One nation, divided by two baseball movies
College baseball teased us with a season that won’t be resolved and now, this weekend, the Major Leagues are reminding us how much we miss Opening Day, red-white-and-blue bunting and all.
That start of the season has always been an excuse for deep-thinking writers to wax romantic, usually to a fault, often teetering on the edge of poetry, over what it all really means — usually meandering eventually to some teary reference of fathers and sons playing catch in the backyard.
But, sorry, I see something far deeper going on here when it comes to baseball in America.
All baseball does is bring to light, each year, that this great nation, as many strides as we’ve made, remains hopelessly divided over one key issue.
No, it’s not the DH.
It’s not even sign-stealing as “part of the game” as opposed to “cheating.”
This country is split right down the middle when baseball fans go to the movies.
“Field of Dreams.”
Which side are you on?
And no hedging.
There may be anecdotal evidence to the contrary — I don’t care — to my way of thinking you can’t enjoy both.
One or the other.
You’re either a Field of Dreams fan or you’re on board with Bull Durham.
Declare yourself so we know where you stand.
The oddity here is that Kevin Costner stars in both. Normally anything Costner is in annoys the devil out of me. Not sure why. But he does — especially in “Tin Cup” when he stands there and knocks 19 golf balls into the lake just to prove how stupid he is.
Yet I love one of these Costner baseball movies and have trouble staying awake through the other.
Let’s cut to the baseball chase, with the disclaimer that “Major League” leaves them both in the dust, sort of in the way that “Porky’s” remains one of most under-appreciated cinematic examinations of the previous century.
But it’s those two polarizing movies that starts more baseball fights that high and tight fastball.
And Bull Durham is the clear choice here.
Bull Durham is so good that Costner couldn’t ruin it. Field of Dreams is so idiotic that even James Earl Jones — that voice — couldn’t save it.
In Field of Dreams, we’re asked to believe that “If you build it …” long-dead and longer-disgraced players Chicago Black Sox players will start coming out of the cornstalks.
In Bull Durham we’re asked to believe that “If you have no curfew …” young minor leaguers will get drunk and turn on the water faucet to flood the field enough for a rainout the next day.
Or maybe Field of Dreams just goes straight over my head — and I love baseball as much as anybody.
Bottom line on Field of Dreams: If Hollywood wanted to put a city slicker in an Iowa cornfield they should have gone ahead and done a movie remake of “Green Acres.”
Instead Costner built and manicured a pristine baseball “diamond,” seemingly overnight, and still his wife and daughter did not take the hint. They decided to love him rather than leave him after notifying the proper authorities.
The rest of the farming community thought he was bat-spit crazy, and they were right.
Of course, unlike the Kinsella family, the Iowa townfolk couldn’t see the come-to-life Black Sox on the field, even after they summoned some of their contemporaries to the farce.
If you can actually see those dead players on the field, you really need to take a deep look at where your life is headed … probably, according to the movie, bankruptcy.
It lost me when they lured James Earl Jones (you have to use all three names) into the charade.
He should have thrown Costner out the door before he barged in.
But it set the stage for:
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”
I have no idea what that means, but I’m sure it’d deep and James Earl Jones’ voice makes it sound important.
In Bull Durham we learn that “Candlesticks make a good wedding gift.”
Real life’s lessons, there.
So is the theme of the movie, summed up here: “Don’t think. You can only hurt the ball club.”
Field of Dreams spends almost two hours over-thinking it, as in here with another musing from James Earl Jones:
“This field, this game. It’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and could be again.”
I’d just like to see a game again.