January 05, 2005

Bull Durham

Sunday night I managed to cross another semi-classic off my "to watch" list. Seeing a baseball movie at or near the end of the football season seemed somehow ironically appropriate.

I've heard about this film for years, and it did not disappoint. I loved the simplicity of the story, having seen several "epics" in recent weeks.

Crash is Kevin Costner, the 12 year minor league catcher semi-star who is signed to the Durham Bulls to catch for Nuke, who is Tim Robbins. Nuke is a brash young bonus baby pitcher and Crash is supposed to train him for the big leagues, or "The Show" as the characters in this story never fail to refer to it.

This little detail did not escape me and it reflects on the truth of this movie. These guys are playing in a little stadium for maybe a thousand fans on a good day, but they are playing a game they love. Nuke loves the attention too but he still loves to pitch. Crash is the guy who is driven by his love of the game. He sure isn't driven by his paycheck. Nuke has received his bonus so he drives a porche.

You have to love Crash, because he sacrifices himself for the sake of the game. He doesn't have a great attitude toward his assignment to begin with, but he picks it up and does it very naturally. Tutoring Nuke is like breathing to him, not only because it's natural, but because he has to do it. Baseball is such a part of Crash's being that he couldn't refuse to help Nuke if he had to.

And I haven't even mentioned Annie yet. She is Susan Sarandon.

Now if you want to talk about someone who sacrifices herself for the sake of the game...

And Annie doesn't even get to play. Not baseball at least. Although she does take some batting practice with Crash in one scene.

Annie's character represents the real soul of the game, because she is the quintessential dedicated fan. She speaks of the "church of baseball." Baseball has taught her more about life than any other church or spiritual practice has. Yes, we all know that baseball is not for the players -- baseball is for the fans.

And the truest of baseball fans are those who attend those minor league games. They don't need to see Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. They just want to see someone -- any hungry young ballplayer -- slide into homeplate just barely beating the throw from right field.

My wife and I went to see the triple A team from Albuquerque play many times (though that situation doesn't really compare to the Durham Bulls portrayed in this film -- we paid major league prices for our beers and hot dogs) and we observed how it was fun to see the young guys who are hungry just to get an at bat. Those guys are always playing for their careers so even if the score is 11-2 in the bottom of the ninth, the hitter and the pitcher are both bearing down, giving it their best shot.

Ah, but back to "The Show." Nuke and Crash and Annie always refer to major league baseball as "The Show." The best 21 days of Crash's life were those he spent with the parent club once. "The Show" is like the holy grail for most of the guys on the team -- something to dream about but something they will probably never see. They know it's only a show though. And I think the writer, Ron Shelton, wanted to make that point. We love it, but it's still only a show. Annie will continue to learn about life, Nuke will make a lot of money, and Crash will spend the rest of his life as a coach or a manager, but it's just a game. Throwing, hitting and catching a ball to entertain those willing to pay the admission price. And none of them have any delusions that it is anything else.

Posted by Wayne at January 5, 2005 12:06 AM

perhaps an interesting thing (to me at least). this was when tr met ss and then fell in love and married. in light of this, the chemistry between kc and ss is even more amazing to me (up there with toby and kirtin in spidy ii - they broke up before filming, but still smolder in movie) kc and ss smoke in the movie. (oddly their romp is one of the better love scenes in a movie. up there with kc and the nutcase in the limo in 'no way out" and jen tilly and gina gershon in 'bound' (the only good movie by the W bros)

costner's only other good movie (excluding fandango as it was all about the pilot) was field of dreams. maybe he should have stuck with baseball films. somewhere buried in my piles of shit is a little dirt from the field of dreams given to me by an aunt, and derrange giants fan who made the trek to iowa to get some of the dirt to help the giants in the mid 80's. i've got the dirt and a picture of her with the giants then manager somewhere....

Posted by: msf at January 5, 2005 09:31 PM

Yes I didn't mention the resultant marriage of Sarandon and Robbins -- I try to avoid gossip in this column. And you're right, Susan's onscreen heat with Costner was a lot hotter than with Tim; but that's likely a character thing. Annie liked Crash a lot more than Nuke.

Field of Dreams is another semi-classic that's still on my "to watch" list. Maybe I'll find that disk. Now would be a good time to see it: on the heels of viewing Bull.

Posted by: Wayne at January 5, 2005 10:04 PM

wasn't really trying too gossip. just a nod to some fine acting - i sure as hell thought kc and ss had genuine hots for one another. understand the hole character thing, but there's plenty of good movies with talneted peeps, where you see the romance and just don't feel it. based on how hot kc and ss were on screen, one might think they would have gone the bogie/bacall route.

Posted by: msf at January 6, 2005 10:11 PM
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