Friday, August 19, 2011

Revisiting "The Sandlot"

The Sandlot is a movie made in the early 90's about kids in the early 60's trying to retrieve a Babe Ruth baseball from the early 30's.

It is, by all accounts, a modern classic that managed to capture the spirit of summer, youth, baseball's golden age, and the imagination possessed by all 12 year old boys. This movie delivered us some of the best character names of all time - "Benny the Jet", "Smalls", "Squints", "Ham", "Timmy and Tommy Timmons", and "Yeah Yeah". Without exaggeration, I've easily seen it 100 times.

They made a straight-to-video sequel years later, but we all agreed as a country not to talk about it.

The Sandlot represented a time when giant vacant lots could be used as makeshift ball fields for adolescent kids. If it weren't for all the racial tension, intolerance, social inequality, and still largely primitive healthcare, I 'd say the early 60's would be a good time to go back to.

That said, here's 5 things that have always bugged me about this movie:

5. Benny blows up a baseball/hits the ball directly into Smalls' glove
In the first scene when Smalls is accepted onto the team Benny seemingly teaches him all the rules of baseball by telling him to hold his glove in the air and then hitting a perfect ball from home plate to left field that lands in Smalls' outstretched glove. After that Smalls fits in and is just as good at baseball as the other guys who have played together for years. That could happen in theory, but it's highly improbable. 

What's impossible is what Benny does later. Facing pitches at the plate, he connects with one, completely blowing the cover off and turning the ball into a bundle of yarn. That has literally never happened, ever, and this 7th grader just did it.

I get that Benny is good at baseball, but there's no need to make him magically good at baseball.

He was still the coolest kid ever, though.

4. Benny the Jet Steals Home
- Spoiler: Benny the Jet Rodriquez makes it to the big leagues and plays for the hometown Dodgers. That's a no brainer. I mean, he can destroy baseballs with a single swing and accurately hit a stationary target with a ball and bat from 200 feet away.

Additional Spoiler: Smalls grows up to be the Dodgers' play-by-play man, which is almost sacrilegious, considering the role Vin Scully has played as the Dodgers' real life play-by-play man for over a half century. It'd be similar to the Smalls character growing up to be the pope.

In the last scene Benny steals home to win a major league game. I'm not denying the plausibility of this. Benny was pretty fast when he was running from 'The Beast' and exposition throughout the movie has clearly painted him as an excellent baseball player. I'm denying the amount of time it takes him to do it. A major league baseball player can run from one base to the next in 3 seconds or less. By my count, it takes Smalls 8 seconds to call the action from the time Benny leaves 3rd and before he's safe at home.

Benny would've been out by 5 steps. Further aggravating is after he's won the game, Benny turns and gives his buddy in the announcers' booth a cloyingly cheesy thumbs up. Does this mean that every time Benny does anything good on the baseball field he turns around and points his thumb at the grandstand? That's something crazy people would do. Before he stole home Smalls insinuated that Benny's had a long career in the majors. If he's a major league veteran shouldn't he be over giving his boyhood friend a thumbs up anytime something good happens?

"Smalls, I've grown a moustache since we were kids"
3. Smalls' fishing hat at the end of the movie
- Also in the last scene, Smalls is shown in the Dodgers broadcasters booth. We know we're looking at grown up Smalls because he's wearing the goofy fishing hat that he was wearing at the beginning of the movie. You know, the hat he wore as a 12 year old for all of one scene?

This hat
A. Who keeps any article of clothing they had when they were 12? Who would even want to keep anything they wore when they were 12? Do you remember what you wore when you were 12? Are you still wearing it? Of course you're not.

B. The hat doesn't even fit and does he wear it every game? If so, he's probably the topic of conversation amongst his coworkers when he's not around and the conversation is, "what the f*ck is with that stupid fish hat he's always wearing? Have you seen it? It's 30 years old, at least, and it doesn't even fit his head!"

C. I realize this is the director's way of explaining who we're looking at, but a name-plate on a desk, one line of introductory dialogue ("I'm Scott Smalls and you're listening to the home of the Dodgers"), and the problem is solved without making Smalls look like a 40 year old werido.

2. The Night Game
- On the 4th of July all the kids get together because the fireworks provide enough light for them to play a night game so they can "feel like big leaguers". There's a few flaws with this. One, have you ever seen a fireworks show longer than 20 minutes? Red, White and Boom in Columbus is massive and I can't remember that lasting longer than a half hour. 20 minutes isn't long enough to play 2 innings, but apparently this small town neighborhood fireworks show has the pyrotechnic budget of U2.

