Jul 232014

hamm1This one has me thinking …

The Dick Whitman we see in Korea is no football hero, we know that. And in 6 1/2 seasons there’s not one piece of evidence on screen to suggest Dick could have been anything more than a tackling dummy.

I’d be interested to know just what kind of backstory Don gave himself in order to woo Betty.

I imagine Gene Hofstadt needed about 10 seconds to see through that canard.


  27 Responses to ““All this time I thought you were a football hero who hated his father””

  1. Anyone abstractly knows the difference between a mere rough-play metaphor for war and the real thing. I imagine this becomes visceral when the war machines are not-so-distant.

    No doubt Gene had a better chance to probe Don than we ever had regarding football and everything else. All it takes is a few innings’ chatter at a baseball game to separate the conversant from the merely enthusiastic. Don’s got a good body. He’s not a lineman or even a running back, but would make a good tight end, wide receiver, or quarterback.

    My father, who survived D-Day (born 1916), was no hawk. When I played soldier, marching along with rifle in parade position, he would say that I’m going into the army (not so far-fetched given that the draft had been in place since he was draftable). Don’s distaste for Gene’s WWI “booty” reminded me of that.

    • A trivial point but the Germans phased out the “pickelhaube” helmet, with the point, early in the war. By the time Gene got there they all would have wearing the “coal scuttle” type familiar (with slight modifications) from the second war.

  2. Is “All this time I thought you were a football hero who hated his father” what Betty said to Don when she confronts him after she has discovered the secret box of photos Don had hidden in the drawer locked by the key that was making so much noise in the dryer that one otherwise uneventful day in the life of a ordinary housewife?

  3. In “Waterloo” Cutler derides Don as “a football player in a suit.” Perhaps Betty didn’t literally think he was a football hero, but he seems to look the part to people. Maybe she just decided to marry this “handsome chipher” (as that writer in “Public Relations” called him) without asking many questions.

  4. This reminds of when Don, in the second episode, dodges questions about his backstory by telling Betty, Roger, and Mona during dinner “think of me as Moses — I was a baby in a basket.”

    And then in the first episode of season three, we flash back to him as a newborn baby being delivered to his stepmother — in a basket.

    • A “delivery” accompanied by a conversation the precocious babe remembered.

      • When we reminisce, we fill in the blanks with things people have told us. The flashback also included his mother’s labor–we are not expected to believe Don remembers that, either.

        • Not to mention the conversation before his conception. I think after the whole buildup of Don as a man of mystery the truth behind that was anticlimactic. Perhaps this was part of the point — the reality behind a glamorous appearance.

  5. Betty knew that Don grew up poor on a farm (he did tell her that much). Don looked the part of a footballer, so it’s very easy for Cutler or Betty to believe that’s what he did in high school.

    Gene H.’s first priority was to protect his daughter. He probably took everything Don said with a grain of salt. Betty however, may have been victim to the lavender haze, and would believe anything that Don told her (half of which was most likely convenient lies).

    As far as she knew, his parents were dead, he had no brothers or sisters, no family to speak of.

  6. I think Cutler was making an assumption based on Don’s outward appearances (good looking, successful, alpha-must have been the popular football star in high school). Don tells very few people anything personal and I’m sure Cutler would have been one of the last people in the world he would ever share anything real with. Growing up in a whore house probably didn’t leave much time for football practice. I was just rewatching season 4 when Don is journaling and I heard for the first time that he never finished high school. The high school foot ball star probably wouldn’t drop out early.

    Question: Will there be a thread at some point where we can share predictions about how the series will end? I’ve been rewatching the whole series on Netflix this summer and I’m seeing lots of things that I never noticed when watching the first time. I’m sure I’m not alone. Watching old seasons with the knowledge of what is gong to happen in the future changes the way you see it. I have some ideas (which I’m sure are completely wrong) and I’m wondering if there will be a time and place to share on this blog? Thanks

    • Usually, just before the start of a new season, there’s a post where we can speculate what’ll happen.

      Over the course of the series so far, I’ve had a pretty dismal track record, prediction-wise. I did kinda sorta “nail it” in S-7a, regarding Bert’s death. It was a bit of random musing about how his death or disability could screw with Cutler’s grand plans for the future of the firm.

      Oh, alright. so I didn’t quite “nail it,” but it was a pretty strong speculation/suggestion, that actually play out correctly – so I’ll take whatever credit I’m due (if any).

      Back to the main topic of this post — I can’t recall which season or episode it was, but didn’t Don once tell somebody that he played a little football in high school? Sorry I can’t cite the exact instance, but I do seem to recall him saying something to someone, along those lines. If it did happen on the show, it might well have been something he said to Conrad Hilton, but my memory is pretty hazy. I’ll have to review past seasons and I’ll post if I find anything.

      • Apropos of almost nothing, the show made a point of Hilton’s calling meetings at all hours, which Don used as a convenient cover for an assignation. In fact Hilton insisted on *never* doing business after regular work hours. I wonder if a writer read this somewhere and got the sense in reverse? It’s more probably a coincidence, though.

        • We just are expected to accept this as another example of ‘Mad Men Logic’.

      • Don claimed to have a ‘football injury’ in Season 2, to excuse his car accident with Bobbie Barrett.

  7. My thought at the time when Betty said that was, she, not Don, had the football player myth in her own head. People often have background stories in their own heads when they don’t have specific info on people. I have been surprised by some people I have worked with when told of their “real” background compared to what I thought their background story actually was, amazingly so at times. Don looks so polished and upper crust, although his behavior gives him away at times, that you would just assume he was the BMOC in high school and college. We all have our fantasies about people we know and sometimes love.

    • I still would like to find out who taught Don how to dress, drink and dine like a wealthy sophisticate

      • I think he must have done a lot of observing, maybe at the country club where he parked cars.

        • Don didn’t work at a country club, it was more like a cheap road-house. I think Don learned how to dress from the customers at the fur shop. He probably learned how to drink and dine from Rodger.

          • I always imagined he picked up a lot from the movies, and then observation of his surroundings the higher he climbed.

      • Me too. We know Don studies people and customs, the Japanese clients come to mind, and is a quick study so close observation, study, and careful incursions into a closed society might have provided some clues on what to wear, how to act, etc. And he is quiet, not expressive leaving people wondering about him, didn’t someone one state he could be Batman for all anyone knew? I’m still amazed that Betty married him without any more knowledge of his background, real or made up.

      • The movies.

    • Check out the biography of Archibald Leach, who transformed himself into the world’s most sophisticated man, Cary Grant

      • Good point, but he didn’t do it all alone. He was sponsored by Mae West, if I recall correctly. And the film studios at that time spent a lot of time and money educating their contract players in dress, dance, deportment, acting and athletics.

  8. The Don/Betty backstory is the gaping hole in the plot for me about Mad Men. It isn’t plausible. When she asked him if he ever had a nanny…several years into their marriage! She thought his being a football hero was why he had no family at the wedding! I just consider it not part of the story.

    • I guess it’s supposed to be evidence of her naivete in the early years, that he swept her off her feet to the extent that she never asked any questions.

    • Yes! And we also know very little about Betty’s upbringing. We never got to see anything of her Mother. Some flashbacks might have been used, to good effect. I get that that show is ultimately about Don/Dick, but aspects of Betty’s backstory were only touched upon.

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