Today was to be Opening Day 2020 for the World Series Champion Washington Nationals. Alas, the Covid-19 virus had other plans for the world.
But I have a suggestion for you.
Last week the Washington Post asked their writers to name their top sports movies to watch during the coronavirus crisis. They really only needed to have included one.
Watch Bull Durham. The best baseball movie ever. Its not even close.
I’ve written many times — most recently earlier this month — about my personal spring training regimen of reading a baseball book and watching Bull Durham. I watched the movie again earlier this week, and it didn’t disappoint. Regular readers know how I feel. But don’t just take my word for it.
I’ve recently been reading a number of columns about culture and politics by the Post opinion writer Alyssa Rosenberg. She’s smart and a very good writer. So no surprise to learn that she thinks Bull Durham is a great movie, and well deserving of the moniker of a film classic. As her Post colleague Tom Boswell once said a long time ago, “Marianne Moore loved Christy Mathewson. No woman of quality has ever preferred football to baseball.”
I’m going to pull a few quotes from her review to whet your appetite, but you should go read her full piece. Then find the movie online and watch it.
Here’s Rosenberg’s beginning of the 2018 Bull Durham review:
“Try to define what counts as a classic work of art, and you’re virtually guaranteed an argument. But in film, one potential measure is whether a movie makes it into the Criterion Collection, a series of carefully preserved and presented home-viewing editions of “the defining moments of cinema.” So it was with total delight that I learned this week that Ron Shelton’s “Bull Durham,” one of the greatest movies ever made about baseball, a brilliant romantic comedy and a film that stands as a rebuke to many of the false choices the entertainment industry now seems to take for granted, is getting a Criterion Collection release in July.”
She’s exactly right in noting that the film reminds us that we don’t have to accept the false choices given these days by the entertainment industry. For example:
“Bull Durham” makes no apology for being a romance movie; it takes for granted the idea that two grown-up people finding their way to each other, and finding new places for themselves in the world, is a subject of interest. The film is also comfortable assuming that its audience is literate and intelligent, that they know what quantum mechanics are and who Walt Whitman is, or at least that they’re not going to feel insulted when those terms get thrown around in conversation. This is not a movie weighed down by the need to make sure that members of a certain demographic are lured into theaters. In 1988, “Bull Durham” pulled in almost $51 million at the box office, making it the 18th-highest grossing movie of the year.”
And one final quote:
“One of the central insights of “Bull Durham” is that baseball and sex and romance are of equal interest to men and women. This is not a movie where a woman blithely wanders into a male realm she knows nothing about and finds love, nor one where a hard-bitten professional man finds himself distracted by a woman who reminds him that domestic life has its charms. Instead, Annie and Crash are both deeply knowledgeable about baseball history and the technical aspects of the game, even if they disagree about the best way to improve Nuke’s performance.* “Bull Durham” is a love triangle, with Nuke and Crash competing for Annie’s attention, but it’s also a triangle built around mentorship, with Crash and Annie jostling for preeminence in Nuke’s journey to the big leagues.”
Enough. Go read the full review. Then go watch the movie. You may even forget, for a while, that there’s no baseball today.
More to come…
UPDATE: Truth be told, I ended up watching the Nationals World Series Game 7 win this afternoon as part of MLB TV’s special “Opening Day” presentation. That 7th inning was just as incredible again as it was back in October of 2019.
*Okay, one other quote to give you the lay of the land on the characters:
“Bull Durham” takes place over a single summer, or more precisely, over a season for the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team. It concerns a love triangle among the team’s biggest fan and part-time English professor Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) and aging catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), assigned to prepare LaLoosh for the majors. Annie, who takes a new player as a lover each summer, identifies the two as “the most promising prospects of the season so far.” And though she ends up with LaLoosh, whom she nicknames “Nuke,” when Crash explains that “after 12 years in the minor leagues, I don’t try out,” she can’t get the older man out of her head — not least because he sees baseball the same way she does: as the encapsulation of a certain American idea and a particular approach to life.