January 24, 2002

Yet Another Baseball Movie?: Granted, it's not as annoying as Keanu teaching the sweet science to inner city kids, but is it Hollywood's refusal to acknowledge the declining popularity of baseball why basketball and football movies are few and far between?

posted by owillis to culture at 04:31 AM - 20 comments

Baseball translates to film better than the other sports. I can only think of two unforgettable basketball films -- the classic Hoosiers and the hilariously bad Fish Who Saved Pittsburgh. For football, there's The Longest Yard, Heaven Can Wait and Brian's Song. Baseball, though, has a long list of favorites -- Eight Men Out, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams A League of Their Own, Bad News Bears, and more. It might just be a result of baseball's long status as the national pastime, but I think the cinematic interest is a recognition that baseball is still more culturally resonant than the other sports, even if TV audiences seem to be losing interest in it. And no sport tells a father-son story better than baseball.

posted by rcade at 09:57 AM on January 24, 2002

I think baseball works well for film, cinematically-speaking. The game itself has a narrative structure, unfolding chapter-by-chapter (inning-by-inning). It's been argued that baseball is more suited for a print culture, while basketball is more suited for a TV culture (which explains the rise of the NBA and the decline of the MLB). But, recently, I've been thinking that baseball is also more suited for a computer/Internet culture, because it's so stat-oriented and information-based. I've actually noticed a growing interest in baseball among my friends and colleagues. Is this far-fetched?

posted by jacknose at 10:42 AM on January 24, 2002

One reason: Baseball is "safe" and "less urban." Its hard to get a lot of old white guys into a movie about basketball. With football, you can do it, but they have to be aging quarterbacks and coaches and owners. I'd say most basketball movies of late are made because the old white guys hear that "the kids like basketball." A notable exception would be He Got Game. Another reason: baseball is good for film because its such an sport for individuals. And the pitcher/batter conflict is singular and clear. Basketball and football versions of this are a bit more muddled. How does a batter beat a pitcher? He slams the ball out of the park. How does the quarterback beat his defensive nemesis? He gets rid of the ball. And success is dependant on someone else exterior to the drama: the reciever. Not that spectacular.

posted by thebigpoop at 11:12 AM on January 24, 2002

Would BASEketball count as an unforgettable baseball movie, an unforgettable basketball movie, or a zesty combination of the two? I've always liked the football game in M*A*S*H. And I haven't seen the movie, but in high school I played football against the team in Remember the Titans.

posted by kirkaracha at 11:32 AM on January 24, 2002

You've got to love BASEketball (or deBASEketball). I always find it annoying when they show actors--who obviously never played the sport (or are not that good)-- in action. We're supposed to believe they're world-class athletes but their form is just awful. This happens in tennis movies all the time. I've seen the most horrible backhands swung by "pro" tennis players in films.

posted by jacknose at 11:52 AM on January 24, 2002

And the pitcher/batter conflict is singular and clear Ah, c'mon you ever see NFL films? You've got the whole mindgame between receiver and cornerback, you've got RB versus LB. The conflict is there, I think film dudes just take the easy way out. Any Given Sunday did a good job of slowing down the action, then speeding it up. Of course, I hope baseball movies start tanking (how many times can the aging wonder come back - for one. more. chance.?) so Hollywood wakes up. In reality, this is all in a sad effort for me to find football between February and August. Did you know that the NY Times liked Baseketball? I fell a little less guilty now.

posted by owillis at 03:48 PM on January 24, 2002

The conflict is there, I think film dudes just take the easy way out. Well, duh. Maybe I should have been more specific. The batter/pitcher duel is easier to create. Therefore it is done more often. Its easier to create a mediocre baseball movie than and mediocre basketball or football movie. If the makers of The Rookie made it about any other sport, it would have been worse than it will already be.

posted by thebigpoop at 07:40 PM on January 24, 2002

"would have been worse than it already will be." What language was that?

posted by thebigpoop at 09:16 PM on January 24, 2002

In reality, this is all in a sad effort for me to find football between February and August. There's always ESPN Classic. And Playstation 2.

posted by jacknose at 09:42 PM on January 24, 2002

I thought that was the purpose of your TV show quest.

posted by thebigpoop at 10:48 PM on January 24, 2002

north dallas forty should be included in the football movie list. while it has plenty of comedic moments, the real meat of the movie is it's unflinching (and i think, mostly honest) look at the callous practices of management and the sacrifices that are required to play in the nfl. and the setup used to get rid of nick nolte at the end, 'smoking marijuana with an unidentified white male (mac davis as don meridith)' is pure evil genius.

posted by lescour at 01:21 PM on January 25, 2002

Keanu teaching the sweet science I thought boxing was the sweet science. Or maybe it's chocolate. Or is it a cheesy band?

posted by kirkaracha at 02:38 PM on January 25, 2002

Let's not forget Hoop Dreams among good (in this case, great) basketball movies, although I know people were thinking fiction-first. I would agree with thebigpoop's (that right, folks, thebigpoop's) assertion that the pitcher/batter duel lends itself easily to film -- except that the "pitching" is usually so terrible that the natural tension gets undercut. (See Tim Robbins as a "fireballer" in Bull Durham for a classic example.)

posted by argybarg at 02:27 PM on January 29, 2002

I think baseball "works" better in a movie culture because most of those movies involve you for a "season long ride ending in championship" kinda thingy. That's a lot harder to do with football and keep the tension building to the end. Remember the Titans is a great movie (in part) because it was able to pull that off. Brian's Song is less of a football movie than a human drama that its OK for guys to like. I can't believe that a listing of football movies 'round here doesn't mention Knute Rockny, All American. That movie (hoky or not) still presents everything that's great about football.

posted by Wulfgar! at 03:19 PM on January 29, 2002

Jim Thorpe: All American was only tangentially football related but it was an interesting watch at about 2 in the morning.

posted by owillis at 06:35 PM on January 29, 2002

Where's Rudy?

posted by kirkaracha at 06:59 PM on January 29, 2002

Tennis movies? Did I miss something? Someone name one, cos I'm at a loss... Alright, so we've covered basketball and football movies, but noone mentioned other sports like hockey or golf films yet. Perhaps there's a reason. Okay, so I never saw those Ducks movies, and the only golf movies I've seen are Tin Cup and Happy Gilmore. And we're forgetting the classic good-vs-evil struggle portrayed by both the intermittent car chases (an obvious homage to the thrill of Nascar) and the exciting final downhill ski race in the classic sports-film-masked-as-comedic-love-story Better Off Dead. Maybe that last one was a bit of a stretch. And here I was just going to bash Dennis Quaid in a baseball movie. Obviously Freddie Prinze Jr. couldn't carry the baseball movie torch, but do we really have to start digging in the senior citizens pile for leading men in these roles?

posted by evixir at 10:41 PM on January 29, 2002

Erf. I should watch the trailer before I bash. It actually looks like it might be a decent movie (or else I'm a sucker for well-crafted trailers), so nix those negatory comments up there. Til it comes out, that is.

posted by evixir at 10:48 PM on January 29, 2002

You ski the K-12 dude, and girls will go sterile just looking at you! Ahh, the k-12. What memories...

posted by justgary at 10:48 PM on January 29, 2002

Canoe's acting makes me want to wretch. Don't allow this man to act again. Ever.

posted by adampsyche at 10:17 AM on January 30, 2002

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