BOB’S BLOG: Chuck Ealey profile on TSN worthy addition to Grey Cup celebration
PHOTO: Scene from Stone Thrower: The Chuck Ealey Story, featuring Chuck Ealey and his daughter, Jael Richardson. Charles Officer photo. Second photo: Charles Officer, director.
On a blustery December day at Hamilton’s Ivor Wynne Stadium, Ealey’s Tiger-Cats prevailed 13-10 over Ron Lancaster’s Saskatchewan “Green” Riders.
Your blogger, then a youthful 22, seated in the old west end-zone bleachers, witnessed a great game that day but only now appreciates how historic the occasion really was.
My epiphany came upon watching The Stone Thrower, a movie directed by Charles Officer featuring Ealey and his younger daughter Jael. The editor has me working on a longer feature covering this game for the November edition of FYI so I was able to get a screener of the movie to view in advance of its premiere showing this Friday, part of TSN’s salute to the 100th edition of the Grey Cup.
I hope you’ll watch this movie. There are a couple of stories being told here. It’s a good picture, not just a sports movie.
One story is about Ealey, an undefeated quarterback at Toledo University from 1969-1972 who can’t find work at his chosen position in the NFL. As Ealey told me last week, “There was an overall stigma in the NFL at that time that African Americans were not to be playing quarterback.”
Ealey grew up in the poor and racially divided city of Portsmouth, Ohio. Located on the Ohio River and bordering Kentucky, the city was a significant pass-through point on the route of the Underground Railroad and represented a link to freedom in Canada for fugitive slaves.
Director Officer shows viewers how Ealey essentially followed that same path to Canada.
The other story is a father-daughter one.
Jael Ealey Richardson never saw her Dad play football. And just as importantly, Chuck Ealey, by his own admission, “never shared a lot of the story of how I got here.”
Daughter Jael sets out to learn that story. She was just completing a book about her dad’s journey when TSN put forward the film idea to Officer. Her final edits of the book are caught in the film.
I’m looking forward to reading the book - here's a link. It just came out.
It is important we get our intergenerational stories told. Charles Officer wonders why we aren’t all asking our parents about their roots.
“Where we come from and how we got here, that’s the kind of thing about storytelling that gets lost,”says Officer.
“Coming to this country, our parents didn’t have time to be telling certain stories, as they were out working and doing things so that (their kids) could have better lives.”
A Toronto native, the genial Officer, a man of many talents (actor, director, writer, former semi-professional hockey player for the Salt Lake Golden Eagles) is the director of the critically acclaimed documentary the Mighty Jerome and the 2008 Genie Award winning Nurse. Fighter. Boy.
The Stone Thrower airs Friday, Oct. 12th 10:30 p.m. EDT on TSN as part of an eight-part series celebrating the 100th Grey Cup game, called Engraved On a Nation. You can find TSN’s schedule for the movies HERE.
Check out video interview with Ealey when his college-record winning streak was being challenged in 2007:
Bob Wood is a housing and poverty advocate and former two-term Burlington City Councillor who is building a bed-and-breakfast with his wife on Lake Erie.