• Jake, The Great Believer

The Best of Men (2012): BBC on DVD

While Great Britain hosted the Olympics in 2012, the BBC also produced a movie telling the story of the birth of the Paralympic Games. These Games were invented by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish immigrant from Nazi Germany to help build the self-esteem and encourage exercise of his paralyzed spinal injured patients who were bedridden British servicemen.

The fate of these men was sedation, bedsores and many times death since they were not involved in physical therapy and did not improve. Dr. Guttmann started running Britain’s National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stock Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire in 1944. He believed that the men in his care were worthy of leading full lives and should follow his example to fight the obstacles in their path for the best life possible. His optimism and determination earned him the nickname, “Poppa.”

The film shows the several examples of the obstacles and discrimination faced by the patients. Dr. Guttmann encourages them to fight and create full lives by finding creative ways to work around their disabilities. Some of the gestures and subject matter of this docudrama, is a bit racy for younger and sensitive viewers, but at times facing these challenges can be rather dark and dirty. There are sexual overtones at times so those sensitive to it and with small children should keep that in mind while they watch this. These men take their lives out in the open with the rest of the population in the sunlight of hope. These men were playing hockey and basketball as they reintegrated into the outside world. They even challenged some of the barflies in an arm-wrestling match.

On 28 July 1948, the same day of the opening of the London Summer Olympics, the first Paralympics National Games was born. It boomed like crazy, in 1952 more than 130 competed . In 1960 the Paralympics were held in Rome alongside the Summer Olympics. They became an equivalent of the Olympic Games themselves and have been this way ever since. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his efforts for the disabled and founded a sports organization for the British disabled in 1961 first called the British Sports Association for the Disabled and later known as the English Federation of Disability Sport.

I recommend you see “The Best of Men.” The story will make your heart soar as you see how the lives of these men and the result of Guttmann’s work unfolds before us. Dr. Ludwig “Poppa” Guttmann was the best of men who showed others how to become the best of men.

One of Dr. Guttmann’s critics said when Guttmann wanted to host the National Games for his disabled patients asked, “When I hear National, I think of the best. What are these men the best of?”

Without flinching, our friend Ludwig answered, “The Best of Men.”

Right on, “Poppa!”

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