Happy 4th of July, 2018 everyone! I don’t know if you’re aware of this but there’s some stuff going on in the country right now. Splits, sides and fractures abound. Deep down we’re all Americans but what does that mean anymore? To be American? As happens so often, we have to look to our past for answers. We have to look back 25 years to a movie that was about a time even longer ago. We have to look back…. to The Sandlot.
This might just be the perfect summer movie. For kids, for adults, for families. It has everything that makes the country great. Sure, there’s the obvious things but watching this movie over and over again, as those of us from a certain generation have, reveals so much love of all that makes America. What better time than today to shine light on those qualities.
Of course. It is a baseball movie. The Sandlot is their field, the story depends on learning the game, and later a baseball itself. But here’s the funny thing about baseball movies, everyone can love them. Throw Field of Dreams in here too. That’s because baseball isn’t about baseball. Baseball is an excuse to spend time with people. Sure, there are people that can give all the stats and numbers by memory and follow the minutia. But no one says, I remember going to the ballpark and my dad told me all about which left handed pitcher struck out the most right handed batters during afternoon games in July. Never.
What they do say is I remember driving to the stadium. Walking down this long hall. Coming out and seeing the grass, hearing the crack of the bats, squinting your eyes to read players’ numbers for a distance and then smiling in awe upon the realization that you are breathing the same air in the same space as your favorite player. The fun of chanting, doing the wave, barking for hot dogs. Quiet moments in the stands when your mind wanders and you ask a stupid question, but it turns out its not stupid and by the end you feel like you’ve had your first real adult conversation. When the game is over you look around one last time to remember everything. Clutching any memento on the way back out that long dark hallway. As excited as you are, you fall asleep early and its a deep sleep. What was the score? Who did they even play? Doesn’t matter. But you still remember the taste of that hot dog.
The clubhouse is a neglected part of American childhood culture. Every kid wants to have one. Some actually do. But throughout all of the movies and TV, there it is. In the backyard, the empty field, the tree. Rad, The Monster Squad, The Simpsons, and the list goes on. A tree house is the beginning of independence. Your own place, away from the constant eyes of parents, but still right there in case anything goes wrong. Or you need food. Or a toilet. A place to keep your comics, your music, that weird thing you found in the woods. A place to be immature and also have deep conversations. A place to stretch the tether. A place to grow up, but not too fast.
Radiation. Atomic energy. Aliens. The fear of what might be in the darkness. There’s nothing that gets kids imaginations like a monster. There is a thrill and excitement to getting scared. One of the easiest ways is to take something familiar and make it bigger. Giant ants, spiders, people, or a dog. The Beast. From cheap drive in movies of yesterday to big budget movies today, a big monster is a thrill for children. Hearing a weird noise from your bedroom and knowing its the mutated monster next door just does something for a kid. It advances the imagination, it encourages story telling, and when there’s nothing to be scared of anymore it builds the child’s self esteem for conquering the night.
There is nothing more American than thinking you’re the best. Whether or not you’re correct, that self worth can take someone far. Your posture, your words, all that positive thought can lead to advancements in life. Advancements like a raise, leadership, maybe even diffusing a situation because you appeared to be in charge. Or, the confidence to win the heart of Wendy Peffercorn.
Everyone Deserves a Chance.
Look at The Sandlot. The whole team. White, black, brown, scrawny, fat, awkward, gifted. Yet every one of them gets the same chance to play. Benny the Jet didn’t hold anyone down, he helped them up. If you are better, teach. If you are even, practice. If you are worse, absorb. Through every member of the team stepping up or backing down depending on the needs of the team at the time you become fluid, and that tight knit team can roll with anything the polished kids from the other side of town throws at them and beat them back.
Sometimes Its OK to Laugh.
Yes, Smalls shouldn’t have shot a ball bearing right between his Mom’s eyes. That was disrespectful and a wrong use of his toys and not a funny situation at all. But many a rewind button was broken rewatching that scene.
The Modern Family.
The classic American family was never the classic American family. Let’s remember the Baby Ruth baseball comes from his step dad. Families will always have reasons for changing. It doesn’t matter if Dad, Mom, Step, Grandparent, Aunt, Uncle, who ever is throws the ball, as long as there’s a game of catch.
Stick Together, Without Blame.
It doesn’t matter who got the group kicked out of the pool all summer. It doesn’t matter who brought the chew and thought it was a good idea to go on fair rides. It doesn’t matter who hit the expensive baseball over the fence. What matters is that night, the next day, the next year, or many years later as an adult the story can be told together. We had some times back then but here we are today, still together, and laughing about it.
Have some fun today kids. Make memories that last forever.