I like it when similar notions collide from separate places, when life supplies a serendipitous two-fer, as if a mystery writer might tackle a football player across the decades, a sort of cross-disciplinary meeting of minds and muscles.
I’m strictly from amateur as a movie buff, with a general liking of film noir. I’m a big fan of Raymond Chandler, and for this morning’s commute picked up “Raymond Chandler Speaking”, flipping to the section on publishing, which is how my metaphysical collision took place.
First, I’m not a big fan of sports movies except as cultural events, although there have been some good ones, notably for baseball (Bull Durham was good, as was Fear Strikes Out; Major League is fun in its own campy way).
Football usually doesn’t translate to the big screen well (IMHO), but one of the best efforts is North Dallas Forty. It’s possible to appreciate NDF as its own bacchanalic exploration of violence and pain relief. But it doesn’t hurt to understand that, for an American public weaned for decades on the notion of sports stars as heroes (and by extension, moral heroes), the movie’s sex and drugs (both recreational and occupational, to keep the injured going) were eye-openers. In 1979 we were not as used to football stars as drug-addled sex offenders as we are now.
I saw NDF recently and it reiterated for me many of the reasons I don’t like a sport where the average life expectancy is 51 or 53 or whatever, a premature mortality driven very much by injuries and compromised immune systems. And yet, it has some wonderful lines in it, which brings me to my point.
Toward the end Charles Durning as coach Johnson is badgering John Matuszak as lineman O.W. (Matuszak, of all people! The real life epitome of excess and early death!)
The Tooz answers, “Every time I say it’s a game, you say it’s a business. Every time I say it’s a business, you say it’s a game.”
I’d heard the quote before, but seeing it in context brought it sharply to life. And now this morning I rode the ferry to SF and ran across this entry from Chandler, in a June 1947 letter to Dale Warren:
The fact that [the publisher] will occasionally make concessions to an established writer does not alter his practice towards unestablished writers. The publisher could justify himself perhaps, but he won’t give any figures out. He won’t tell you what his books cost him, he won’t tell you what his overhead charge is, he won’t tell you anything. The minute you try to talk business with him he takes the attitude that he is a gentleman and a scholar, and the moment you try to approach him on the level of his moral integrity he starts to talk business.”
Maybe it’s some little skill taught to coaches, publishers, and managers, everywhere. Whenever one appeals to their morality as gentlefolk, why it’s a business, and if one tries to talk business, why it’s just a game.