CANADA (Sasha Stoltz Publicity): In recent years, sport has revealed itself to be made, in parts, of a mixture between sex, lies, and adultery. For instance, Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods. These topics seem to stimulate certain segments of society who might be indifferent to sports. The documentary Not Just A Game explores the connection between sports to racial, sexual and social justice changes over the past five decades.
“In a world where there is a continual claim that sports and politics do not mix,” said Will Strickland, member of All Balls Don’t Bounce, the collective bringing the film to the 2011 ReelWorld Film Festival in Toronto for its Canadian screening premiere. “In the natural course of competition, the paradigm exists. Playing a sport, be it as a professional or amateur, doesn’t preclude you from the human race & the very tangible existence of reality. One mistake can show you how human one really is!”
Beyond probing the risk of greatness and immortality in making records, the documentary goes further into legendary athletes like Jackie Robinson breaking down barriers for African-American baseball players and others like Tommie Smith and John Carlos wearing black socks without shoes and civil rights badges, and making a raised fist to symbolize black pride during the medal ceremony in the 1968 Summer Olympics. “It was about doing what they believed to be the right thing, damn the risk of their careers, beliefs & even their lives!” Will states. “The difference then as opposed to now is there were more politically aware athletes willing to exhibit this awareness in public. The hero is not necessarily the one who slays the dragon, but the one who opens the door for others after him or her to complete the job & start to live free & prosper. The thing is not having a social conscience, but having a conscious in the first place.”
A decade ago, though, Bill Clinton was elected President for a second term, and today, politicians like Eliot Spitzer got his own talk show on CNN, and celebrities like Jude Law and Hugh Grant maintain successful film careers – after they confessed their indiscretions. What’s that to say about Kobe, Tiger, and Michael Vick? After confessing his sex addiction in a press conference, Elin filed for divorce from Tiger, who lost all his endorsements, and his career has not been in full swing since over a year ago. Despite humble amends for dogfighting, proving himself to the public, rebuilding his image, and making a comeback and winning the award for it, people are still watching Michael Vick’s every move. Plus, he and Tiger have not won any tournaments or championships … yet.
“It’s funny that politicians & certain actors can keep their jobs after their transgressions, but certain athletes carry the albatross of their mistakes seemingly for life” Will continues. “Sometimes it’s just the world in which we live.”
Would that say the same for openly lesbian – and possibly gay – players in WNBA AND NBA? “People fear what they don’t understand” Strickland continues. “At the end of the day, people are people. If you truly love someone, no matter the sex and/or orientation, then God bless them. What they do in their private lives is just that – private, to me. Are there male basketball players that leads alternative lifestyles? I’m pretty sure. Would the NBA be different if there were openly gay players active in The Association? It remains to be seen, but I do believe some perceptions have soften in that regard. We’ll just have to see how it shakes out, if it ever occurs.”
Still, Will hopes Not Just A Game offers audiences the opportunity to explore the unique paradigm created by sport as a platform for social reform.
“There is a junction where sports and politics meet” he said. “If you’re willing to stand up where no one else would, in may cases, you’re going to get ridicule. Hopefully, there will also be support & inspiration that is derived from your stand. Loss is possible, but I believe anything you do to better your life and career is an attribute, not a sacrifice. Not Just A Game really highlight those who were will to fight & a debt of gratitude and homage should be paid.”
Not Just A Game screens a week from Friday at the Famous Players Canada Square at 9p
To buy tickets now, order online at http://www.reelworld.ca/_bin/festival/schedule.cfm, and call the ReelWorld ticketing hotline at 1-800-595-4849. Visit the ReelWorld office (438 Parliament Street, 2nd floor), and then the Cineplex Canada Square Box Office (2190 Yonge Street; box office times are yet to be confirmed).