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Silver Screen Summaries (10/01/03) --
This is what it’s all about. Call me crazy, but the beginning of the playoffs in ANY sport is my favorite time. I actually like watching the opening rounds more than the Final Four, the first rounds of hockey over the Stanley Cup Finals, and I enjoy Wild Card Weekend more than Super Bowl Sunday. The one exception to this rule would be the baseball playoffs, where the entire spectacle holds the same amount of appeal from the first Division Series game to the champagne popping of the World Series. As Homer Drew might put it, “It’s a magical time of year.” I figured that to break down this year’s playoffs, I would compare each team to a baseball movie, highlighting the similarities as yet another way to get your fix of baseball as we enter October.

American League

New York Yankees: A League of Their Own

I can humbly say that if any of these combinations is the crown jewel of this list, the New York Yankees and A League of Their Own are it. This combination works on so many levels. First of all, the title of the movie should give you a big clue. The New York Yankees essentially DO play in a league of their own. While everyone else toils to make it to the playoffs and take a run at it, the Yankees spend eleven months out of the year tinkering with their roster for the inevitable run in October. Nobody else spends money like the Yankees or get the same treatment as the Yankees. Everyone else is clearly on a different level than the team who is, again, in a league of their own.

Another similarity here is that the movie, like the Yankees, has appeal beyond the hardcore sports audience. A League of their Own was well-received by the general public as a humorous and very entertaining show. The Yankees, meanwhile, are absolutely prime bandwagon jumping material. Any moron can be a Yankees fan and a lot of sports-ignorant people claim them as their favorite team.

But obviously, we all know the real reason I picked this one is because the Yankees are a bunch of women.

Minnesota Twins: Major League

This one should be pretty obvious. In both cases, we had owners looking to sell the soul of the team for a quick paycheck and improvement for the owner and owner only. In both cases, we had a ragtag group of players whose main drive was the glory of baseball and not an exorbitant baseball salary.

When Carl Pohlad decided to enter the Pantheon of Bastardom and offer to sell his ready-to-break-out baseball team, he became just like Rachel Phelps. Phelps, the fictional owner of the Indians in Major League, was looking to sell her team for material reasons just like Pohlad.

In both instances, there were general managers working their butts off in spite of their owners. Charlie Donovan managed to land everyone from Jake Taylor to Lou Brown in the movie in building his squad, while Terry Ryan was performing baseball miracles in Minnesota. With no help financially or motivationally from his owner, Ryan assembled a terrific group of youngsters that has now won the AL Central two years in a row. Such gems as the Chuck Knoblauch deal (Knoblauch to New York for Eric Milton, Cristian Guzman, and Brian Buchanan) make me think that at some point, Terry Ryan was clapping and sticking out his tongue at Pohlad just like Charlie Donovan did.

However, my guess is that Terry probably has suits that fit him and that Ron Gardenhire wasn’t working at Tire World when he had his “interview.”

Oakland A’s: Little Big League

I can see where some would accuse this one of being weak, and that is fair, considering that these two compare in name only. The Oakland A’s are the quintessential embodiment of that name, “Little Big League.” The wizardry of Billy Beane in the front office, has allowed the A’s to be recognized as one of the perennial powers of the American League, while operating on a Detroit-like budget. One doesn’t bat an eyelash when considering the A’s as one of the top five teams in the AL, but it’s easy to look past the fact they do it with one of the league’s lowest payrolls. This team is “Big League” to be sure, but they do it in a creative fashion that allows them to be thrifty, yet competitive.

Just like the inventory at your local Savers discount store.

Boston Red Sox: Bull Durham

Bull Durham is truly a cinematic classic, not only as far as baseball movies go, but also in terms of movies in general. This film is well-known and recognized throughout the world as a great story about baseball and life.

And honestly, I am struggling to understand why.

It’s a decent movie, but I think the story gets to be pretty dull at points. The whole baseball part of the movie is great. It is very engaging cinema. But the Nuke LaLoosh/Annie Savoy love affair is horribly boring to me, and therefore makes this one of the most overrated movies of all time.

This brings us to the Red Sox. Bull Durham, while not really accomplishing as much as advertised, is regarded as one of the best sports movies out there. The Red Sox, too, are regarded as one of the best baseball teams out there. But like the movie, the Red Sox haven’t accomplished much.

I cannot fathom why the Red Sox are viewed as one of the pinnacles of sports franchises, when the United States has won five wars since the Sox last won the title. This is one of the most overrated franchises out there.

Another similarity is the downright repulsiveness of the characters. Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon are downright impossible to stomach at times, regardless of your political persuasion. Kevin Costner, too, has not been cool since sometime in the late eighties. These, my fair readers, are the main people in the movie. That drops the “tolerability” factor of the cast into the deep negatives.

