As it became clear that Monday night’s Red Sox game would be heading into an extended rain delay for the next few hours, I decided to fill the time by re-watching “For Love of the Game,” (FLG). The flick stars Kevin Costner as Bill Chapel, an ace at the end of his 19-year career with the Detroit Tigers, looking for one last big win against the villainous Yankees. (This is why this film is a Hollywood fantasy. Very few baseball teams can actually draft and keep their star player. In the real world, Bill Chapel would be pitching for the Yankees. And even in movie-land, the Yankees suck.) Interestingly enough, though, FLG is more than just a sports film – it’s also a love story. Kelly Preston plays Costner’s leading lady, Jane Aubrey, a single mother who falls for Chapel but feels that he can never love her as much as he loves baseball. So she leaves him waiting in his hotel room the night before the final game of his career, not knowing that it would be his last.
This film is filled with drama, drama and… more drama. It’s also the perfect mix of trite sports and relationship story-lines, making FLG, arguably, a standout in the genre of sports chick flicks.
For men, this film hits the three criteria for classic sports films:
1.The film must be filled with clichéd sports quotes. Why is this important? Because how can a man be expected to express the love he has for his team unless someone in Hollywood has already done it for him? FLG is chock-full of them. Below is my personal favorite, delivered by Vin Scully (the real-life, legendary Dodgers announcer which, of course, is just icing on the cake):
“And you know, Steve, you get the feeling that Billy Chapel isn’t pitching against left handers, he isn’t pitching against pinch hitters, he isn’t pitching against the Yankees. He’s pitching against time. He’s pitching against the future, against age, and even when you think about his career, against ending. And tonight I think he might be able to use that aching old arm one more time to push the sun back up in the sky and give us one more day of summer.”
2. You’ve got to have the ‘Bromances.’ Most classic sports movies focus on team sports – baseball, football, basketball, hockey – because part of the reason men love the game, is the bromances. The guys in the locker room are family who support them on and off the field, when they need it the most. As Gus Sinski, Billy Chapel’s loyal catcher, says:
”The boys are all here for ya, we’ll back you up, we’ll be there, ’cause, Billy, we don’t stink right now. We’re the best team in baseball right now, right this minute, because of you. You’re the reason. We’re not gonna screw that up, we’re gonna be awesome for you right now. Just throw.”
3. The happy (sports) ending. Hollywood loves a happy ending (and so do men, frankly) and sports films are no different. The underdog almost always wins, and the star player almost always makes the last shot. Sports films, like chick flicks, can’t leave you questioning things. Nope, you need to leave the theater with a smile on your face thinking, anything is possible. And, boy, does FLG deliver. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the ending. Just know you get your happy sports ending.
Now the real question is, “why is this movie also a chick flick?”
1. Jane Aubrey, archetype of the clichéd leading lady. She is a single mother raising her teenage daughter. Her apartment in NYC is huge (hard to believe for a single mother who is a freelance writer…) and filled with eccentric pieces of furniture, art and knick-knacks. She, of course, doesn’t believe in love, which is what happens when you get pregnant at 16 with the child of a drug addict. But she lets herself fall for the superstar baseball player, only to always come second, leaving her with no choice but to pack up her bags and move to London. Jane Aubrey is the stereotypical female character that every woman roots for.
2. Kevin Costner is the leading man. Even in his 50’s, Kevin Costner is astonishingly handsome and, I’ll admit, could be my leading man any day. Plus, in addition to doing a few sports films, Costner has also done his fair share of chick flicks, making him the perfect crossover star for all the ladies in the audience. I mean how can you not fall for someone, who, while playing the last game of his career, keeps thinking about the ways he f*cked up his chances with Jane, causing him to realize how important she really is?
3. The happy chick flick ending. A chick flick is not a chick flick if the man does not realize he was horribly wrong and, attempt to redeem himself with a grand gesture to win over the leading lady in the final scene of the movie. It’s pretty much Filmmaking 101. Again, FLG does not disappoint, so I won’t spoil it.
In the end – man, woman, sports fan or not – everyone should see this film. It’s a treat for any audience. So the next time you find yourself counting down the minutes during a rain delay, why not pop it in?