This is some low-hanging fruit, I’ll admit. It’s Thursday during a pandemic and I’ve never been able to get the hang of Thursdays during a pandemic.
Everyone has opinions about this one. It comes up a lot. And of course half of you degenerates think that one of the worst movies of any genre to come out in the past 35 years is the best, so I don’t even know why I’m bothering here, but like I said: it’s Thursday during a pandemic.
I’ve been over this territory in the past, but I’ll observe once again that “Bull Durham” is my favorite baseball movie. Mostly because it is one of the few baseball movies — one of the few sports movies in general, in fact — which eschews the whole “Big Game” thing.
Indeed, that’s what its writer and director Ron Shelton has said on many occasions is what he was specifically trying to avoid in making the movie. The Big Game which, in almost every other movie, causes the characters to forget almost everything they did over the previous two hours of movie time in service of a big sporty climax that, invariably, feels contrived.
This is the case even in good sports movies. “Major League” is probably my second favorite baseball movie, but it in tone it tends to work more like a football movie in which a band-of-misfits come together for the one big game climax. It’s a great movie despite that because it’s absolutely hilarious and every character and actor is a load of fun, but in the end I don’t think it captures something truthful and valuable about human nature or even baseball in the way “Bull Durham” does.
I think the reason “Bull Durham” works so well for me is because it actually matches the tone of baseball as I choose to understand it and consume it: one in which baseball provides a nice backdrop to real life. It’s a story of people set to baseball. I love baseball, but it’s always part of the scenery of my life more than the foreground. It does a fantastic job of that. but the human stuff matters more. It has to.
Anyway, I’m probably overthinking that. Like I said, I love “Major League” and “The Natural” and a bunch of other baseball movies that have big game climaxes. I just think that “Bull Durham’s” refusal to go there for its dramatic stakes elevates it over all the others.
How about you?