Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ferdinand the Bull


The mother has two kids enrolled in a Christian school. In the playground after hours she observes a big kid. A very big kid. A very big black kid. He appears hauntingly sad and quiet.

On another occasion the family offer "Big Mike" a ride home which he refuses awkwardly. Mother digs further and confirms that the boy has no home. Picking up discarded food after the school basketball game. Staying overnight at the laundromat to wash his too few clothes.

Disturbed by this story she offers to take "Michael" home for a stay. This kindness turns into a longer stay and the entire family warms up to the possibility of taking legal guardianship for this sweet-hearted giant who has fallen through the cracks.

A mother of too many partners, too many children, too much substance abuse is sought out from the boy's past. She is too wounded, too poor, too ashamed to countenance a reunion with her son. The way is cleared for a new family connection. New clothes. Flashy ones. New bedroom. New hope at school. New reason to smile. He is just eighteen but there have been times when it appeared that he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. Flashbacks to domestic fights, beatings, police intervention, gun shots, the normal scenes of the "projects".

But more is in store. Michael has athletic promise. Strong as a bull. Possible offensive guard. But to date much too passive. The family together have read the classic tale of "Ferdinand the Bull" (the one who did not want to fight in the ring). Michael is Ferdinand - until Mama gives a classic coaching speech about covering a loved one's back. With this inspiration a steam-roller of a player is born.

The college talent scouts are lined up at the front door. The comical yet shrewd younger brother is cutting deals for Michael. The scholarship prospects are dazzling. But the boy's grades at school are desperately in need of help. In comes the warm and provocative middle-aged female tutor with new ways to capture the boy's imagination and frequently push him forward.

The rest is a football classic at Ole Miss University and eventually the NFL (Baltimore). True story. Portrayed in the current celebrated film "The Blind Side" (Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates)

One beautiful life rescued from the futility, loneliness and violence of the projects. Heart of Christ. This film, which gently suggests Gospel benevolence, may see Oscar gold.

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