Sports Movies Tend To Reveal Adults Failings
Sports movies tend to have one facet over regular dramas. They tend to reveal more about the lengths that people are willing to go in order to achieve a goal (usually a championship), along with figuring out ways to surpass massive obstacles such as a juggernaut villainous team to have a happy ending.
While The Bad News Bears (1976) has a tendency to look like it is going in that direction, it veers off into a criticism of how kids are treated by adults in a child’s game that is more stunning that any other sports film of its kind.
Don’t get me started on the 2005 version with Billy Bob Thorton. I haven’t seen it, nor will I. Because nothing compares to Walter Matthau’s Buttermaker stance in his dugout, examining his young players after screaming at them after falling behind in the championship game. It is where he unleashes a rant on why they should care more and hate the Yankees enough to win, only for Buttermaker to realize in the stillness afterward that he is no longer coaching his young players. Instead, he is victimizing them.
Buttermaker is a man staring into the abyss. Seeing that he is no longer a conduit to his players having fun at the game of baseball or coaching them in a drunken clown state. He’s become a reflection of the Yankees’ coach, who he hates.
The dissection of sports is that they are funny games of chance that people hold themselves up as experts in the second that they are no longer able to do them. Everyone in the stands always has criticism of someone else who is playing. What The Bad News Bears reveals is something deeper, about how many times adults ruin the game of baseball for the kids playing it.
Even the alderman father who sues to have the team started so “everybody can play” ends up getting angry when Buttermaker does that by sending “that Lupus kid” out to right field.
Let’s not forget the opposing rival Yankees, whose father-coach of the pitcher wants to win at all costs, projects that mindset into his son who attempts to do just that for his father, only for the father to beat the son when the father feels embarrassment about how close the ball comes to one of opposing batter’s heads.
The Bad News Bears is a window into the soul of how we treat children in the game of sport. It is all fun and games until there’s a reason to get angry, act stupid or win something. Then, we push them to hate the very thing that we tell them to love, simply because it’s the only way to get them to work harder, to achieve goals that we have for them.
I think of Buttermaker sitting in that dugout sometimes. Wondering exactly what he was thinking right before he decided to up-end his “win at all costs” mentality and make sure that everyone on the team played. As well as handing out beers to every kid when the trophy presentation is held.
The Bad News Bears will always hold a place on the mantle of great sports films. Mainly because it isn’t about what the kids were supposed to learn, but instead what the parents forgot. That sometimes, its best to shut up, stop living your glory years through other kids, and let them enjoy the sport before its too late.