Bill Simmons has tackled sports movies countless times since he’s been writing. And he often has interesting things to say about them. However, I continue to be baffled at his obsession with deciding whether movies are actually “sports movies” or if they’re something else. I mean, yes, it’s interesting to think about the topic — sometimes sports movies could be set elsewhere and tell the same story, sometimes not — but I’m not sure why he considers it such a fundamental, threshold consideration.
“Bull Durham” is his favorite target. He seems to like the movie (well, outside of Tim Robbins’ lack of athleticism, which drives him insane), but the genre of that film bothers him a whole heck of a lot. If you don’t believe me Google “Simmons” “Bull Durham” and “chick flick.” I bet he’s written about it a half dozen times. Maybe more.
None of which ever bothered me too much before — we all have our schticks and we all have dead horses we beat — but I was rather irked by the manner in which he tackled it in his most recent sports movie column this past Friday. Check this out, emphasis supplied by me:
Sure, this is an inventive movie that nailed so many minor league baseball nuances (the lingo, the rhythm, the fans, etc.) and wasn’t afraid to be candid and raunchy (a riskier move in 1988). But why does it really work? Because it caught Peak Costner and Peak Sarandon, two A-list stars at the top of their games. They’re great in the movie and they’re great together. You somehow never hold it against Sarandon that she’s a tramp who sleeps with one new player every season, or that she’s juggling Robbins and Costner and doing everything short of having a threesome with them. And you don’t mind that the last quarter of the movie degenerates into a flat-out love story worthy of the 10,275 times Lifetime has aired this thing.
I’m pretty used to sports bros denigrating or being uncomfortable with anything remotely related to romance, femininity or emotions, but now he’s reduced himself to slut-shaming. To marveling at how it took a near-Oscar-worthy performance for us to get over what he feels is the clear and rational response to a woman having somewhat non-traditional sexual values (i.e. to react so negatively that we would, naturally, hold it against her and consider her a whore). Somehow Sarandon’s character is a “tramp” whereas Nuke LaLoosh — who, like Annie has two on-screen sexual partners in the whole movie — isn’t a problem for him. Nor can I ever recall him talking about male promiscuity in a movie in a negative manner at all.
I have no idea why Simmons is so hung up on the parts of this movie he otherwise seems to enjoy, but it’s sad. It wore pretty immaturely on a single sports writer in his 20s. It wears far less on a sports writer who is in his mid-40s and is a father of a daughter.
The day after Matt Harvey left the clubhouse without talking to the media following yet another bad start, Mets captain David Wright spoke to the press about the whole affair.
Despite column, after column, after column after column in which Harvey was portrayed as a prima donna, was called names and otherwise had his character impugned for not talking to the press, Wright, amazingly, found a different tone to strike. Specifically, he managed to note that (a) it would have been better form and would have shown some accountability for Harvey to talk to the media; while (b) simultaneously acknowledging that Harvey is going through a bad time like most players go through and that it’s understandable that he’d make a mistake in this regard. Which Wright calls a “lapse” which he doesn’t think will happen again and about which Wright will likely talk to Harvey.
Most amazingly, Wright does all of this without calling Harvey names, saying he’s a phony or bringing up minor incidents from years ago in an effort to disingenuously cast Harvey not talking to the media as just the latest in a series of serious and escalating transgressions and/or failures of moral and ethical worth. How he did that I have no idea. Unlike the learned members of the sporting press, Wright didn’t even go to college. Maybe he’s mistaken to think this situation is somewhat complicated and emotional rather than one of stark right and wrong? Clearly, Wright must be mistaken. Life really is that simple, after all.
Or maybe Wright was simply able to appreciate that another person’s struggles are not about him. And that the healthy first impulse when someone who is struggling makes a mistake is to have at least a modicum of empathy and understanding rather than enter into a competition with one’s colleagues to see who can roast that struggling person the hardest.
But again, maybe that’s just crazy talk from a person who didn’t go to journalism school.
The lite version today, as I mourn the last day of school for my kids. Really, kids should go to school until mid-June. And then start school again in late June. School all year with no breaks except for, maybe, when the parents want a vacation. It would make the world run way, way better.
The Giants continued to roll on yesterday, winning in walkoff fashion with a Brandon Crawford RBI single in the 10th. They’ve won 13 of 14 games and now would be a good time to remind y’all that I picked them to win the World Series. The Yankees’ six-game winning streak was snapped thanks in part to a couple of homers from their old friend Russel Martin. A couple of streaks continued, hitting streaks that is, from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts with the former’s standing at 29 games and the latter at 18. The Braves fell to the Brewers in 13 innings, causing one to wonder what on Earth would make someone watch a 13-inning Braves-Brewers game if they weren’t being paid to.
Anyway, summer unofficially begins this weekend. If you’re like me and your kids will be hanging around constantly now, claiming they have nothing to do, summer begins at about 3pm today.
Here are the scores
Mets 2, Nationals 0
Phillies 8, Tigers 5
Twins 7, Royals 5
Cubs 9, Cardinals 8
Rangers 15, Angels 9
Indians 4, White Sox 3
Giants 4, Padres 3
Blue Jays 8, Yankees 4
Pirates 5, Diamondbacks 4
Red Sox 10, Rockies 3
Brewers 3, Braves 2
Marlins 4, Rays 3
Astros 4, Orioles 3
Mariners 13, Athletics 3
Dodgers 3, Reds 1
Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera, playing in his second game since being benched for a lack of hustle, hit a three-run home run to extend his team’s lead to 5-1 in the fourth inning on Wednesday afternoon. After putting a sweet swing on an Anibal Sanchez 2-1 slider, Herrera flipped his bat in grand fashion. It wasn’t quite as emphatic as Jose Bautista‘s from last year’s ALDS, but it was glorious nonetheless.
To the Tigers’ credit, Herrera’s bat flip didn’t result in any shouting or fighting or throwing intentionally at hitters. So that’s nice.
Herrera is now batting .327/.440/.461 with five home runs and 17 RBI on the year. The Phillies selected him in the Rule 5 draft from the Rangers ahead of the 2015 season and he’s proven to be the lifeblood of the offense thus far.
Someone on Reddit’s /r/baseball page linked to this New York Times article from June 1986.
Dave Kingman, then with the Athletics, was 37 years old and playing in what would be his final season. He was fined $3,500, which is a little over $7,600 in 2016 dollars, for sending a live rat in a pink box to a female reporter, Susan Fornoff of The Sacramento Bee. The rat wore a tag that said “my name is Sue.”
Kingman refused to apologize, saying, “I’ve pulled practical jokes on other people and I didn’t apologize to them.”
According to Fornoff, Kingman had said to her that women don’t belong in the clubhouse, and Kingman had been harassing her since she began covering the team in ’85. The Athletics didn’t keep Kingman around after the season, and he ended up hanging up the spikes.
Pete Dexter wrote in more detail about the incident at Deadspin a few years ago. It’s a good read.
I wasn’t familiar with this story as I was still more than two years from being born when it happened. Sports media has made strides towards being more inclusive of non-white cisgender straight men, especially compared to 30 years ago. But, of course, we’re still a long ways away from an ideal world in which everyone is treated equally and everyone has equal access. Some of the best baseball reporting and analysis these days is being done by women and it’s nice to see sites, especially FanGraphs recently, make a concerted effort towards diversification.