Popcorn Stand: We lost two greats this week

Two sports figure who in my opinion deserve more credit for how much impact they had on our culture died earlier this week in boxer Jake LaMotta and former pro football player Bernie Casey. LaMotta died at the age of 95 on Tuesday while Casey died at the age of 78 on Tuesday.

I have to admit, I hadn’t thought about LaMotta for a while and didn’t realize he was still alive. LaMotta, of course, was immortalized, if that’s the right word, by Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of him in the 1980 classic movie “The Raging Bull.” If you watched how LaMotta was portrayed in the movie you would be surprised he was able to live to the age of 95.

The movie was brilliant, but when I watched the movie all I could think was they must have paid LaMotta a lot of money to portray him the way DeNiro did. Let’s just say all of LaMotta’s flaws were on prominent display in the movie.

The movie was based on LaMotta’s book of the same title and while the movie definitely took license and most likely portrayed LaMotta a lot worse than he really was, the film stuck to the spirit of LaMotta’s book and was pretty accurate. LaMotta was a champion and before the movie most known for his epic battles with Sugar Ray Robinson, arguably the greatest boxer ever.

While not as famous as say Jim Brown or Bill Russell, Casey was among the most outspoken black athletes of the 1960s who was also an accomplished activist, artist and actor. I remember watching an NFL Films feature on Casey from the 1960s showing him painting on a canvas.

Casey didn’t hesitate to say the only reason why he played football was for the money. “Is that wrong?” to say that Casey asked. Casey went on to say if he could make as much money painting, he would just paint for a living and wouldn’t play football.

Two of the most honest athletes of our time have died. May they rest in peace.

— Charles Whisnand


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