Monday, March 12, 2007


In the 1970s, the South End of Louisville was a blue collar haven. I also knew it as “North Parnell” because so many of my relatives had moved from Wayne County’s Parnell to Louisville and lived within blocks of each other. While my Dad worked for the Navy, my Mom worked in a factory like a lot of our neighbors. I remember sitting on picket lines in the summer with Mom. A favorite cousin got in trouble with the law for going after a “scab” while on a picket line. [Disclaimer: As an adult, my economic views would differ from my family's at that time.]

Dad loaned other relatives money to pay bills while they were laid off. For a lot of people, the 70s were tough.

After work, Dad and the Parnell crew would throw back a few at the Three Way Tavern, much to my Mom’s consternation. Weekends, the crew would gather in someone’s garage to listen to Lanny play the guitar and, if he had had enough to drink, maybe sing Hot Rod Lincoln.

It could be because I grew up in that setting that I loved Invincible. It’s the story of Vince Papale, a laid off teacher and star of the neighborhood football games, who is given the improbable chance to try out for his beloved Philadelphia Eagles football team. At 30 years old, Papale becomes Philadelphia’s Seabiscuit – a source of pride and hope. It’s a Rocky story, the underdog who beats the odds, which everyone loves, but it was more than the heartwarming local kid makes good element that endeared the movie to me. It was revisiting that sense of neighborhood. The movie’s local watering hole, Max’s bar, felt a lot like the Three Way Tavern of South Louisville. The camaraderie with Papale and friends seemed so familiar. I saw the men from South Louisville in the men of South Philly.

As the crew at Max’s Bar cheered for Papale, I saw the hope of a better tomorrow that people were clinging to in that time of layoffs and gas lines. I saw the hope of a way past what Jimmy Carter told Americans was our “national malaise”. Mostly I saw the grit of some hardworking blue collar types who were determined to get beyond whatever obstacles life threw at them by hard work and with loyal friends. I saw my childhood in the characters of Invincible.

No comments: