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 6th Annual Doris Day Blog-A-Thon being hosted by Love Letters To Old Hollywood. When I first started this series, I had yet to discover the film blog community and the phenomenon known as the blog-a-thon. Without that combination, I would never have discovered how many Doris Day flicks are chock full of hidden sports analogies. Today, Love Letters To Old Hollywood is giving me a shot to share another one!
You can see all the contributors to this blog-a-thon here:
Do Not Disturb is the tale of an American couple, Mike and Janet Harper (played by Rod Taylor and Doris Day repectively) who move to England when his job as a textile/fashion executive takes them to London. In a sign of things to come, Mike would prefer a more urban lifestyle, eschewing commuting for an apartment in the city. However, Janet would rather stick to her decidedly “not big city” proclivities and stick to the English countryside. They essentially “split the difference” with a domicile in Kent.
While this at first seems to be a fitting solution, in no time Mike begins to tire of the rail commute. This means he begins occasionally staying at one of the company’s flats in the city rather suffer the train. Not only does this make Janet feel isolated (she doesn’t like driving as she can’t get the hang of being on the right side of the road) and neglected (after all, her husband moved her to a foreign country, then stopped coming home), she offsets this by reverting to her love of animals and more importantly decorating her new home.
To that end, Janet’s path crosses that of Paul Bellasi (played Sergio Fantoni), a handsome French lothario who just so happens to own a furniture shop. Since he’s attracted to her (duhhh…it’s Doris Effing Day in her prime), he tells her of an antique dining set that would be perfect for her home. Conveniently, it’s in his very own shop…which just so happens to be in Paris. Janet takes the bait; next thing you know she’s winging her way to the “City of Lights” alongside Paul.
She buys the furniture, and driven by the general lack of excitement in her life, the whirl of Gay Parée, and Paul’s charms, she accidentally (and innocently) over imbibes. She ends up sleeping it off in Paul’s store.
Back in England, Mike gets wind of Janet’s trip to Paris. As a result, he hops on the next flight with his assistant Claire Hackett (played by Maura McGiveney). By the way, he’s also on his way to a convention which turns out to be a carnival of illicit carnality. Consider this the official start of “comedy of errors” season. Cue the old J. Geils’ Band hit Love Stinks here.
Mike and Janet still love each other, but their marriage is stagnating. We already know Paul has designs on Janet, and it doesn’t take long to see Claire has similar plans for Mike. Complicating manners is Mike’s lecherous boss Mr. Langsdorf (played by Leon Askin…who fans of Hogan’s Heroes will recognize as General Burkhalter) will chase anything in a skirt (including Janet) and the Harpers’ busy-body landlady Vanessa Courtwright (played Hermione Baddeley) who is always planting the seed that Mike is having an affair…so Janet should as well.
Now that we know the season, it’s time to get back to the plot. Mike is not-so-blissfully unaware that nothing untoward happened between Janet and Paul, and he’s nowhere near the needed mindset to be convinced of that. Needless to say, he blows into the shop, starts a fight with Paul, and demands a divorce…to which Janet agrees.
This means it’s time to up Mike’s “temptation level.” For reasons we never really get to know, it seems the culture amongst Mike’s fellow executives is to be accompanied to conventions by their mistresses rather than by their wives. At the same time, Vanessa convinces a regretful Janet to go to Mike and smooth things over. Janet takes her advice, but when she arrives at Mike’s hotel, she sees what the truth is about the convention. Now she believes Mike is having an affair with Claire. Woven throughout all this, Mr. Langsdorf continues his pursuit of Janet.
At the end of the day, neither Mike or Janet ever really had thoughts of stepping out on each other, despite the intentions of Paul, Claire, and/or Mr. Langsdorf. The “comedy of errors” gives all five shots at ending up in the proverbial “compromising positions,” especially at the end when Janet somehow winds up in Mr. Langsdorf’s bed. Even as the tubby lech chases Janet through the hotel, Mike jealousy becomes the catalyst for their reunion.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
If you ask film fans to list iconic women in the history go Hollywood, you’ll get a lot of names; Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, or (insert your favorite “Hepburn” here). In other words, the list could be shamefully long before you get to the just-as-deserving Doris Day. Likewise, if you ask baseball fans to name great second basemen; you’ll get a similarly long scroll before you get to the subject of today’s sports analogy, Jeff Kent.