Second, fireworks, even during big finales do not provide enough light to play baseball. Go outside tonight, turn on your backyard spotlight, throw a baseball in the air and try not to run away screaming once you lose it in the sky. That's what playing baseball by fireworks light would be like. Fireworks shows have breaks in the action where nothing is happening. Trying to play baseball during a fireworks show would be like trying to play baseball with a strobe light.

1. The Puke Scene
- To celebrate their trip to the neighborhood carnival all the boys take a hunk of Big Chief chewing tobacco and then proceed to hop on the Tilt-a-Whirl. This results in every single one of them puking not only on themselves, but all over innoncent victims below the ride.

My issue with this? It's not that 12 year olds were dipping, it's that the ride continues to operate even after they've all ralphed. Have you ever seen someone puke on a ride at an amusement park? They shut the ride down. People run for the hills screaming. 3 guys in hazmat suits come in and hose it off. If one kid pukes, the ride is immediately stopped. It doesn't continue so 8 more kids can puke.

"Bertram got really into the 60's. Nobody really knows what happened to him."

All that not-withstanding, it's just a movie, a Disney movie at that, a really good Disney movie at that, and it more than makes up for its flaws, but having caught it on TV last night for the first time in awhile, I thought it up to me to document my frustrations. Thanks for listening.

Follow me on twitter @TheUnionBlue for sports coverage or @McSean3 for poop jokes.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Coolest Coffee Table in the World

The hockey season doesn't start for another 50 days and I'm bored out of my mind. The Reds are tanking, and the Bengals aren't showing any signs of promise. The Blue Jackets on the other hand are about to ice the best team they've ever had (on paper) and I've never been more excited for NHL hockey in Columbus. So with this extended break in the news cycle, I thought I'd share the story of something I hold near and dear - my coffee table. 

One day, like any other day, I was sitting in my 8th grade study hall doing whatever it is 8th grade boys do (I know it wasn't studying) when I was introduced to something that would go on to have a deep and profound impact on my life - Ms. Ringo's penny hockey board.

Some rules for the uniniated: penny hockey is a children's game in which two players sit at opposite ends of a wooden box made with retaining edges, pegs, and then a penny sized hole at each end. The main objective is to slide a penny into the hole at the opposite end. First to 5 goals, 10 goals, whatever, wins.

As soon as this thing was brought out of the closet every dude in the study hall took to it. We abandoned "Oregon Trail" and penny hockey became our new obsession. We formed the National Penny Hockey Association or NPHA. We had player standings, power rankings, regular seasons, and weekly tournaments. We even had a league commissioner. It was the most fun you could have at school outside field day. (sidenote: remember field day?)

Fast forward 8 years to an older, wiser, fatter, hairier, junior-in-college version of me. I can remember exactly when and where the idea came to me. I was sitting in my History of Oil class (a fascinating class taught by one of Ohio University's best professors. Take it. I promise, you'll thank me) thinking about the Columbus Blue Jackets game from the night before. They had lost at Detroit. It was a particularly aggravating loss because Michael Peca had a chance to score the tying goal late for the Jackets, but missed a wide open net trying to switch from his backhand to his forehand.

It was at that moment that I thought back to my 8th grade study hall and penny hockey. Then it came. My idea hit me like a tidal wave of epiphany. **** - Penny hockey coffee table Blue Jackets! - ****

It was such a perfect idea that it came together almost instantly. I found the board in my parents' crawlspace, old wooden hockey sticks collected over 15 years of youth hockey participation made up the dashers, and my friends at Visionary Signs were kind enough to print my artwork for free.

The finished product looked as good as it did in my head.

It wasn't until I was finished that I even realized this thing had a more practical use - as the basis for a drinking game. I took it back to my house in Athens and it was there that my roommates and I, through much trial and error, developed the rules to "Beer Hockey".

Beer hockey is simple. It's like penny hockey, but everytime you finish a beer you get to place the empty can in front of your goal to use as a defender.  

So thanks, Ms. Ringo, for your penny hockey table, for letting us play with it instead of studying in study hall, for giving me the idea for the coolest coffee table ever built, and for giving me something to write about in the middle of the slowest month on the sports calendar.