Thursday, October 18, 2007

In Honor of Rocktober

In honor of this amazing run, this Rocktober, I watched one of the greatest baseball movies ever made today, Field of Dreams.

Kevin Costner’s opening narration is genius. His words, accompanied by James Horner’s master score, couldn’t set up the film in a better way. Take this nugget, for example:

Officially, my major was English, but really it was the 60s. I marched. I smoked some grass. I tried to like sitar music. And I met Annie. The only thing we had in common was that she came from Iowa, and I had once heard of Iowa. After graduation we moved to the Midwest and stayed with her family as long as we could, almost a full afternoon.

Annie and I got married in June of ’74. Dad died that fall. A few years later Karen was born. She smelled weird, but we loved her anyway. Then Annie got the crazy idea that she could talk me into buying a farm. I’m 36 years old. I love my family. I love baseball, and I’m about to become a farmer. But until I heard the voice, I’d never done a crazy thing in my whole life.

And Ray Kinsella does hear a voice. The voice says, “If you build it, he will come.” It is not long before Ray lets the voice convince him it is okay to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn field. His yearning to do so goes back to his frustrating history with his father. Ray says to his wife, the night before he decides to build the field that, “He [Ray’s father] must have had dreams, but he never did anything about them. For all I know, he may have even heard voices, too, but he sure didn’t listen to them. The man never did one spontaneous thing in all the years I knew him. I’m afraid of that happening to me and something tells me this may be my last chance to do something about it. I want to build that field.”

So he does. Ray and Annie spend their savings to build a first class baseball diamond in the middle of their acreage. One night, after the construction is done, Ray and Annie are laying out in center field and Ray says, “I have just created something totally illogical.”

“That’s what I like about it.” Annie says.

Winter passes and no miracle happens on the field Ray has built. One spring evening though, Ray finds a man on his field. The man is “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, played by a young, awesomely-casted, Ray Liotta. The field comes alive at this point in the film. Not everyone sees the players on Ray’s field right away, but Ray, Annie, and Karen see them, and they believe. Belief is enough to suspend rationality. Even in the face of bankruptcy Ray turns to Annie and says, “We are keeping this field.”

“You bet your ass we are.” Annie responds.

From “If you build it, he will come” to “Ease his pain” to “Go the distance”, Ray helps others achieve their dreams, or at least helps alleviate some of their pain from not following their dreams.

As the story pans out Ray manages to bring an estranged writer, Terrance Mann (played by James Earl Jones), and a baseball player, who never got his chance to get a hit in the bigs, to his baseball diamond in the middle of Iowa. They arrive home at night to see the White Sox and crew playing under the lights that Ray has spent his savings on to install.

Left mostly speechless, Jones can only utter “Unbelievable.”

“It’s more than that. It’s perfect.” Ray responds.

The next day, while Ray is in the middle of being pressed to foreclose, James Earl Jones argues in favor of not foreclosing, an option that, to say the least, rests on a miracle. He says:

“People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children longing for the past. ‘Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,’ you’ll say. It’s only twenty dollars per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have, and peace they like.”

“Ray, just sign the papers.”

“Then they’ll walk off to the bleachers and sit in their shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”

“Ray, when the bank opens in the morning they’ll foreclose.”

“People will come, Ray.”

“You’re broke, Ray. You sell now or you lose everything.”

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that was once good, and could be again. Ooh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Staring down the hopes and aspirations of the players on the field, Ray is willing to gamble his field of dreams. “I’m not signing.”

That evening, Jones is invited into the corn by Liotta. Ray is irate at first, not understanding why he isn’t invited out into the corn. Liotta says:

“But you’re not invited.”

“Not invited? What do you mean I’m not invited? That’s my corn out there. You guys are guests in my corn. I’ve done everything I’ve been asked to do. I didn’t understand, but I’ve done it. I haven’t once asked what’s in it for me.”

“What are you saying?”

“What’s in it for me?”

“Is that why you did this? For you?”

Ray is caught off guard, silenced by the moment and the sting of Liotta’s last question.

It is clear that Ray might be the last one to truly find out “what’s in it for” him, when he sees his father, now a young man, walking toward Ray and his family from home plate. Ray greets his father and they walk off toward the diamond.

As they are strolling along his father praises the chance to play again.

“For me. Well, for me, it’s like a dream come true. Can I ask you a question? Is this heaven?”

“No, it’s Iowa.”

“Hmm, I could have sworn this was heaven.”

“Is there a heaven?”

“Oh yeah. It’s the place dreams come true.”

Costner pauses, turns back to the house to see his wife and daughter laughing on the porch, scans the baseball field, and takes a deep breath, before saying, “Maybe this is heaven.”

The moment makes me want to jump up and down. Watching someone find a little piece of heaven on earth, even if that someone is in a movie, is touching because that someone has found peace. It inspires, and often inspires people enough to go chase their own dreams. We may need a little reminder every once in a while that anything is possible. That’s what makes Field of Dreams such a good movie. That’s what makes the 2007 Rockies such a good team. It’s unbelievable.

It’s more than that. It’s perfect.


Becca said...

I love this post!

Jarrod Renaud said...

me too