Tag Archives: Fred Rogers

The new Mr. Rogers movie was fabulous, and a lot deeper than I thought. Seven years after the tragedy, a thrilling moment for Newtown, Conn. And in the NFL, the 49ers inexplicably lose, while Eli gets a sweet sendoff

I went into the movie theater Saturday night to see a movie I’ve been excited about for months, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” with certain expectations.
I felt reasonably certain I’d like it, since it was about Mister Rogers and starred Tom Hanks. I thought it’d be mostly lighthearted, it would be acted well, and I thought it would be focused on Hanks as Rogers, a perfect match of actor and subject.

Well, I was wrong about almost all of my preconceptions. This was a fabulous film, but it was NOT all about Fred Rogers, and his story.

It was really about the people in Rogers’ orbit, and how his personal touch, warmth and overall humanity impacted so many.

The movie is based on real-life events, with Rogers and writer Tom Junod the real-life duo here.

Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a cynical, world-weary journalist assigned to do what he thinks is a simple, almost beneath-him assignment: Write 400 words about Mister Rogers for an Esquire issue about heroes.

For a man who does long, thorough, critical investigative pieces, talking to a dude who performs with puppets, for children, would be a walk in the park.

But Vogel is a troubled guy, with a long-standing, cold relationship with his dad, Jerry (played wonderfully by Chris Cooper, who I’ve loved since “American Beauty.”) Vogel has also just become a father himself for the first time, and his patient wife (the very beautiful and very talented Susan Kelechi Watson from “This is Us”) is excited he’ll get to talk to Mister Rogers and perhaps have a reconciliation with his own dad.

And so the movie is really about Lloyd’s journey, more so than about Fred Rogers. And with lesser actors, it might have felt like a cheat, not getting to see the film through Rogers’ eyes. But Rhys is fantastic as always, giving Lloyd depth, and the movie itself goes a lot deeper than I thought it would, into human relationships, forgiveness, and how no man, even Mister Rogers, is a saint.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is warm, sometimes witty, and yeah, a little bit slow at times. But Hanks is terrific, giving Rogers shape and showing him to be a TV perfectionist, as well as someone who always seems to know the right thing to say.

It’s a very, very good movie, that like I said goes a lot deeper into emotions and human behavior than I expected.

Fred Rogers may not have been an actual saint, but he did change and help millions of lives. And that should be celebrated, always.

**Next up, this was by far the best thing that happened in sports this weekend. Saturday was the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, in Newtown, Conn.
This year the anniversary was also the date of the Connecticut state football Class LL championship game, between Newtown and Darien.

The score was tied at 7, there were a few seconds left, and Newtown QB Jack Street launched a pass downfield that wide receiver Riley Ward hauled in for a game-winning touchdown.

It was perfect, and it gave me chills. Many of these kids

 

**And finally today, a look at the NFL as we come down the home stretch of games, and after today I’m sad to report that most playoff spots are pretty well locked up, and there won’t be much drama the final two weeks.

But of course, I’m likely to be wrong, as most people usually are about the NFL.

— Most shocking thing that happened Sunday? No, not the Raiders collapsing, that happens all the time.
It’s the team across the Bay, the San Francisco 49ers, who have looked like the best team in the NFL most of the year, completely laying an egg and getting stunned by the woeful Atlanta Falcons, 29-22, after the Falcons scored a go-ahead touchdown with just two seconds remaining.

Again, do not bet on the NFL, people.

— In what likely was his final home game as a New York Giants starter, Eli Manning led his team to a victory over the putrid Miami Dolphins, and it actually was a sweet moment.

Eli hasn’t played most of the year, and quite honestly he’s stunk for most of the past five seasons when he was playing. But he is and always will be a Giants icon because of two incredible playoff runs that resulted in Super Bowl wins.

There is talk in New York that Manning is a Hall of Famer, and frankly I think that’s nuts. He was never an elite QB, I’m sorry but he wasn’t.
Still, it was nice that he got to go out on a high note, because he did give Giants fans two amazing memories (not that this Jets fan is bitter, nope, not at all, not one bit.)

