Friday, October 20, 2006


Friday morning, the sun is shining bright, the lusty smell of fresh-brewed coffee fills the room, the--

{screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech -- or something approximating the simultaneous tones of needle across vinyl, collagen across slate, and vocal chords set to "Scream" as fat, androgenous-looking catchers do season-ending homerun trots}

Yeah. It is Friday morning, but it's cloudy & dreary, I brewed a horrible pot of coffee, and I feel like I ate a cinder block last night, which is now sitting in my stomach. Ya see, it should be time for the post I enjoy the most, the one I save for that glorious time known as Friday morning. Yes, it's normally the time for the Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day. But today is no normal Friday, and I'm in no mood for frivolity & jocularity, the Twin Engines that normally drive the FSMOMYOTD.

You see, folks, there is no joy in Metsville (or Mikeville), mighty Beltran has struck out.

That said, I believe Barnum or whoever it was said the show must go on. My heart's up in the branches, and Lasorda's excoriating me to "Get outta the tree! Your Mets lost. So what?" But the fact is, my brain's still too addled with what ifs and oh fucks to really channel the goofy muse needed to make the FSMOMYOTD the comic highlight of everyone's week.

Or something like that.

So, in honor of my tandem need to curl into a fetus position and contemplate ways to destroy Yadier Molina, along with my recognition of my Blogging Responsibilities (excuse me, I need to remove the tongue that's embedded in my cheek . . . hold on, almost {pop}, ok, there we go), I must do something. So, I will briefly discuss three movies I saw in the 70s, representing something distinct about that time, and the films of that time.

And, of course, it'll all fit in with my black mood this morning.

Rocky, Bad News Bears, & Breaking Away. Much in common. Much.

Am I talking about the fact that all three are really kinda silly in their own way, even if not in the way I tend to use the word with this post (i.e., cheesy & preposterous)? Nah. Is it the fact that all three are about sports & competition in some way? Nope. And you know what, it's not even about that fact that two of these classic films of my youth starred none other than Jackie Earle Haley as "Moocher" and of course, "Kelly Leak."

No, what strings them together is the very realistic concept, that very seventies notion that one can win in losing, or lose in winning. A realization we've lost sight of 30 years later, that in a vaguely existential way, winning or losing doesn't really matter.

I mean, make no mistake, as Nuke LaLoosh said, Winnin's better than losin'. No doubt. Everyone should try, and try hard, to win at whatever he sets his mind to. But what matters far more is how one performs, how one integrates the facts of the contest. Where one has come from and where one is going.

Or maybe I'm just rationalizing, and I'm utterly full-of-shit. Who knows. But Rocky lost, yet winning big in the process: his dignity, his spirit, his woman, his eye of the tiger, his opportunities to fight for the heavyweight crown in 4 sequels even though he was about 5'7", and not a very good actor. Rocky was a winner.

You watch that 14th round, goddamn it, and tell that man he's not a winner! (Ok, I'll calm down now.)

Or The Cutters. They win the bike race, sure. But you know they're staying in Bloomington, not to go to the university, but to cut rock, to remain townies, to follow their fathers into the quarry, metaphorically speaking. Because nothing ever changes. The haves continue to have, the have-nots continue to have not. All one can do is fight for his dignity in the battles that come along. We got a race? Cool, let's win it. Cause tomorrow those guys are back in class, and we're back to work. So might as well make today better by winning.

And, of course, my favorite of them all: Da' Bears. I saw this one when it came out, and I loved it. Just ate it up. Coaches with flaws (do they call them "managers" in little league?). Juvenile delinquents on the team, just like real little league. Crazy parents losing their shit daily. I saw crazy stuff like that. One year in little league they decided that parents would pitch, because they didn't want kids walking every batter that came up, which often happened. A player would stand next to the pitching parent, fielding the pitcher's position in the adult's stead.

Anyhow, having played a decent second base the previous season (at least by 7 year-old standards), the coach tabbed me for that fielding-pitcher's spot, along with instructions to cover any plays at the plate. Being little league and all, our catcher couldn't catch, so I was to make sure to actually catch the ball and attempt to apply the tag.

Ok. Game during the season. The "Kelly Leak" of the other team, the kid who bashed every pitch the designated father grooved to him in every at-bat, laced a line drive to the outfield. And this slugging wonder, who wore sweat pants, unlike the jeans the rest of us wore under our t-shirts-as-jerseys, took off around the bases. After our left-fielder, who could neither catch nor throw, yielded to the shortstop who ran out to aid him in his duties, a play at the plate began to materialize.

"Michael, Michael. Home plate," the coach called out, reminding me of my role. I ran to home, our catcher being nowhere around, of course, his will to actually play driven out of him by the coach's stategy. I positioned myself, the fast, big kid bore down on me and the throw arrived.

And I dropped it. But the big kid tried to evade my irrelevant tag, as I scambled to find the ball I'd missed on the first go . . . and the umpire called him out for running outside the baseline! You can imagine the chaos that ensued.

His mother ran onto the field threatening to kill the ump, parents from my team ran onto to the field to protect their kids, or more likely, the ump who saved the run for us. Lost, of course, was the irony that if he'd only ran me over, knocking my scrawny ass into the next town, he'd have been safe. But everyone was screaming and ranting too much to think of such things. Why let your kid commit an act of violence permitted by the rules when you can threaten violence against the guy who volunteered to call your kid's ballgame? What a brouhaha.

So, you can imagine why I loved the Bad News Bears. That's right, because of all the cursing! And because I was just getting to the point where a cute girl who could throw gas, and go on a date with the cigarette smoking, motorcycle riding bad boy intrigued my dirty young mind. But even at that young age, I knew the film was addressing something very real.

Kids wanna win, some very much so. I was pretty competitive and I hated losing. But more than that, kids wanna play, have fun, do cool things like catch line drives, or hit a triple. The winning is actually secondary. They want to play the game.

It's funny, but even as an eight year-old I was already cynical enough to think the truism, "It isn't whether you win or lose, but how you play the game" was complete bullshit. And believe me, having seen Bad News Bears, I knew, and used, the phrase bullshit. That proverb seemed a little too feel goodish to me.

But you know what? Maybe I was wrong. It does matter whether you win or lose, but maybe, just maybe, what matters most is how you play the game. I'm not sure.

* * *

Thanks for indulging me with this one today. Back to a standard FSMOMYOTD next week.


Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

sorry 'bout your mets dude. from a long time padres fan i feel with ya. i still fidget and fret when i remember the total ass kickin' the tigers gave us back in the 80's...

fuck rootin' for baseball, the NBA is here. . .(and my suns are going to be so there dude, so there)

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the Knicks won't be there. So I'll not stand in your way.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Knicks? Is that still a basketball team? In the NBA? I thought The Knicks was a bad sitcom starring Isiah Thomas as the doddering sex offender with a penchant for shooting guards.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the PG-13 version. The director's cut is far, far more gruesome and outrageous.

4:52 PM  

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