' ' Cinema Romantico: Tying More Sports to Sports Movies

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tying More Sports to Sports Movies

If earlier this season Major League Baseball sought to broaden its appeal and fan base by playing games in London and Mexico, the MLB marketing department apparently decided that merely stretching the bounds of the real world was not enough. That’s because last week they announced that next season the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees would square off at the Field of Dreams. Yes, that Field of Dreams, the one from “Field of Dreams”, the 1989 baseball fantasy in which an Iowa farmer (Kevin Costner) constructs a baseball diamond in his cornfield to summon the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson, the set erected for the film in Dyersville, Iowa having gone on to become a beloved eastern Iowa tourist attraction.

As a native Iowan, the Field of Dreams means a great deal to me, and I wrote about what transforming this formerly quaint scenic attraction into a more sprawling, commercialized one might mean and why I was ok with it back in 2014 when it was sold by its original owners. I stand by that piece. If this is what they need to keep that field there, so be it. What I’m really interested in here, however, is the other possibilities this opens up for gimmick games, not just in baseball but all sports. After all, the NFL has played games in London and Mexico too, and the NHL has made a tradition of hosting an outdoor game on New Year’s Day. So what if other sports tried to tie the movies into their game presentation?

Home of the fictional Bridgetown Swing
You could stage games at Durham, North Carolina’s Durham Athletic Park (The DAP), home to the Bulls of the legendary “Bull Durham”, or at Davenport, Iowa’s majestic Modern Woodmen Park, home to the Bridgetown Swing of the should-be legendary “Sugar”, but then both these parks still stand and still host games. You can go buy an undoubtedly cheap ticket to see the North Carolina Central Eagles at The DAP just as you can buy a ticket to see the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits at Modern Woodmen Park. (I’d like to say we could stage a football game at the old Miami Orange Bowl, home to “Any Given Sunday’s” Miami Sharks, but the old Orange Bowl has since been demolished because the world is stupid.)

My longstanding dream has been for “The Naked Gun’s” Frank Drebin to really umpire a Major League Baseball game, preferably with a manager prone to hissy fits. But Leslie Nielsen passed away in 2010 and the California Angels are now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Brought To You By Embassy Suites by Hilton Anaheim Orange anyway.

I have long been on record as saying that all Olympic fencing contests should be held not on a piste but in a replica of Nottingham Castle complete with a stone staircase and falling candelabra. But you know how the IOC is, you gotta bribe ‘em at a least a couple million to get anything done and so that’s out.

Golf isn’t a bridge too far for me so much as it is a bridge covered in khaki and polo that I just don’t want to cross. But if you wanted to spruce up golf, maybe take one of your lesser PGA Tour events – The Wyndham Championship in Greensboro sounds like it could use a little more glamour – purposely drop a TV tower on the 18th green a la “Happy Gilmore” and make those pros putt around it. I might tune in.

The NFL, as we know, likes nothing more than to give the appearance of caring about social issues. Why not pretend to tackle prison reform too? Stage a game at the Georgia State Prison in a nod to “The Longest Yard”, sort of Roger Goodell goes to Folsom? Or would Roger Goodell find an excuse to not attend?

Remember in “White Men Can’t Jump” when Sidney Dean explains to Billy Hoyle how playing on the beach means you need to adjust for the wind? Maybe we could make two NBA teams have to adjust for the wind and play a game on one of the courts at Venice Beach. It’s 24 minutes from the Staples Center! Bus Lebron and the Lakers and Kawhi and the Clippers out there on Christmas Day and have them go at it!

The NHL Winter Classic, meanwhile, has gone stale. They’ve played it at baseball stadiums and football stadiums since its inception in 2008. But if you wanna keep playing outdoor hockey, it’s time to get real; it’s time to head north for Banff National Park in Alberta where “Mystery, Alaska” was shot and play some damn pond hockey.

If these are all solid thousand dollar ideas, it’s time for the million dollar idea. Various Major League Baseball organizations have Bring Your Dog to the Park Day, right? So why not tie that into “Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch” (2002) and have each team for that night’s game employ a dog (breed to be decided by a fan vote). Don’t wag your finger at me, purists! Bill Veeck would have loved this! What’s more, because “Air Bud” is a whole series – basketball, football, soccer, volleyball – we can tie this into other sports!

See Kevin Durant scowl when an Alaskan Malamute fails to pass him the ball on the fast break; see Bill Belichik scold a beagle playing outside linebacker rush the passer when it should be dropping back into pass coverage; see Ronaldo flop when a Bedlington Terrier scoots underneath his legs; see an American Bloodhound use its nose to set Kerri Walsh-Jennings for the spike at the Manhattan Beach Open! THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!!!

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