Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Forevermore We Shall Pass Along The Border...

Drawing a little blank today, but I will say this: if you ever want to get really pumped up for a regular season baseball game, watch "The Natural" immediately beforehand.

I won't sit here and try to pitch this as a great film. It's interesting, and weirdly dark for a sports movie, but you probably won't leave thinking it transcended any of the genre's boundaries. It was also made in 1984, in the middle of a decade when America decided that creating good art wasn't allowed. (I blame Reagan.) So there are the usual limitations, the usual cliches.

However, it pays homage to baseball in a very thorough way, down to the nitty gritty details. After a hit, you'll see a close-up of the ump's brush dusting off home plate; players go into third using the old fashioned hook slide; a greedy batter is caught trying to stretch a clean single into a double; when Hobbs, the main character, calls time-out from right field to talk to the pitcher, the announcer remarks on the oddity; an opposing manager brings in a lefty reliever to create a favorable match-up with a lefty batter. The ballpark and the players are rendered with a grimy touch, creating a sense of realism that departs from the glamor present in other sports films. It's also a period piece, taking place sometime in the 30s, and the ramshackle stadium and shabby uniforms reflect the Depression. And all the dudes wear gray fedoras, which is fun.

Those assets make it easy for a sports fan to become credulous and lose himself in the story. I won't spoil anything, but there's a moving part when Hobbs, played by Robert Redford, tries to articulate a certain emotion to his girlfriend, and finally just pauses, shakes his head, and says "God, I love baseball."

Fuckin' A, man. Fuckin' A.

(Fuckin' A is the classic go-to phrase when you want to show that you're sentimentally in favor of something, but won't risk ruining the moment with wordy explanations like this one.)

Anyway, I watched it for the first time yesterday, and it ended just as the Yankee game against Minnesota began. Everything took on epic proportions in the Metrodome, and for the first few innings I was cheering way too fervently for broken-bat base hits and basic defensive plays. Then the Yanks went up 10-1, and I remembered that in real life there are games that don't come down to the last batter. Perspective returned, bringing with it the usual dose of apathy. Long story short, I barely managed to brush my teeth before falling asleep on the bathroom floor at ten.

Transitioning to actual sports news, the Yanks are staying hot as the All-Star Break approaches, winning 11 of their last 13 and sneaking to within a game of the Red Sox. I'm still hoping we overtake them by Sunday, but while we play Minnesota and Los Angeles, two playoff contenders, the Sox face Oakland and KC. As long as we fare respectably, I'll whistle a contented tune.

More good news: Mark Teixeira beat out Kevin Youkilis for the starting first base job in the All-Star game. As any real baseball fan knows, this is unequivocal proof that Teix is a better player. Always nice to have irrefutable evidence.

That's about it for today. It's a happy time to be a Yankee fan, and with more than half the season gone, we hold a .590 winning % and the Wild Card position. If you'd told me before the year began that we'd lose our first eight games to Boston and still be in prime position to take the division, I'd have laughed right in your face, because only a crazy person claims to know the future. Then I'd have stopped laughing suddenly, because if you were crazy, what else are you capable of? Violence? Murder?! I better get out of here!

1 comment:

  1. If you haven't read the novel, The Natural, by Bern Malamud, you should do so immediately. Far darker than the movie, while still seeming like a compact little fable.