Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Role model: Ernie Davis

I mentioned this movie I wanted to see a while ago but I never made it to the theater. It's out on DVD now, called "The Express: The Ernie Davis Story". If you've ever watched another one of my perennial football favorites called "Rudy" and you enjoyed it, then you just might like watching this movie.

Like "Rudy" "The Express" is another football movie I liked even though I have no knowledge of football other than there are two different teams, one ball, and you're supposed to get the ball in the end zone or through those big Y-shaped thingies. I don't watch the Super Bowl and have no favorite team or player. Well, maybe now I do. I am a fan of Ernie Davis.

"The Express" is based on the life of Ernie Davis who was a black man from Elmira, NY coming of age in the late 50s and early 60s in a fractured and a separate but not equal lifestyle in the US. He was a football player courted by the Syracuse University college football coach with the help of legendary S.U. great Jim Brown. Ernie wanted to go to Notre Dame but S.U. (which is close to my home) snatched him up instead.

Yes, there is a lot of football in the movie but I managed to understand what was going on so most other people should be able to follow the plot also. There is more to the movie than just football as it sets up the kind of person Ernie was and the times of my country's "bound by color rules society" when I wasn't even alive yet.

Ernie had a spectacular college career capped with his winning the Heismann Trophy becoming the first black man to win such an honor. Ernie also gets drafted as the first-round pick for the Cleveland Browns where he is expected to play with his predecessor, Jim Brown from Syracuse. However, there is a twist in the story of Ernie's life as he falls sick. (And, yes, there is more to the story than what I have typed here. I didn't want to give everything away!)

The articles that I have looked up online and the extra commentary for the movie all show Ernie as a "gentleman and a gentle man", to steal something that I read that was written by someone else. I was appalled when S.U. played away games in the south where fans would throw bottles at the players to intentionally try and hurt them. The taunts of "fans" and sometimes even from Ernie's own teammates show how divided my country was not so long ago.

For a non-football fan, this movie brought tears to my eyes. If anyone has watched it or plans on watching it, let me know what you think. Ernie is a part of sports history often forgotten because he left his mark so young and for such a short time. This movie, though, brings his accomplishments to life and I'm proud to now have a new role model which I can use in my classroom as I try to get across to my students.

Hooray to you, Ernie Davis, for being such a gentleman and a gentle man.

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