forget.” Terry Francona was hired as manager by Boston after the 2003 season. The very next year, he led the Red Sox to ending their legendary “Curse of the Bambino” 86-year-long drought without winning a World Series. All tolled, in eight years in Boston, Francona lead the Red Sox to 744 wins, two American League pennants and two World Series Championships.
So what was his ultimate reward for rescuing the Red Sox from spending the better part of nine decades in the backwaters of baseball? He was fired in such an unceremonious and underserving manner that Francona was the 2011 Dubsy Award winner the Joe Kapp Award For Being Run Out of Town.
To this day, the story surrounding Francona’s firing still doesn’t make sense. He was a guy who (on top of what I’ve already mentioned) led this team to an average 93 wins per years and five play-off appearances in eight seasons…which by the way made the Red Sox consistently one of the best teams in baseball. But a quickly as a thunderhead can pop up over the Texas prairie, storm clouds formed over Fenway Park after the 2011 season, and the resulting torrent washed Francona right out of Boston.
It certainly wasn’t the performance of the team which got him the gate. Even though they finished in 3rd place in 2011, the Red Sox finished with a 90-72. Francona was still regarded as one of the pre-eminent managers in all of the game, but all of a sudden the Boston sports media was flooded with tales of a nasty rift forming between Francona and Red Sox upper management.
The genesis of the trouble came not from the fact the Red Sox finished third, but that they had blown a nine-game lead in September to end up behind the hated rival New York Yankees and the upstart Tampa Rays. Pro sports can be the purest example of a world where “What have you done for me lately?” is the over-arching rule.
When it came to Red Sox ownership, being swept from the play-off is 2009 followed by consecutive third-place finishes was long enough to have forgotten what Francona had done for Boston. It was clear ownership wanted to make a change, but there was a problem; Francona was monstrously popular with the fans.
To this day nobody knows…or will admit to…starting the dis-information campaign against Francona. Rumors began appearing about Francona’s leadership style causing problems in the clubhouse. “Sources” kept filling the local papers with tales of Francona’s “lax” leadership style being a source of the team’s struggles. The biggest example used was the fact that while the Red Sox were in the midst of a free fall, pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey drank beer, ate fried chicken, and played video games in the clubhouse on days they did not start.
That was met with a big “Who cares?” by the fans because starting pitchers on the days they don’t start a ball game really have nothing to do, so such sideline activities are common. Then came the reports that Francona’s 30-year marriage was on the rocks, and that was a source of distraction. Again, that didn’t turn the fanbase against him. In fact, it garnered Francona more empathy than anything else.
Then things got nasty. Now the “sources” were spreading rumors the Francona may have issues with prescription pain medication. Before he was a manager, Francona had a 10-year career as a journeyman major leaguer, and did some damage to his knees in the process. As a result, he has had close to 20 knee surgeries…and has over the course of the years has had several prescriptions.
But he’s never had a “problem,” and the insinuation that he did was more than was willing to tolerate. While this has never been confirmed, some other “sources” claim that Francona stormed into the Red Sox’ front office and demonstrated his displeasure with this smear campaign to the tune of several pieces of destroyed furniture.
While we don’t know if that is true or not, what we do know is that shortly thereafter came an announcement that Francona and the Red Sox came to a “mutual” parting of the ways. No matter which version you choose to believe, the optics clearly suggest Francona got a royal screw-job from the Red Sox.
Francona’s revenge came five years later in 2016 when he was the skipper of the Cleveland Indians…and they faced a first-round play-off series against the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox were the clear favorites heading into that series; they had the “big payroll” team loaded with All-Stars and a couple of presumptive Hall-of-Famers (David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia). The Indians had some talent, but on paper this seemed to be a mismatch.
It was…in favor of the Indians. While Games One and Three were decided by only one run, the Red Sox always seemed to be swimming upstream. The current only increased in the bottom of the second inning in Game Two when Lonnie Chisenhall launched a three-run “moon-shot” home run off former Cy Young award-winning pitcher David Price. The Red Sox would never have a lead again in this series.
When Francona’s Indians knocked the Red Sox out of the play-offs, the media over-flowed with headlines of “revenge” themes. While we’ll never bure sure that was the theme in Francona’s mind, it was all-consuming for Jim Douglass.
We also know that Jim Douglass may not have killed the people who murdered his wife, but it wasn’t like they didn’t deserve what they got. Terry Francona may not have driven his dagger into specifically the “right” heart, but he clearly gave the Red Sox” their “just desserts.”
The Moral of the Story:
When the route taken to revenge is linear, it’s called “justice.” When it’s not, it’s called “karma.”
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