A Nice Pair

Okay, anyone who thinks I’m talking about boobs can hit the back button on their browser right now. Although I’d love to examine that topic more thoroughly, my wife’s asleep so that’s out of the question.

Instead I’d like to focus on things that make a good pair. Like cookies and milk. Or chocolate and peanut butter (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, mmmm). And my personal favorite potato chip of all time, Herr’s Bacon and Horseradish Potato Chip. Pity I was one of a small group of consumers interested in that particular flavor. But one of the best pairs you can make is a good movie with buttered popcorn.

Speaking of movies (I’m getting closer to my point, here), there are some great pairs in Hollywood. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper; I hope they keep working together. J.J. Abrams and science-fiction flicks; I’m actually looking forward to the next Star Wars now that George Lucas is out. And Spielberg and just about anything he touches. All great combinations, but perhaps Kevin Costner and baseball are my favorite pairing in movies.

Bull Durham (1998): Selected by ESPN as the best sports movie of all-time, Bull Durham really captures the spirit of minor league ball with witty dialog and well-developed characters who play off one another to perfection. Sure, it’s overall representation of minor league ball may not be overly accurate, but it’s a fun movie and nothing is quite as fun as baseball at its purest. And that comes with minor league ball. Sure, the majors are the pinnacle of the sport but there’s nothing quite like taking in a minor league game in your town. Whether it’s a small town, single-A team or a triple-A club which may have the next wave of MLB stars, minor league ball is just a fun experience. And not just for the fans – it really seems to be enjoyed by the players. Getting out on the road to try to make it to “The Show” is what it’s all about for these young athletes. (Heck, ever see how much fun big league players have pranking fellow teammates, opposing teammates and media members? Not to mention the mascots – they’re a blast in baseball but an annoyance in the other major sports.) I really think Bull Durham captures that essence.

Field of Dreams (1989): Two years in a row for Mr. Costner and great movies revolving around baseball. I give the nod to Bull Durham as the better sports movie, but FoD is simply a fantastic film with the bond of baseball and family (particularly father and son) as a strong backdrop. It ranks as one of the best movies of that year, right behind Glory, in my own opinion. I loved it even back in my days as an atheist. Now that I believe in God it carries an even deeper meaning. You could be in the middle of your daily life when you just hear that voice (“If you build it, he will come”) compelling you to do something totally divergent from what you had planned, or even considered sane. Having had such an experience myself in 1994, I had to immediately return to this movie. It already held my great esteem, from the fantasy element to the symbolism of baseball, but now holds a much stronger connection. Who in their right mind builds a baseball field in the middle of a farm? Who finds an author to take to a baseball game to ease his pain because he’s hearing voices? What force beyond our sight impresses upon us the will to do anything out of our comfort zone? Already a fan, I became even more drawn to this movie during and after my conversion. Great film no matter your feelings on baseball, spirituality or anything, for that matter. Just a great film.

For Love of the Game (2000): Much less fanfare for this one later in Costner’s career. I feel it certainly deserves much more; and I’m not just saying that because it was the last date movie my wife and I went to see in the theatre. I fell in love with the parallel structure going back and forth between his past and present while pitching his last, perfect game. Witnessing the tapestry of his life unfold and the dynamics of his many relationships – with Kelly Preston, Jena Malone, his teammates, and his very team – was artfully done. I was impressed with this movie from the get-go and wish it received the same level of respect as Costner’s two earlier baseball-related movies have. If you haven’t yet seen it, especially if you don’t want to see yet another Kevin Costner baseball flick, I highly recommend adding it to your Netflix queue. You won’t be disappointed.

My brother in Cali has said that football is the best sport to watch on television – but baseball is the best to watch in person. I couldn’t agree more. I enjoy every summer when the girls get their summer reading program tickets to see a free ball game with our local minor league team. There’s a beauty to the game of baseball which lends itself to the art of film-making which other sports seem to lack. Eight Men Out, The Natural, The Bad News Bears, and The Sandlot are other great baseball movies that I’d recommend. But, they don’t have Mr. Movie Baseball himself, Kevin Costner.

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