What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is 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 Distractions Blog-A-Thon being hosted by Taking Up Room. Essentially, this is all about movies with something we film geeks call a “MacGuffin;” or to quote our host…
MacGuffins. Red herrings. Dangling carrots. Bait-and-switch. Whatever. We all know how movies mess with our heads.
And these distractions come in all shapes and sizes. We think Dorothy’s ticket home is meeting the Wizard in the Emerald City until Professor Marvel accidentally leaves her behind. We might watch the Pink Panther movies thinking that somewhere in all that intrigue and sight gag wonderfulness is an actual pink feline. We might get wildly curious about Citizen Kane‘s “Rosebud” until the nameless reporter starts asking questions. Or we might binge on the Lord of the Rings movies just to see Frodo dangle the One Ring over the lava pit in Mount Doom (Well, that and the movies are just so danged cool, anyway).
Distractions are everywhere.~ Taking Up Room
I mean…why not? If these “MacGuffins” are ever-present, why not celebrate them? Not to mention, if you’re going to have such an event, who better to host such a celebration than Taking Up Room, whose has a long history of coming up with tremendous blog-a-thon themes?
Then there’s the pièce de résistance…has there ever been a better movie “MacGuffin” than the quest for the Holy Grail? Let’s be honest; how many films have leaned hard on that trope? They’re everywhere. For starters, there’s the 2006 adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade went even deeper into the Arthurian angle. But for the best and most biting angle on the old English legend of King Arthur and the Holy Grail, the search begins and ends with the British monarchs of comedy, Monty Python.
You can see all the contributors to this blog-a-thon here:
If you aren’t familiar with the Legend of King Arthur, for this tale think the middle of the 10th century A.D, This is the “medieval-est” of medieval England; the Norman conquest cemented by the Battle of Hastings is a solid 130 years in the future. This puts us in the heart of the Arthurian era.
As such the story starts with the “Boy King” Arthur (played by Graham Chapman) and his squire/servant Patsy (played by Terry Gilliam) are traversing England far and wide recruiting for Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. During the lulls of their travels, there are discussions as to whether swallows could carry coconuts, observes a with trial, and offers a recollection of how Arthur relieved Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, with which Arthur defeats the Black Knight (played by John Cleese).
All this time, Arthur still manages to remain dedicated to his main objective. As a result, he recruits Sir Bedevere the Wise (played by Terry Jones), Sir Lancelot the Brave (also played by John Cleese), Sir Galahad the Pure (played by Micheal Palin), and Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot (played by Eric Idle). Together with his new knights, their squires, and Sir Robin’s minstrels, King Arthur leads them all to Camelot. But upon arriving there, King Arthur has a change of heart and deems Camelot to be a “a silly place.”
However, as the ensemble heads away from Camelot, the “distraction” happens. As apparition appears in the sky, and from it the Voice of God (also played by Graham Chapman) commands King Arthur to find the Holy Grail. With their new mission from God, King Arthur and his Knights arrive at a French-occupied castle claiming to have the Grail.
A French “taunter” (also played by John Cleese) hurls insults at Arthur and his men while a barrage of barnyard animals are launched at them from within the castle walls. Bedevere hatches a plan to sneak in using a “Trojan Rabbit,” but no one hides inside it. Once the French discover this, the Britons are forced to run away when the Trojan Rabbit was launched right back at them.
The setback at the hands of the French causes Arthur to decide the Knights should split up to search for the Grail. This only results in an increase in the number of farcical encounters. The first is an exercise in the Python’s love of screwing with timing, history, and whatever convention they can shatter. This comes in the sudden presence a modern-day historian, who while filming a documentary on the legends of King Arthur is killed by one of his Knights. Keeping with the injection of modern times, the killing leads to a police investigation.
Arthur and Bedevere are given directions by a strange old man and attempt to satisfy the even-stranger demands of the Knights Who Say “Ni!” Meanwhile, Sir Robin avoids a fight with the Three-Headed Knight by fleeing while the heads distract each other with their own arguing.
But the most ridiculous escapade comes when Sir Galahad is lured by a Grail apparition to the Castle Anthrax, which is populated by a bevy of beautiful young women. Sir Galahad is perfectly happy with his new “captors,” but Sir Lancelot “rescues” him anyway. The twist comes when Sir Lancelot receives a note from Swamp Castle which he believes to be from the prototypical “damsel in distress;” a lady being forced to marry against her will. Given his already-demonstrated penchant for rescue missions, Sir Lancelot charges into Swamp Castle and kills several members of the wedding party. The problem is that the note didn’t come from the bride-to-be; it was penned by an “effeminate” prince.
After these misadventures, King Arthur and his Knights are reunited, but with the addition of three new members; Sirs Bors, Gawain, and Ector; along with Brother Maynard and his troupe of fellow monks. The entire group encounters Tim the Enchanter, who tells them of a cave which supposedly has a “treasure map” of sorts telling of the location of the Grail. When King Arthur et al. get to the cave, they discover it’s entrance is defended by the Rabbit of Caerbannog.
