Apocalyptic orange wildfire skies. Red-hot wars in Ukraine, Sudan, Gaza Strip, etc. A steely cold stare-down between the U.S. and China. Fears of World War III igniting. A migrant crisis, an opioid epidemic, Covid lurking, natural and man-made disasters. RIP, sis…the steady stream of bad news throughout 2023 has been too much to bear. I mean, could it BE any worse? (RIP Chandler, too.)
On that note, this year could sure use a Hollywood ending—a
sentimental and simplistic movie with an improbably positive outcome. I want, to quote band manager Mr. White (Tom Hanks) in That Thing You Do, “Something peppy, something happy.” Now that the actors’ and writers’ strikes have finally been settled, perhaps there’s still time to crank out such an ending to a dismal 2023?
In the meantime, I’ll continue to watch old favorite films as a temporary respite from a world playing out nightly like The Hunger Games. Three particular faves—Breaking Away, Stand By Me, and the original The Bad News Bears—feature variations on the classic Hollywood ending. The first, which takes me back to my bike racing days, is the traditional version. Four townies from Bloomington, IN, pull off the improbable upset and win the Little 500 race, besting the privileged college kids. What’s more, the tense father-son story line running through the film reaches a happy conclusion. It’s a feel-good movie ending, if ever there was one.
Stand By Me features a slight twist on the Hollywood ending. While Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) eventually meets a sad fate—a case of art, sadly, imitating life—the coming-of-age adventure about four buddies going to see a dead kid’s body ends happily enough. None of our heroes are killed by Ace (Kiefer Sutherland) and his gang. And viewers understand the importance of friendship, however fleeting it may be. As an older Gordie Lachance (Richard Dreyfuss) types in the film’s final line: “I never had friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”
The surprise Hollywood ending in The Bad News Bears is my favorite, though. Viewers are led to believe that a ragtag bunch of bumbling—and hilarious—
Little Leaguers will overcome enormous odds and win the championship. Alas, no! They come up a run short on the game’s final play. None of that matters because Coach Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) has learned the all-important lesson that winning isn’t everything. That’s followed by a timid Lupus (Quinn Smith), considered the worst player in the league, tossing the team’s puny second-place trophy into the dirt and shouting: “Just wait ’til next year!” Cue the Carmen opera music. What a rally cry.
In the fighting spirit of Lupus, I shout the same at 2023! Sure, the present looks bleak and the world is collectively reeling, but one must never give up. We need to dig deep and not despair. Remember, hope springs eternal. We can—and will—do better in 2024 and beyond. You’ll see!
I need only look to our latest issue for proof that talent and hard work fuel optimism about better days ahead. Take our Q&A (p. 8) with Michael Rich, founder/CEO of Psudo, a breakthrough concept that is gaining traction fast. In a Hollywood script–worthy storyline, after 30 years working for other shoe companies, Rich has stepped into the lead role. What a feel-good story.
Then there’s our feature (p. 20) by Sean Williams, cofounder of the Obsessive Sneaker Disorder podcast and the recently opened SOLEcial Studies CommUNITY Academy in Brooklyn, NY, about the unbreakable bonds between Hip Hop, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year (a rare bright spot in 2023), and sneaker culture. Williams walks us through his life-long love affair with both genres—a journey marked by varied career pursuits, favorite artists, and killer kicks. It’s a fun trip down memory lane. What’s more, Williams’ goal of empowering minorities and women to pursue careers in the sneaker industry makes an uplifting subplot. It’s a potential pipeline of young, diversified talent that our industry desperately needs.
Last but not all, is our latest A Note to My Younger Self (p. 18) participant, Dave Levy, owner of Hawley Lane Shoes. The mission of his third-generation, family-owned business is to change customers’ lives for the better, one comfortable and properly fitted pair of shoes at a time. That effort extends to supporting the five communities where the stores are based. Healthy community equals healthy retail. Hawley Lane is not in the transaction business; it’s in the business of building meaningful relationships. Of course, Levy warns his younger self of the setbacks and challenges that he, like his predecessors, will have to overcome. That’s part of the retailer script. There is no guarantee of a Hollywood ending—for any of us. But, as the movies teach us, there’s always hope.