The Red Sox, too, have had their share of idiots. From Mr. “I don’t believe in dinosaurs” Carl Everett, to Dan Duquette, to Roger Clemens, this club has had its share of people that you clearly enjoy rooting against.

But I guess I can compromise. I’ll give you the fact that Bull Durham is a high-quality baseball movie. But in the end, the players depicted are still just minor leaguers. I’ll also give you the fact that the Red Sox are a high-quality baseball club. But compared to the Yankees, they too, are still just minor leaguers.

National League

San Francisco Giants: The Natural

I had my issues with tagging the Giants as The Natural when clearly Barry Bonds’ physique is far from it. But the similarities between this movie and the Giants are too hard to ignore. First of all, Roy Hobbs is an incredibly talented baseball player. Barry Bonds is an incredibly talented baseball player. Roy Hobbs is a reclusive and mysterious man. Barry Bonds is a reclusive and mysterious man. Roy Hobbs didn’t get along with Jeff Kent….alright, maybe the similarities aren’t PERFECT.

But when you think about The Natural, you don’t think of any other cast members besides the main character. When you think about the Giants, you don’t think about anyone else but Barry Bonds. Both the movie and the baseball club are completely focused on the exploits of one terrific, yet enigmatic ballplayer. That makes The Natural the perfect parallel for the San Francisco Giants.

Florida Marlins: Major League II

The Marlins mimic much of what the Twins went through two years ago. If you have blocked the whole contraction mess out of your minds, allow me to bring the idiocy back to the surface as I remind you that when the contraction nonsense first appeared, it was the Expos and the MARLINS who were being named as sacrificial lambs. John Henry was looking to unload his ball club and contraction appeared to be an avenue for that.

So now, we technically have a group of “contraction survivors” that are spiting Bud Selig and making it into the postseason. Heard this before? Yep, we have already seen such a story where the players play in spite of their owner and make the playoffs. And unlike the original (Minnesota), people simply don’t care to watch this unfold, even in south Florida.

The whole thing is a lot like Major League II. Like the Twins story, Major League was a tremendous movie that has a soft spot in many baseball fans’ hearts. Major League II, however, was nothing but a cheap cash-in on the original. The interest for this movie was far less than for the first one and the interest in the Marlins is far less than the buzz surrounding the Twins.

Atlanta Braves: Field of Dreams

I can already hear the Braves fans celebrating as their squad is compared to one of the best, if not THE best baseball movie of all time. Unfortunately, it is for the wrong reasons.

The most famous line from Field of Dreams is, “If you build it, he will come.” But it seems as though the opposite has happened for the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was always packed in the early and mid-nineties when they were making their playoff runs. A personality-free, cookie-cutter stadium, the fans came out in droves to watch their team play baseball. But after the city “built it” (Turner Field) for the Olympics and Braves, the fans decided to stop showing up. The people seem to be doing the opposite of what the voice says, as the Braves aren’t even selling out their playoff games anymore.

A related parallel to the movie is also obvious. In the movie, the only people that can see the baseball games being played are the Kinsiella family and Terrence Mann. Essentially, some spectacular baseball was being played and only four people went out to see it. If I need to finish the rest of this analogy for you, then you have problems.

Chicago Cubs: Rookie of the Year

This may seem like a cop-out, considering the Cubs are the team featured in the movie, but hear me out on this one. The first thing that sticks in my head about Rookie of the Year is that they ride the arm of their young ace to the playoffs and ultimately the championship. The most integral part of this year’s Cubs team, other than the Dominicorkan Daddy, is the clubs “young guns.” Chicago has been riding the arms of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior all the way to the playoffs and any success they have there will be because of these men.

But the broad appeal of the movie is very similar to that of the club. When I was younger, I really enjoyed Rookie of the Year for the story. Even though it is completely far-fetched, I couldn’t have cared less. Now, I still totally dig this film, but for other reasons. One can’t help but see the genius in Daniel Stern’s work (“You heat up the ICE!) or such classic lines as, “I’m not the chicken, you’re the chicken!” As you get older, you still enjoy the movie, but on a different level.

The same is true for the real-life Cubs. When younger, the Cubs seem to be an appealing franchise because everyone knows at least one conniving Cubs fan who tries to convince you that they are a great team. So you watch, silently respecting what they do. But when you get older, you can still enjoy watching the Cubs, but on a different level. You can enjoy laughing at their ineptitude, their shamelessly devoted fans, and their history of really bad teams. The only difference here in this analogy is that I actually like Rookie of the Year, whereas I have much ill-will towards the Cubs.

And just for the record, Detroit would have to be The Scout, the dumbest and worst baseball movie of all-time.

The Leonardite
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