In one of my favorite films of all time, Russel Crowe portrays Irish boxer Jim Braddock, the underdog champion of the Irish masses in the mid 1930s. I loved the movie for several reasons, my Irish heritage being one of them, but the boxer was a man my father remembered and talked about from his early childhood and one of the few movies we’d watch together.
There’s a poignant, touching moment in the film, when Braddock, played by Crowe, who lost almost everything during the Great Depression, says: “I want to fight something I can see.”
He could not see economic devastation any more than we can see a cancer that decides, for reasons mostly foreign to us, to start growing in a human being, a loved one, a father.
As men, most of us have pride and we’re willing to fight for things we care about. We’re wiling to do most anything, sacrifice of ourselves, our well being and our future to fight for things that we care about, to fight things we’ve come to despise. But as Braddock so eloquently put it, it becomes terribly difficult to fight those things when we cannot see them.
Braddock couldn’t envision the forces that led to a stock market crash and greatest economic devastation in United States history any more than I could see a mass of cells responding to Ultraviolet rays. Sure, he could look at the falling stocks and I could stare at X-rays, but that didn’t make those things make sense to us.
He, and I, want to fight something we can see. He could see an opponent standing in the opposite corner of a ring, and I can see a project where I need to solicit support, travel and catch fish.
Most of us, especially if you’ve got some resolve and self-discipline about you, don’t need for the world to fall at your feet at your beck and call. We, do, however, need for the things we’re fighting for to be visible, to make sense.
Braddock defeating Max Baer did not cure America’s economic crisis, any more than the fish I catch will give us a cancer-free world. But he had the chance to fight for it, fight against something he could see, and that’s all I’m asking for.