I could write about baseball movies forever. Now, I’m not going to do that because there are only about six that exist in the world (and I’ve written about all of them already), but I’d be a horrible movie host if I avoided the one my Uncle recommended to me until I broke down and watched it already: Bull Durham.
This is a movie about a man, his temper, and Susan Sarandon being amazing.
Granted, when I first watched Bull Durham, I didn’t get it. Any of it. I was clueless when it came to triple A baseball, and I didn’t understand why Tim Robbins was frustrated, or the relationship between Kevin Costner and Susan (because in my heart, she belonged with Tim, who she was dating at the time).
But now I am a grown-ass woman, and I get why it works and what I can take away from it. Here’s what I learned from Bull Durham:
1) This movie will teach you so much about the MLB minor leagues
And I mean it. You’ll not only learn about the struggle rookies face to get enough recognition to earn a call up, but you’ll learn about respect. When Crash (Costner) calls Ebby (Robbins) “Meat,” that’s some degrading business right there. That’s “I don’t even care about who you are” business. And that exists. So do the rehearsed answers Crash gives Ebby, when it comes to the press. You know who’s a nightmare to interview? People with rehearsed answers—which is totally the point. The franchise doesn’t want some wannabe all-star giving away the farm. They want a guy who will remind fans that everybody worked hard and tried their best. That sometimes it rains. See? Crash is all of our mentors.
2) Annie is a woman in a position of power
I remember watching Bull Durham before I understood a lot of things, including feminism. And I remember thinking, at the time, “but she’s objectifying herself.”
OH HELL NO.
Annie is a woman in charge of her destiny. She chooses to help a rookie. She chooses to get into a relationship. She chooses. Not the coach. Not a teammate. It’s all her. That is power, and she has it. And while I’m always like, “No, but just be with Crash!” I have to respect her choice to do what she wants and trust that it will all work out. Because hello, it obviously does. Spoiler alert: Ebby ends up in the majors, Crash comes back, and Annie continues to be a wonderful human being—while dating Crash, who she likes. Reason #24924824 not to question a woman’s choices when they have nothing to do with you.
3) Kevin Costner reminded me (and you and all of us) of what we believe in
Crash/Kevin Costner says very clearly: “I believe in long, slow, soft, deep wet kisses that last three days.”
And wouldn’t you know, but that is one of the things I believe in too! Maybe with a young Kevin Costner, even! But ESPECIALLY with Leonardo DiCaprio. Either way, congratulations, Kevin Costner, for instilling one hell of a belief system.
4) Life is heartbreaking sometimes
THERE’S a lesson for all of us. I mean, Crash is called down to help Ebby crack the majors, and that’s when we learn that for the happiest 21 days of his life, Crash was in the majors too. Never to return. He will never go back. After ALL THAT WORK. Guys, that’s just straight-up real-life disappointment. It’s heartbreaking! It’s upsetting! It’s an indicator of what we’re seeing when we watch baseball! ON EVERY GAME HANGS SOMEBODY’S DREAM. Isn’t that nuts? Isn’t that borderline upsetting? BUT, true, he never goes back. But he DOES find a new life that he seems to like in equal amounts.
And that’s life in a nutshell: sometimes disappointing, but fixable.
5) Sometimes it’s confusing why two people are (or are not) together
Yes, this is the easiest lesson in the world, but movies like these really drive that point home. Some people are together for reasons we won’t fully understand. Some people are together for business. Some people are together out of sheer laziness. And Annie and Ebby are together because, she believes it ups his chances of becoming an MLB player. Would I be together with someone for that reason? Probably not, because I am a square. But that’s my choice!
6) 1988 fashion is grossly underrated
I would like to own every outfit Sarandon wears. We’re talking looks from 1988 —a year we’ve never really seen “embraced” in terms of “eras we really miss.” So the next time somebody says, “I love the ’60s!” you just hold up flashcards of Susan Sarandon looking fly in Bull Durham, and they’ll be singing a different tune.
7) It’s okay to be obsessed with baseball
IT IS OKAY. It is okay according to Bull Durham, because look—they say so RIGHT HERE:
I don’t know why I love baseball so much. (Just kidding: I grew up on it, so it’s basically a part of my DNA.) But I do know that it’s okay to love it. It’s a game of strategy, and of thinking, and of non-violence (usually). It’s boring only to people who don’t understand it.—just like Bull Durham.
8) The lollygaggers of life really are worth throwing bats over
So you guys remember this scene, right? The coach loses it on the team for lollygagging. And to that I say HELL YES, COACH. This is it. Right here. Play with purpose. LIVE with purpose. You know how much I hate slow-walkers? I hate them so much—not because they walk slow (I mean, some people have to for medical reasons), but because they are WASTING TIME. Quit it! LIFE IS TOO SHORT. Lollygagging demeans us all! If I were the coach I would’ve reacted in the exact same way, and then been completely silent until I got angry about something else.
And THAT’S why I don’t coach anybody (because I would probably damage them forever).
9) The world really is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness
Annie says it and she’s right. It always seems to be the people who are completely oblivious who sail through things for a while. But what I like about Annie’s sentiment (in conjunction with the movie) is that it’s not like she’s saying it as her final line: it’s just a point she makes. And then she moves on. It reminds me of the movie’s other characters. Sometimes people like Tim Robbins sail, while people like Kevin Costner struggle. But it all balances out.
10) Literary references make a movie—or conversation—better
Now, look. I’m bad with classic literature because I just am. It doesn’t mean I don’t like what I’ve read, it just means that I haven’t read tons of it—though I’m an ace with non-fiction. So with that in mind: Annie and Crash’s Whitman and William Blake references add a little something-something to their dynamic, yes. But it’d be just as fine if they were to bring up, say, The Oral History of SNL, or Please Kill Me, or even the new Veronica Mars book.
JUST PEPPER YOUR DISCUSSIONS/FLIRTATIONS WITH REFERENCES TO COOL THINGS. If this movie was written in 2014, they might bring up Mad Men. Or Breaking Bad. Or the movie, Bull Durham, if we want to get super meta. And guess what: we do. Always.