‘RE-VISITING A CLASSIC……..’

It reminds us of all that once was good and could be again.”

Guest blogger Simone Kerwin is not surprised that sports fans from all over the world turned their attention to a Hollywood-inspired Baseball contest between two of the MLB’s keenest rivals three days ago. It was the most watched regular-season game in 16 years………….

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REGIONAL Victoria faced yet another COVID-enforced shift in the staging of local sporting competitions over the weekend, with no crowds allowed at matches.  It’s the latest hurdle in the path of sports lovers, who have been champing at the bit to watch their teams in action this season, after health regulations extinguished last year’s winter play.

Conversely, in the USA, about 8000 fans have filled the bleachers at a baseball field constructed in Dyersville, Iowa.  They were there to watch a Major League game between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees, the first MLB game to be played in Iowa, which has been a long time in the planning and offers something special…something that reaches beyond sport.

Like the film to which it pays homage, the ‘Field of Dreams’ game offers hope. In the current environment, that’s hope of a return to normality; of enjoying the things we love and perhaps took for granted pre-COVID…… and of renewing connections with passions and people which have been dented by the restrictions of the pandemic.

While only a select group were able to be at the MLB game – played at a field constructed near the movie site in Dyersville – many more were there in spirit.  You see, this film, which was nominated for the best picture Oscar in 1990, has quite a hold on people of all ages, from all walks of life, sports fans or not.  It is a sports movie, but unusually, one in which there is no actual game at the centre of the action…….. it’s more focused on the emotions and memories thst sport evokes.

As you can probably tell, I’m one of those people enamoured by the messages of redemption…..second chances and the importance of retaining the child-like wonder that exist within ‘Field of Dreams’.

 Lines from the movie like:  ‘If you build it, he will come’….. ‘Go the distance’…….. and ‘Is this Heaven?’…..have been part of our family vernacular for decades.  During COVID restrictions, we’ve often rolled out, ‘Oh, you can’t go back, can you?’, and if someone needs to leave a gathering, they might say:  ‘I’d better be getting home……Alicia’ll think I’ve got a girlfriend’.

It’s more than just a movie to me.  When uncertainty strikes…perhaps during a global pandemic when you’re not sure what the next 24 hours looks like, let alone the next week or month…a guaranteed spirit-lifter is what you’re after.

 I’m sure lots of people would have a movie, song, piece of literature, sports flashback, or some other external element they can draw on at those times, whether consciously or unconsciously.

I find ‘Field of Dreams’ to be that talisman of hope, and I’ve watched it a couple of times in the past 18 months…… Or when days seem hectic and I need a tonic of calm, I’ll watch YouTube clips from the movie while making dinner or ironing school uniforms.  Every frame gives me joy, the swell of the soundtrack excites me, and I’m still as enthralled by the twists and turns of Ray Kinsella’s journey as I was back in the ’80s. 

Also, the more I watch it, and the older I get, the more it gives me.

 The setting makes me feel I’m in the middle of one of those warm summer afternoons when everything seems easier – even if in reality it’s freezing outside and I’m huddled under a blanket.  Every single character’s story is important and teaches me a lesson………. Obviously there’s Ray, the man who comes to believe he can bring ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson and seven other disgraced and deceased White Sox players to Iowa if only he ploughs up his corn crop to build a baseball field……… Now that’s faith!

 Add to that his feisty but super-supportive wife Annie……. her humour and passion for family, literature and free-thinking; and their daughter Karin’s interest in history and quiet but steadfast confidence.

As a lover of words, writer Terence Mann (based on author JD Salinger), who finds a new tale to tell, speaks to me of new opportunities.

 Having been raised on stories like those of country sportspeople who couldn’t – or chose not to – make it in the city, Doc Archibald ‘Moonlight’ Graham’s story – again a second chance, but in a posthumous fashion – is probably my favourite aspect.  Even more so, knowing as I do now, that he was a real person.

Two of his quotes get me every time……. on only playing one game in the majors and not getting to bat: “We just don’t recognise life’s most significant moments while they’re happening. Back then I thought, ‘Well, there’ll be other days’. I didn’t realise that that was the only day.” 

And, having lived all my life in my hometown, I love when Doc speaks of finding his place in Chisholm, Minnesota:

 “This is my most special place in all the world.  Once a place touches you like this, the wind nevers blows so cold again.  You feel for it like it was your child.”

Then there’s the Chisholm newspaper publisher/journalist (based on the town’s actual long-time publisher Veda Ponikvar), who is a humble, gentle, eloquent, knowledgeable presence, and everything I’d like to be as a journo.

 And of course, at this time when we crave what sport can bring us, ‘Shoeless’ Joe’s impassioned explanation of why he loved baseball – not just the game, but everything that went along with it, speaks volumes.

Even the villain of the piece, Annie’s brother Mark, is the bad guy only because he’s trying to save his beloved sister and her family from financial ruin.  His villainy comes from a good place.

Not everyone loves this movie.  I’ve recommended it to people who found nothing in it, and others who weren’t in a place where they could suspend disbelief to ‘get it’.

 But that’s okay – everyone has their own ‘talisman’, and as long as it does the job for you, offering that sense of hope and peace, that’s the ticket, even if it comes in different shapes for all of us.

If you’re missing your chance to sit – as you did when you were young, and cheered your heroes – at local sport this weekend, why not step into this beautiful movie and see whether it offers you what it does me?

It may indeed be as if you’ve dipped yourself in magic waters………..

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