— The Broncos and Chiefs got to play a snow game Sunday. Man, football in the snow is so much fun.

— Deshaun Watson, I’ve said it before, is so much fun to watch. He led the Texans over the Titans Sunday and I watched a good chunk of this game, and at least four times Watson scrambled out of danger to make plays that he had no business making. I just love this guy.

— The Eagles and Cowboys, the two least bad teams in the NFC East, both won Sunday to get their seventh victory of the year, and they play each other next week so someone will have to win. This assures us that a 7-9 team won’t get to host a playoff game. Now, only an 8-8 team will host possibly a 12 or 13 win team. One of the most asinine rules in the NFL, that a division winner must host, no matter how much worse its record is.

— The Browns. Oh, the Browns. With their playoff hopes still kinda alive, they went and got blown out

The new Mr. Rogers documentary is wonderful, please go see it. And it’s Manic Monday at Wimbledon!

The year was 1969, and as you may have heard or experienced, America was rife with racial animosity. There were so many divisions between African-Americans and whites, so many points of contention, but one of the most offensive had to have been white people’s insistence that blacks swim in their own pools.

“How can we have these Negroes doing the breaststroke and dog paddling in the same water as our pure, clean white boys? Won’t the black kids and adults dirty up and make our water impure? Heaven forbid people of different races swim and have fun together!”

It was horrible, racist thinking, and so many in their own way did their part to fight injustice.

Some did it in huge ways. Others, in ways that seemed small but were really so, so big.

Fred Rogers had a TV show in 1969. Maybe you’ve heard of it. He was disgusted by the racism illustrated by separate swimming pools, and so on his new TV show, he decided to make a point. He invited the African-American police officer character, Officer Clemmons, to sit down in his TV backyard. They get to talking and Rogers mentions how hot the day is, and wouldn’t it be nice to cool down and soak your feet in a little kiddie pool there on the lawn.

Rogers does it, and invites Officer Clemmons to do so as well. And in a minute there are two men, one white and one black, sharing the same pool.

For millions of American children to see.

It was a wonderful moment in a career filled in them. (This episode here was the two men re-enacting the famous original episode, 25 years later; fast forward to the 6:30 mark to see it.) And it was just one amazing, heartwarming story in the new documentary about Fred Rogers, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

I got a chance to see it in the theaters last Thursday, and it was remarkable. Poignant, funny, smart and oh-so emotional (bring the Kleenex, you’ll need it), it was a portrait of a man, and a TV program, that changed America.

You learn so much in this fabulous film from director Morgan Neville (who also did the fantastic movie “20 Feet from Stardom,”), from people like Fred’s widow, his two sons, and people who knew him best. We get glimpses into how he created Daniel Striped Tiger (the inspiration for whom is now “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” a great kids show my 3-year-old watches all the time) and other make-believe friends; how he decided to give up the show for a while in the 1970s to try to make programming for adults, and how he became such a voice of calm in the time of tragedy (his programs after the Challenger space shuttle explosion, and after RFK’s assassination, stand out in the film as extraordinary.)

He took on so many issues for kids, like divorce, and getting lost, and talked to us always in such a calm, reassuring way. He told us we mattered, and we were loved, and that’s so important for kids to hear.

I can’t praise this movie enough, and honestly wished it was longer. (I particularly loved that he seemed to get a chuckle out of Eddie Murphy’s brilliant “Saturday Night Live” parody of his show, “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood.”)

There was no need to shine up or polish over the negative parts of Fred Rogers’ life, because there were so, so few. (There was one significant bit of homophobia Rogers displayed, but I won’t go into too much detail about that, the film handles it well.)

I can’t think of a better tonic if you’re feeling bad about the current state of our world. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is hopefully playing somewhere near you.

What a wonderful human being he was. A credit to the human race.

**Finally today, this is one of the most special and fabulous days of the year for tennis fans. It’s Manic Monday at Wimbledon, and no, that doesn’t mean all the fans at the All England Club dance around to the great Bangles tune of that name.
No, Manic Monday is when all Round of 16 matches on both the men’s and women’s sides get played all on the same day. Wimbledon is the only one of the Grand Slam events that does the Round or 16 like this, and it creates a wonderful viewing experience for TV.

