In the film 'Cinderella Man' there is a moment when a fighter, James J. Braddock, is given a second chance , takes it and wins against a younger opponent. His wife goes to the apartment of her husbands manager to confront her husband's manager - who wants to use that win to chain him back into a career.
She does not want her husband to be torn apart by younger men. She seeks to shield him from being physically destroyed. Although in the early 1930's , it was not known that the process of aging is a reversible process - amongst men it was known that older men are sometimes stronger, and more virile than younger men. Her husbands agent was willing to bet Braddock's life this was the case. He did not convince her.
The agent's wife, asks her husband to go and get her guest some cookies. He of course, submits. Saying "Doesn't she look good in underwear?".. The two women sit still in a completely empty apartment (every item having been sold , except a few table and chairs - great depression having taken its toll). "Nice apartment" her houseguest comments.
The woman sizes up her opponent, and then quietly says "They try to fix things for us. If they cannot try, they feel as if they are useless to us. We support them, and we see them fixing our families, our jobs. ... perhaps its not us thats broken - but the entire world"..
The other women sits quietly. Then nods her head, and upon entrance of her husband's agent - she bids farewell and resigns herself to that quiet but imperative role that has been laid out for her so clearly.
James J. Braddock had suffered an injury, and in compensating for it - he became stronger in a way that his opponents could not fathom or anticipate. He decimated supposedly younger, stronger men. And in the process he destroyed the concept that youth gains the upper hand. If not in tactic, then physically - one would argue - however that physical strength depends upon conditioning. And our bodies regenerate themselves every seven years, every single cell. His opponents never knew what hit them and he wasn't going to give them a headsup about it either.
His final opponent was a man named Baer, also younger. The vicious right of Max Baer had claimed two men in the ring - hitting them so hard in one case the brain of the fallen fighter having torn loose from the skull, dead upon impact. The other, an uppercut to the jaw that struck the head so hard the opponent had shattered , dying as he fell. It was widely reported the fight would end in the casualty of Mr. Braddock. As James Braddock entered the ring, the entire arena fell silent.
In the film, one in the crowd shouted out .. "You can do it" and then Madison Square Garden Bowl erupted in applause. And the fight of the century had begun. James J. Braddock Vs. Max Baer for 15 rounds, decision going to Braddock.
There are Cinderella stories in all mediums, for all people. The party girl - who - after having fucked around almost her entire life - lands the job of the lifetime by her moxie, her attunement - even her sex. And then going on to complete that opportunity - the difficult part - and succeeding against all odds, no college degree - she comes from the school of hard knocks to rise to the top. Then there is a woman who spends her entire life in analysis and design, two graduate degrees - rises to the top of her profession and field - employed by the largest software company in the world as a senior development engineer (only those within that direct culture understand the hidden prestige, stock options - and meaning of the term SDE by your name in my field). And then one fine day she is felled by a bleed in her skull that destroys her hands, her body unable to feel. No matter how brutal - no matter what course of action she takes - she finds herself trapped in a lifeless shell, and unable even to lift a spoon to feed herself much less the work she had been doing her entire life. And again, the inevitable, mistaken view applied that the winding down of humanity during the arc of age would apply - that injury occuring in her youth. She fights back but only to a point and can go no further.
All that is precious to her, all that is good - is taken away. Although she had never defined herself by her job - the presence of it in her life gave her focus. Now gone. And she builds herself back, step by step. Eventually re-learning how to walk, talk - feed herself. Stay on the toilet without helplessly falling over. And she pulls herself up to the keyboard and then hits the wall of psychic blame that washes over all of us when we realize that five years out of our field, or out of our conditioning - has rendered us obsolete, worthless - unprepared.
She comes to terms with regeneration, with that which is truly broken - a world in which she can nurse herself into strength and too easily blame those around her for it. And finds that it is not those around her that are broken. But rather the entire world.
And so sets out to fix it. And does.
Braddock prevails not because he is older or younger - none of us made it to where we are, on physical attribute. The film "Cinderella Man" teaches us that the ability of a man to think carefully - to sustain injury, to find his right course - yields that ability to provide. And although that defines us as men, at the same time it also steals away a part of the world that is truly broken. It is a vision - we share with him, but not in his victory - it is in his ability to see his opponents clearly. Their specific actions. He regains who he is in a fight, even through pain. It is clarity. The shock of the new met with a vicious left cut.
My son and I jumped up to practice our uppercut. We leafed through magazines of classic cars and watched the fights as they rolled on. It was like going to the ring with him - he really isn't interested in sitting down for a quiet conversation. He's interested in learning how to use a punching bag. We rode our bikes in the rain at sunset tonight. Thats the stuff he wants to do. Not watch a film.
So I held up a punching bag for him and taught him how to use it. And then, reading him from "A Wrinkle In Time", his eye half open to me I told him the truth - I told him what I really felt about him, and I spoke for myself and his mother. And he listened. Then I turned off the little fan he keeps running near his bed to save himself from the scary conversations that invaded his rest - from the chaos of my wife's previous life. And I told him its going to stay off forever.