The films fans, especially the host of this event can speak to my point on Doris Day. I’ll leave it to the baseball fans to list the guys whose names would come out of their mouths before Kent’s. No matter who they name, no man to play the “Keystone” position ever slugged more Home Runs or had more consecutive seasons with more than 100 Runs Batted In than did Jeff Kent.
But today’s analogy isn’t about the respective greatness of Doris Day or Jeff Kent. Despite the fact it is dressed up a a light romantic comedy, Do Not Disturb is really a tale of deception. Likewise, there’s almost no better tale of deception than the one which went on between Kent and the San Francisco Giants.
It was twenty years ago, but not exactly today. In March of 2002, baseball’s Spring Training was in full swing in preparation for the upcoming season. If you are a young up-and-comer trying to land a spot with a team, Spring Training is a “make or break” month-long audition. Conversely, if you are established player like Jeff Kent, you’re just tuning up for Opening Day; especially if like Kent you’re signed up with a 3-year, $17 million contract. In other words, when you know you’re going to be on the field in April in San Francisco, you have a lot of down time in Arizona in March.
It was also right around this time that baseball teams would include details in their contracts with players which forbade “dangerous” activities. In Kent’s case, part of his deal with the San Francisco Giants was he was not allowed to engage in his favorite…albeit exceptionally dangerous hobby…motocross dirt-biking.
Just like Janet Harper being bored in the English countryside, Jeff Kent with a full month of not much to do in Arizona…which just so happens to be prime dirt-biking country…well’ it doesn’t take a night in a Parisian furniture boutique to see where this is going.
You guessed it. Temptation took over, and as fate is wont to do, she threw a monkey-wrench into the works of Kent and the San Francisco Giants when Kent turned up at Spring Training sporting a brand new cast on his freshly-broken left wrist. In 2002, the Giants were widely considered to be World Series contenders, but that picture fractured along with the wrist of the National League’s Most Valuable Player from 2000.
Naturally, when a baseball team has a star player who turns up hurt, they might like to know what happened…especially when the injury didn’t happen on the field..and even more so when they are paying that guy $17 million.
When asked about his injury, Kent told the team he had a fluke “slip and fall” accident. The story Kent concocted was while washing his gargantuan off-road truck (you know…the kind perfect for pulling a trailer full of dirt-bikes), he climbed up on the roof, slipped and dropped six feet to the pavement. He said he used his left hand to break his fall, and the impact jammed his thumb and broke a bone in his wrist.
It’s a “plausible enough” story; everybody was happy with it. Kent needed the Giants to buy it, which they did. On the other
wrist hand, the team just needed an explanation they wouldn’t have to do anything about (you know…like finding out he did something which was contractually not allowed).
But like with most attempts at deception, there’s that point where you’ve sold the story, but you add that one last detail that leads to the collapse of the house of cards. In Kent’s case, this moment came when he told the Giants he had witnesses to corroborate the injury occurred at a public, “do-it-yourself” car wash.
Two things happened at this point. First, the Giants began to wonder why Kent was so insistent about having witnesses. They were ready to accept his tale on it’s face, but started to get suspicious when he went a bit “thou doth protest too much.” The other problem was there were witnesses…to what really happened.
Even though this was on the cusp of the era when everybody had a camera-phone in their pocket, it didn’t matter if this was 1962 or 2002. Once you reach the star status of a Doris Day or a Jeff Kent, no matter where you go somebody has a lens locked in on you. Jeff Kent’s “slip and fall” was no exception.
Once the sports media got wind the Giants may be “curious” about Kent’s story, those aforementioned witnesses began popping up, and they were all telling a different story than Kent’s. Now, the narrative which was emerging was one of Kent screwing around on a motorcycle; popping “wheelies” and various other stunts. Then, by all these other accounts Kent “wiped out…but good.”
Kent tried to hang on to his version, but it didn’t take long for “washing my truck” to go down the drain. Some say there were pictures that found their way to the Giants; some say that Kent was telling witnesses to clam up about what happened. Either way, with Kent unable to play due to violating his contract it looked like he and the Giants…just like the Harpers…were headed for a divorce.
But again…like the Harpers, there was a reconciliation. Kent ended up only missing four regular-season games and had one of the best years of his entire career; notching a .313 batting average, 37 home runs, 108 runs batted in, and played a huge role in leading San Francisco to their first National League pennant in 13 years. Even though the Giants came up short in the World Series against the Los Angeles Angels, that was no fault of Kent; he launched three homers in that Fall Classic.
The Moral of the Story:
The Bible says “the truth shall set you free.” That’s because it’s easier than trying to keep your lies straight.
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