Baseball movies are never about baseball. They are about America. They're about blood, sweat, and bruises. They're about overcoming-- obstacles, addictions, societal pressures, what have you. Baseball movies are about the individual triumphing in all her singularity over those who just don't understand. Like I said: baseball movies are about America.
I say this having watched many a baseball movie in my life, from Bull Durham
to the Major League
franchise movies to A Field of Dreams
to both iterations of The Bad News Bears
, just to name a few. It's weird, because I'm no avid baseball fan, but I love a good baseball movie. Maybe it's the underdog storyline; maybe it's the fact that they always make me cry. I think it's probably because watching baseball movies are like taking a good road trip: nothing makes me feel more American. And one the greatest of them all is A League of Their Own
It's got all the classic clich?s: an alcoholic coach given his last chance, a bigwig owner with crazy plans, a team full of scrappy farm hands mixing together with city folk, just trying to live their dreams y'all, and a fan base who could give less of a damn about their team. It's even set in that golden era of baseball, before steroids and performance enhancing drugs, before anyone who wasn't a white man could play. Oh, wait a minute.
That's right, this movie is about a bunch of girls trying to play professional baseball.
How do you tell a story about a country at war? About a shift in ideas that would not honestly be felt until twenty years later? About a moment in time when women simultaneously wanted to break free from their traditional positions while also fulfilling roles that they felt were their duty and their means of serving their country? I'll tell you how-- a baseball movie.
A League of Their Own
isn't about whether or not the team wins or loses, though the story arc may give this impression. It isn't even about how the team plays the game, though the ending may give this impression. A League of Their Own
is about understanding that sports can give women the opportunity to participate in something greater than the sum of its parts, something greater than the individual herself. This movie is about the lengths women had to go to, like having to slide in a minidress, just to play a sport they loved.
For a young girl who grew up under the protective shade of Title IX, A League of Their Own
gave me a glimpse into a time I did not know, a set of assumptions about women and sports that had never been made about me by my parents, or my brother or my friends. I was enthralled, watching these women who blazed trails so that I might one day have a path to follow.
These girls and women went through etiquette training to prove that they could look like a lady and still play sports. They had curfews and restrictions on their personal freedoms that would frustrate a teenage girl these days. They were forced to live up to an impossible feminine ideal, while still breaking the mold. The fictionalized story of these women made me grateful that I could run around in boys clothing as a child and play rough and tumble pick up sports with neighborhood kids, even though there were still some lingering cultural restrictions for me on which sports were and weren't appropriate for girls.
And this is why A League of Their Own
is one of the greatest baseball movies, because under all the clich?s, under those short uniform dresses, under the tear-jerking scenes, lives this fundamental truth: there is crying in baseball. Because the second we set up needless limitations, in baseball or in life, is the second we restrict our own participation. Because a girl should have the right to participate in a sport but fail, and still have a right to her spot in order to try again, the way boys do. Because if you're allowed to cry, you're also allowed to be a girl, and you're allowed to be black, and you're allowed to be too short or too heavy, and you're allowed to have a handicap, or whatever other excuse anyone can throw at you.
We won't all be Olympians, but we should all be allowed to play the game.