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“Bull Durham” is good because of (a) sex; and (b) the lack of “one big game”

Jun 25, 2013, 11:32 AM EDT

Image (1) bull-durham-baseball_l.jpg for post 4053

Bull Durham was released 25 years ago last week and there have been many retrospectives about it in the sporting and cinematic press recently. I know people’s mileage varies on this sort of thing, but I tend to agree with most of the assessments of the movie as the best baseball movie ever.

Ron Shelton, the film’s writer and director, gave this quote to The Atlantic and it’s probably the reason I like it the most:

“The fault I found with most baseball movies, with most sports movies, is that they were invariably about ‘The Big Game.’ Any professional athlete can tell you that he was never about winning The Big Game. There was always another game to play. Essentially, I tried to add two new ingredients to the baseball film: sex and the idea that life didn’t simply build up to one big game.”

Which is why I like baseball as a sport. Way fewer “big games” than there are in other sports. Which isn’t to say I don’t like big games when then happen. It’s mostly about not liking how we’re supposed to feel about that big game and how people write about that big game and how life is supposed to be put on hold for that big game. That mindset is the total opposite of why I like baseball. It’s a diversion and a stress-reducer for me. Always has been. Why spend so much time and effort crowding out the important things in your life and creating stress when it doesn’t have to be there? Sex is more important than baseball. Ten random baseball games are better than one important one.

“Bull Durham” is one of the few baseball movies which actually matches the tone of baseball as I choose to understand it and consume it: one in which baseball provides a nice backdrop to real life. Even other baseball movies I love like “Major League” have that all wrong. In terms of tone, “Major League” is a football movie, what with its band-of-misfits and one big game climax. It’s great because it’s hilarious, not because it captures something truthful and valuable about baseball.

  1. yahmule - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    The Bad News Bears and Eight Men Out are my favorite baseball movies, but Bull Durham is high on the list, too.

    • Beau - Jun 25, 2013 at 10:07 PM

      While The Bad News Bears builds up to the one big game, I think the one big game occurs more often in Little League with the shorter schedule (plus, the Bears lose, which is rare in these movies). And that movie perfectly captured the spirit of baseball and Little League.

  2. Minoring In Baseball - Jun 25, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    I’ve seen just about every baseball movie, and Bull Durham is very high on my list, especially because I love minor league baseball so much. Seeing a game in Durham was also very high on my baseball bucket list:
    and even Asheville, where Crash hit is record breaking homer:
    My other favorites are Major League and The Final Season.Enjoy.

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