Bull Durham (1988)

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What are these boys thinking about? ‘Cause it sure ain’t baseball!” –Teddy, radio announcer in the 1988 film, Bull Durham

Bull Durham is an unapologetic comedy about baseball and sex. In essence, two players on the Bulls baseball team get tangled up in a love triangle with one of their team’s promiscuous fans. Roger Ebert summed it up well in his review: “The movie is a completely unrealistic romantic fantasy, and in the real world the delicate little balancing act of these three people would crash into pieces. But this is a movie, and so we want to believe in love…”

I would have never known about and/or watched Bull Durham without doing this comedy exercise. For me, the viewing experience was like the hot dogs I bought at baseball games as a kid; it had some enjoyable moments, but afterwards I wondered if I really needed it. That being said…I am still pondering the character Annie’s narration from the beginning of Bull Durham:

(As a choir hums and organ music plays in the background.) “I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. […] I’ve tried ‘em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.”

It becomes clear by the end of the movie that baseball is not giving anybody complete fulfillment. Lo and behold, Annie does not want to live happily ever after with a baseball bat. She wants to live happily ever after with her man. This aspect of the movie causes me to reflect on my own priorities. If left to my own devices, what church would I attend? Most of us, for example, would probably spend a great deal of time in the Church of My Achievements. The next question is, will this mindset lead to a fulfilling life? Please excuse me while I swallow the guilty lump in my throat. These musings are pretty deep for a comedy, I’d say!

Incidentally, the scene that made me laugh the hardest in Bull Durham is when three hundred little leaguers participate in a “cash drop” for a charity event. A helicopter dumps one thousand $1 bills onto the baseball field and the little guys (in the words of the script) “charge across the infield to the falling money, scooping it up wildly…brawling, shoving, clawing for the cash.” It made me wonder if this was a real thing. Sure enough, I found an article about an unfortunate accident that resulted from a Michigan minor league cash drop in 2006.

Perhaps some comedy is best admired from afar.