Naturally, the rabbit does not cut an imposing figure, so the Knights fearlessly attack the cave. However, the rabbit proves to be a ferocious foe and easily kills the three new Knights. As they are all in danger of being wiped out, Brother Maynard provides King Arthur with the “Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch,” with which he obliterates the rabbit.
Once they enter the cave, an inscription from Joseph of Arimathea is discovered which directs them to the Castle Aarrgh. Then there’s another Python-esque screw-job on convention when an animated cave monster takes out Brother Maynard, but Arthur and the Knights escape after the animator drops dead from a heart attack.
Having escaped, the Knights approach the Bridge of Death. In order to be granted passage by the bridge-keeper, each Knight must correctly answer three questions. Should they fail, they will be cast into the into the Gorge of Eternal Peril. First up is Sir Lancelot, who easily handles three simple questions. Sir Robin is next, and he’s the first into the Gorge as he bobbles an unexpectedly difficult query. Sir Galahad blows an easy one, and ends up in the Gorge with Sir Robins. King Arthur goes last, and when the bridge-keeper asks an obscure question about swallows, the King demands clarification. In a turn, the keeper can’t answer Arthur’s question, and is himself cast into the Gorge
But now King Arthur and Sir Bedevere cannot locate Sir Lancelot, because in a call-back to the Python’s first breaking of convention, they do not know he’s been arrested for the earlier death of the modern-day historian. Once they reach Castle Aarrgh, King Arthur and Sir Bedevere find it occupied by the previously-encountered Frenchmen. After being pelted with manure, King Arthur and Sir Bedevere assemble an army in preparation to storm Castle Aarrgh. However, as the assault on the castle begins, the police arrive to arrest King Arthur Sir Bedevere. In the process, the police break the camera, thus ending the film.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
If the theme here is “distractions,” short of the 1989 “World Series Earthquake” in San Francisco, there was no greater distraction in the history of baseball than Morganna, The Kissing Bandit. Her real name was Morganna Roberts, but she will forever be known to the sports world as “The Kissing Bandit.” For nearly three decades, she was a cult celebrity for running on to the field at Major League Baseball games and…as the name suggests…kissing one of the players.
Morganna became known to the baseball world at Crosley Field in Cincinnati on a late summer night in 1969. According to her, Morganna was “dirty-double-dared” by a friend who mistakenly assumed she wouldn’t do it. In her own words, “where I’m from, you don’t turn down a “‘dirty-double-dare’… at least, not when you’re a teenager.” So, Morganna hopped over the wall, ran right up to Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose…and planted one on him.
She says that Rose’s initial reaction was one of “terrible language.” But the way she tells the story, the following night Rose tracked her down “to the local nightspot where I was appearing and apologized with a bunch of roses.” The next day, the nickname “The Kissing Bandit” was applied to Morganna by a Cincinnati sportswriter with the headline: “Bandit Steals Kiss From Pete Rose.”
As the old saying goes…a star was born.
Over the better part of the next three decades, Morganna became a familiar sight at baseball venues across America. The best part is that for the most part, her appearances were a complete surprise. Nobody ever seemed to know when “The Kissing Bandit” would strike next.
Eventually, Morganna racked up quite the list of “victims” a veritable “who’s Who” of Major League Baseball at the time. The baseball luminaries on her list include the aforementioned Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Nolan Ryan, Steve Garvey, Len Barker, Cal Ripken Jr., and George Brett (twice). Not only did that get her dubbed “Baseball’s Unofficial Mascot” and “The Grand Dame of Baseball,”it allowed her celebrity status to transcend baseball into other sports.
All tolled, Morganna’s lipstick case had notches for at least 37 Major League Baseball players, 12 National Basketball Association players, and countless minor league baseball, basketball, and hockey players, plus various umpires, managers, and owners, and on one occasion, The San Diego Chicken.
By the time she retired in the 1990s, Morganna’s involvement with baseball took her from being a stadium sideshow to being featured on her own line of baseball cards. She also became the name behind “Morganna Kissing Bandit Peanuts” which were sold at ballparks across America. Deals like this allowed Morganna to bank enough cash that she became part-owner of the minor-league Utica Blue Sox. If that weren’t enough, Morganna is featured on a display in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. She is shown in a photograph attempting to kiss Frank Howard of the Washington Senators.
Over time, Morganna’s “star power” become the draw in and of itself. Many minor-league baseball teams invited her to kiss their players knowing her appearances turbo-charged attendance. One one occasion, the Boise Hawks paid her to enter their field by bungee-jumping from a crane, then persuading CNN to feature her jump as the “Play of the Day.”
The 1989 “World Series Earthquake” was not a welcome distraction. But from 1969 on, nobody ever turned down a chance to be Morganna’s next kiss “victim.” That’s how she turned a “dirty-double-dare”into an indelible mark on baseball history.
The Moral of the Story:
Sometimes distractions become the main attraction.
For those of you who are not dedicated “Python-o-phjles,” the explanation for how their “Summarize Proust Competition” provides the two true connections to today’s hidden sports analogy can bee seen here.
FUN FACT: Of all the Pythons who played knights, only Sir Michael Palin actually is one.
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