Move over, The Blind Side, the story of Newton Marshall is here to make your mother cry. Newton, an adversity overcoming Jamaican dogsled racer, begins the Iditarod today. But how good will the movie adaptation be?
A former illiterate tour guide, Marshall was Sandra Bullock-ed by Shelly Kennedy, a retired Michigan school principal living in Jamaica with her husband, who taught him to read during after-work tutoring sessions. A potentially heartwarming scene in the movie would be a harrowing moment occurring in the midst of Hurricane Ivan in 2004:
Kennedy fled her home with jewelry, cash and other belongings. "All Newton took was his books," she says.
In this hypothetical scene, Newton would only be able to save a few of his books or would have to be held back as his bookshelf was carried away by an impromptu river.
Marshall began his foray into grueling winter sports when the owner of the tour business that employed him, Danny Melville, was in Edmonton scouting for dune buggies:
He spotted a sled with wheels, "and I thought, we could do that, we've got thousands of dogs in Jamaica that have no home," Melville says.
So began Marshall's life as a dogsled musher. It wasn't all sponsorship deals and Red Stripe commercials at first, though. Marshall began his training with various dogs from the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Feel free to imagine a whirlwind montage at this point, perhaps set to "Heatwave" by Martha & the Vandellas.
Marshall's fortunes changed a second time when the popular recording artist and beer baron Jimmy Buffet learned of his story. Said the affable songsmith:
"I thought from the beginning it was just very cool what he was doing...I thought it was so far out there, but it made people smile when they heard about it."
It wasn't long until Marshall met his John-Candy-in-Cool-Runnings, three time Iditarod winner Lance Mackey. Gone were the Jamaican mutts and in were some of the finest dogs in the world. Training with Mackey, Marshall has become a promising dog sledder and is quite likely to finish the grueling race depicted in the film Balto.
A story like this writes its own script, the only question is how it will be handled. What sort of adversity will Marshall face? Cool Runnings style with racist Europeans giving him the cold shoulder? Making the Melville character more of an antagonist? Which of his Jamaican dogs will prove to be invaluable, as both a dog and a friend, and join him in his big race? So many questions that I would gladly answer for you, Hollywood.
You can follow Marshall's progress on the Iditarod's site here or on the Outdoor Life Network, provided your cable is from 2006.