Obviously there are some great sports movies and plays, but there are probably more bad ones than good ones. Sometimes they’re bad because it’s hard for actors to convince the audience that they’re credible athletes. Sometimes the stories are just dumb. I think a lot of the time people decide to make sports movies first and worry about a decent script way, way after designing the uniforms and stuff.
Sometimes, however, they’re bad because the stakes of sports aren’t, in reality, as big as the stakes in real life, so it’s hard to get as invested in a sports drama like you might a thriller or a murder mystery or a romance. SO many creators of sports drama forget this, making “winning the big game” the dramatic apex. It’s a mistake, though. “Rocky” was a great sports movie despite him losing his bout with Creed because it was a story about a man who was an underdog in life, not just boxing. It wasn’t about an athletic event alone. “Bull Durham” was great despite the hero getting cut before the end of the season because it was a story about three people dealing with real life stuff first (Nuke growing up, Crash growing old, Annie settling down), baseball second. There are tons of examples of this.
Over at The Hardball Times, Jack Moore tells us of a baseball play that does not make this mistake. And which, because of a truly unique setting and storytelling structure, sounds absolutely fantastic in execution as well as conception:
Safe at Home is a unique production, staged at St. Paul’s CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints, an independent baseball team known for its creative and wacky promotions and for being one of the best fan experiences in baseball. The Saints lent their three-year old park in the heart of St. Paul for Safe at Home. Groups of roughly 25 audience members were brought through nine areas of the stadium, with a seven-minute scene unfolding at each stop along the way.
Yes, the audience moves from place to place to see scenes set in the batting cage, the dugout, the clubhouse, the press box, etc. And the story itself — which Moore reviews and examines fully — sounds amazing: it’s just before the seventh game of the World Series between the Padres and the Rangers. The Padres star starting pitcher is a Dominican player who is contemplating boycotting the seventh game as a political protest over racial justice and immigration. Fans, the press, the umpires, team ownership and a presidential nominee, seemingly based on Hillary Clinton, are all at the ballpark and are all dealing with the implications of it all.
Moore’s review is excellent and thorough. Really, go read it to see how they produced the play and the logistics involved. And, of course, he has some great insights regarding the dramatic narrative. The key part he hits, in my view, is how the play does not make the mistake with the stakes involved in sports that I outlined above. It’s a great example of how sports and the real world can intersect and speak about one another.
Even if we never get a chance to see this play — and it’s hard to imagine that it could be easily reproduced or go on the road — simply having read about it is a thought-provoking experience. Both about the play itself and about how any of us would react if its premise occurred in real life.