Now usually, there are firecracker matchups on both the men’s and women’s side, but there have been so many big upsets in the first week that there aren’t as many this year. Still, we’ve got Federer, Nadal and Djokovic all playing, and a terrific story in young American and UCLA grad Mackie McDonald, who’s never won three matches in any ATP pro tournament yet is in the fourth round of Wimbledon, stunningly.

And on the women’s side we’ve got Serena, who absolutely looks like the favorite now that nine of the top 10 women’s seeds have lost, and terrific stories in Alison Van Uytvanck (one of the only openly gay women’s players on tour) and Angie Kerber.

ESPN, God love them, devotes two channels to Wimbledon on Manic Monday. So yeah I’ll be glued for a few hours (Asking for a friend: I don’t really HAVE to pick up the 3-year-old from camp on time, right? An hour or two more waiting for Daddy builds character, doesn’t it?)

But seriously, while you’re here, check out this phenomenal little video from ESPN’s Chris Fowler, on what it looks like inside the Centre Court TV booth. So cool to get this view…

The scourge on my ears perpetrated by John Sterling. Mr. Rogers, remembered. And IKEA comes up with a way to make men happy

The Yankees are cruising toward the baseball playoffs, and I find myself getting sucked into following them, like I usually do in late September. Baseball is never more thrilling to me than at playoff time, which is fast approaching.
But that pull is being thwarted lately, because while in the car, and curious how the Bombers are doing, I turn the radio to WCBS 880 for the score and am hit with it, like a punch in the face.
John Sterling, the most obnoxious and God-awful sportscaster I’ve ever heard, is doing the play-by-play.
And I am reminded that the scourge continues. And if I want to hear the Yankees in the car, I must suffer that man.
Here’s the thing about Sterling, who’s been butchering Yankees broadcasts, and making them all about his own ego and grandiosity, for more than two decades now: Even Yankees fans hate him. So I can only imagine how the rest of you would feel if he ever infected your ears.
A quick rundown of Sterling’s awfulness: He constantly gets the details wrong on his call. He has all these signature shtick phrases for home runs (“An A-bomb, from A-Rod!”, “The Grandy-man can” for Curtis Granderson, and my other favorite, “Mark Teixeira has just sent a Tex message!”) that he repeats, ad nauseum.
He believes he is more important than the game. He prattles on and on, pontificating and ignoring the reality on the field, believing what he has to say is more important.
As the great critic Phil Mushnick has pointed out time and again, it’s embarrassing that such a prestigious organization as the Yankees has such a horrible representative calling their games.

Please, Hank Steinbrenner, owner of all things Yankee, remove this man from our ears. It would be an act of mercy rarely seen before.
Until then, I’ll be waiting until I get home to check the score.

**Stumbled upon this, sort of randomly, on Andrew Sullivan’s blog today. And it made me smile broadly.
It’s the late Fred “Mr.” Rogers, accepting the lifetime achievement Emmy Award in 1997, five years before he died. Take a few minutes and listen to it; I guarantee you’ll be smiling by the end.

Hope, and optimism, is a very good thing.

**If you’re a man and you’ve ever been trapped in an IKEA store for hours while your girlfriend/wife tries to decide exactly which kind of wood the new desk for the home office would go best with the decor, you will appreciate this next story.
The good Swedes at IKEA have come up with a new area of the store called “ManLand,” where women can park their fellas and the guys can play video games, pinball, foosball, or watch TV on a super-cool flatscreen.
But that’s not the best part (although that is pretty awesome). The best part is that the store will also give the women “buzzers” that remind them to collect their men after 30 minutes of play.

I could totally see women leaving men there. And I could totally see men saying “let’s see: stay here in Manland and keep playing pinball, or go home and put together the damn furniture she just bought over the next three hours.”
“I’m fine here, honey, I’ll take a cab home.”