In the movie “The Cinderella Man”, Russell Crowe plays real life Depression Era boxer James Braddock. After a promising start as a contender for the Heavyweight title, “Gentleman Jim” breaks his hand and must stop fighting. The onset of the Depression sees the family reduced to a cold water basement flat where the faithful wife and mother must water down the milk, feed her children fried baloney for breakfast, and scavenge scraps of wood from the bottom of billboards to fuel the meager stove in the tiny apartment. Braddock spends his days with hundreds of other desperate men, queuing up on the docks for the handful of jobs given out every day.
One day he comes home to find the electricity has been turned off and his shivering wife explains that she has sent their three children to live with her sister where at least they will be warm and fed. With a crushed spirit, the proud boxer signs up for government relief and is still short the money needed to turn the lights back on. With hat in hand he goes to the only men he knows, the boxing community, to beg the rest.
Then, one of the contenders to the title has to drop out of a title match and the promoters, desperate for someone to credibly fill the spot, call on Braddock. Grateful for the chance to make a few hundred desperately needed dollars, Braddock, to everyone’s amazement, wins the bout, and goes on to win match after match untill he earns the chance to take on the World Heavyweight Champion, Max Baer.
Braddock’s wife Mae, played by Renee Zellwinger, learns to her horror that Baer has killed two men in the ring and, in terror of loosing her husband, refuses to bless the fight, sending Jim off to the battle with downcast spirit. Realizing later what she has done, she rushes to the arena, and stands before her husband in the locker room and tells him;
“Maybe I understand, some, about having to fight. So you just remember who you are… you’re the Bulldog of Bergen, and the Pride of New Jersey, you’re everybody’s hope, and the kids’ hero, and you are the champion of my heart, James J. Braddock.”
I do not know a man who would not kill to hear words like that come from the lips of the woman he loves, and I do not know a man who has ever heard them.
We are fools, most of us; men and women both. We have it in our power to turn the plain, ordinary husband or wife into a king or queen. But of the millions of words we speak in our lives, we almost never speak the words that would ennoble the people we love the most. Fools.
Braddock won the fight and become The Heavyweight Champion of the World