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Movie Review: Nine Innings from Ground Zero: The 2001 World Series

This was easily the most emotional documentary on baseball I have ever seen. Everyone remembers exactly where they were on that fateful day in September of 2001.  This movie (from HBO) did a great job of telling the story of NYC, and America, after 9/11 and how many people took refuge in the game of baseball at least for a brief moment.

This was a touching movie. I am a Yankee hater.  I hate the evil empire with every fiber of my being, but this documentary put them in a light where they could at least be tolerated for a short time.  And I think that is how all Yankee haters felt in 2001.  They were a symbol for the mighty city that had taken a blow, but would not quit.

The interviews in the documentary were very moving. That time is very emotional for all Americans, but as someone who only saw it from the outside looking in, it is much more emotional when I hear someone who lost family members talk about it. There were some sad stories, but they were stories of heroes. Heroes that must never be forgotten.

I would strongly recommend this to any baseball fan. It chronicles the immediate aftermath of resuming play in MLB, and the 2001 World Series which was one of the greatest ever.

Seeing this reminds me of just how much I love this game. How it can be many things to many people, but in the end it is the same to everyone, a great escape from the harshness of everyday life. You could see and hear about people who lost themselves in a game, even if for only a few hours, to help themselves deal with the enormity of the situation. To see them so caught up in the game that has brought happiness to so many during such a difficult time was great to see.

I thought the story tellers did a fine job of combining not only what the fans were going through, but what the players were going through as well as people like the mayor and his staff.

And perhaps best of all, you got to see how everyone pulled together. Seeing the heroes on the field become the awestruck was a good side to see. It reminds us how precious life is, and how baseball, while not being a healer necessarily, can help ease the pain of the time.

I got my copy from Netflix.  So go out today and pick up your copy.  It’s well worth it if you haven’t seen it yet.

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Movie Review: Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball

Each year in Japan, 4,000 high schools compete for the national championship known as the “Koshien”.  They compete in regional tournaments for a chance to be one of 49 teams to make the “Koshien”. Kokoyakyu is a look at what 2 teams go through on their quest for the championship.

This movie, from PBS’s POV, follows 2 teams on their quest.  One team is a public high school in the Osaka area with the other being a private school that won the Koshien the previous year.  It’s a great look into the differences of the two types of schools and how baseball effects the rest of their daily lives. You get to see how hard it is for the public schools to compete on the same level as the private schools in terms of practice time, fields, and school work.

Not only do you get a look into how hard they practice and how dedicated they are, but you get to see other sides of the story.  Cheering is a big part of Asian athletics, and the cheer squads for the teams are no exception. They take their job very seriously and practice very hard. It’s nice to see more than just how things affect the baseball team, but seeing how the parents, the students, and the coaches are affected as well. There are some moving scenes where non-players are very emotional.

One thing I really liked about the movie was seeing how ritualistic, and on a certain level spiritualistic, the baseball culture is in Japan. When the season is over you see just how much the games mean to the players and coaches alike. There are some touching moments that I am not sure you would ever see in America. I guess that is one of the big attractions to the Asian cultures for me. They are extremely committed to excellence and their love of the games is so pure.  It’s great.

The movie also gives a look into just how difficult this tournament is and how important it is. I can’t think of a more difficult baseball tournament.  Perhaps this is why it is so well known, and it has only strengthened my desire to see some of the tournament.

I can’t stress how much I recommend this film.  I watched it on Hulu and I am sure it is still available there. The only complaint that I can think of is that is was too short.  It was only an hour long, but I understand it was made for TV, but I would have loved to see much more.

It’s a must see.  Go check out Hulu.com today.  Find it and watch it.  You will not be disappointed.

Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball

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Movie Review: Fantasyland

Fantasyland takes a look inside the world of fantasy baseball. It is based on the book Fantasyland: A Sportswriter’s Obsessive Bid to Win the World’s Most Ruthless Fantasy Baseball by Sam Walker.  The book has gotten good reviews, and I would like to read it. However, the movie is absurd.

The fantasy baseball league in question is called Tout Wars which pits some of the foremost experts of fantasy baseball. Sam Walker, writer for the Wall Street Journal, played in 2008 as he wrote his book.  This time they wanted to try and even more ridiculous scenario with an amateur coming in for a year.  Normally I think this would be a great idea but great ideas are destined to fail at times. This was one of them.

The problem did not lie with having an amateur enter the league.  The problem lied with who that amateur was. Apparently there were auditions with people sending in tapes of themselves, and how the winner was picked I’ll never know. They must have played cow patty bingo or something. The winner was Jed Latkin, a financial analyst from New York.  He put the “fanatic” in fantasy.

You could tell throughout the movie the regular players were annoyed with him to say the least. Almost immediately after the draft he was wanting to do trades, and often.  He would go to spring training to talk to the players he picked which is just absurd. He felt he could get a feel for how they would play by talking to them, when all he did was make himself look like a lunatic for telling players he drafted they were on a winning ‘fantasy’ team. He even handed out shirts with his team name on them to the players as jerseys for a fantasy team.

He would make a few trips during the season to various stadiums to speak with coaches and players in hopes of getting some insights.  Perhaps the best part of the movie was when he asked Trey Hillman if he could change his lineup so one of his players could get more at bats.  Hillman was having none of that.

After receiving an email from another team in the league about possible trades, he persisted to not only send that person hundreds of emails with trade possibilities, but he drove to his house over 7 hours away when the emails went unanswered. Can you say crazy?

I think a lot of it was staged for the movie, or he was told to go overboard with it to make it more interesting.  But it didn’t work. It just made the movie worse. I struggled to get through it because of him, and I love fantasy baseball. He was trying to make a trade when his wife was in labor with their first children, twins.

I think the book is a good premise, and it is on my reading list now.  However, this movie needs to be given a pass. It’s not worth the time you will put into it. So go pick up the book which I see has gotten very good reviews, and stay away from this (staged?) movie.

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There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

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