RIP Paul Newman — ‘Let ’em know you’re there!’

The Baby is not nearly old enough to watch Slap Shot — not even a cleaned-up-for-commercial-TV version — but when he is, we’ll enjoy it together, especially the memorable performance of the incomparable Paul Newman, who died yesterday.

For several years I skated on a beer-league hockey team, and quoting Reg Dunlop and the Hansons was practically required, maybe even more so than having a decent shot. In fact, I was practically the worst player on the team — I had a shit shot and my skating was subpar — but I could more than hold my own in quoting the best sports movie of all time in the locker room or (mostly) on the bench. Ironically, about four days ago, I couldn’t get “They brought their fucking toys with them!” out of my head.

Newman could skate for real, and he made Reg seem believable enough to be a hockey player that could wear a fur coat and still rip up the arena organist’s sheet music and rail, “Don’t ever play ‘Lady of Spain’ again!”

So here’s to you, Mr. Newman, and to Reg Dunlop and Cool Hand Luke and Fast Eddie and all your other memorable roles. Read Terry Frei’s tribute, and also Deadspin’s (which rightly tags him “racing enthusiast, actor, badass”), and Joe Posnanski’s, too (who says he “might have been the best sports actor in the history of Hollywood”), then raise a glass of Canadian Club and water and say a toast to old-time hockey, “like when I got started, you know?”

Also, Absence of Malice was required viewing in my early journalism classes, along with All the President’s Men (of course, with a curriculum consisting of movies, is it any wonder why education and journalism is in the states they’re in?).

Newman was born in January 1925 on the cusp of the Silent Generation (as defined by Strauss & Howe), and though the preceding G.I. Generation rightly deserves its due, let’s not forget Newman served in the Navy during World War II, and later in life, off-screen, lent his dignity to many causes, including sending the profits of his Newman’s Own food brand, and its organic offshoot, to charity.


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