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The title always seemed like the most reasonable baseball advice I ever heard. Since I was a lousy ballplayer, maybe I can apply that advice to a blog.
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Side Effects of Baseball Movies

Posted 04-22-2009 at 03:38 PM by tebman

While prowling the interwebs for something that I've since forgotten about, I came upon an article by Roger Angell, the baseball writer for The New Yorker. In the July 31, 1989 issue, he wrote "No, But I Saw the Game," a long essay about baseball movies.

His premise was that baseball movies by their nature have to show ongoing excitement, while real baseball is a series of long stretches of tepid activity with occasional bursts of emotional release. Actual baseball doesn't translate well to popular movies for that reason, which is why so many movies about baseball are a disappointment to those of us who follow the game.

I had to agree. Film is a form of storytelling: it needs a set of characters, a plotline, some conflict and some resolution. A ballgame has that too, but many times the narrative climaxes are obvious only after the game is over ("It was that double play in the 4th that was the key to the game."). It's hard to make a movie out of that.

Angell has excellent taste. He said that the best baseball movie he'd ever seen was "Bull Durham." I completely agree, and for the same reasons. The characters are true baseball people (even Annie the pathological fan), and by way of a clever script the story proceeds like a ballgame. There is anticipation in the beginning, dull stretches of play in the middle, some excitement in the late stretches, and the hollow sadness of an unhappy finish while seeing the possibilities of tomorrow. And everybody involves feels it deeply. For my money that's the best depiction of a game or a season or a career.

But then I watch a few minutes of SportsCenter and realize what it is that has always bothered me about those programs and some network game broadcasts -- they're made like the movies. They can't abide anticipatory stretches, or the advance-the-runner or middle-relief components. There's only the explosive burst of the home run, the game-winning hit, and the high-fiving after the game. It's a popular-movie ethos they follow. They want to make Star Wars, not All The President's Men.

Nah, give me a seat in the grandstand with a scorecard or in my back yard with the radio. I like a good story, and a baseball game consistently gives me one without trying.
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