It’s time to grow up and face some hard truths. We’re living in a moment in time where we need to be direct and up front with our friends, our family and our lovers. We can’t be nice for the sake of being nice, so it’s time to accept what’s right and wrong.
It’s time to grow up and accept the fact that Rookie of the Year is a piece of garbage. It’s nothing when compared with the cinematic masterpiece that is Little Big League.
Oh but Coggin, I can hear you say as you leap from your La-Z-Boy, a week’s worth of stale chips entangling themselves from your soiled tank top…what about funky buttloving?! What about the wacky coach Daniel Stern played? Remember when the coach pronounced Henry’s name incorrectly the entire movie? What a laugh riot!
Spare me. Little Big League, a rival movie about Billy Heywood, a smart 12-year-old with a good head on his shoulders who finds himself in the major leagues, is a piece of art. It portrays a young man’s pathway to adulthood as he deals with the pressures of owning the Minnesota Twins after the untimely death of his grandfather, the struggles of fitting in with professional athletes and their stereotyped opinions on hyper masculinity, and the shame of the team’s first baseman plowing out his single mom on a nightly basis.
His struggle is all of our struggle. Who among us didn’t question our place in society as a 12-year-old? Heywood is an everyman, who proved himself at the major league level and gained the respect of his peers through RESULTS. Henry Rowengartner is a freak, a sideshow clown only given a shot by a struggling franchise that needed a hook to sell out consecutive games and exploit a young rube who isn’t smart enough to realize he’s being taken advantage of.
Also, here’s the thing folks. A kid can’t pitch in the major leagues. I don’t care if his tendons have tightened after shattering his arm or whatever piece of voodoo and hoodoo Henry Rowengartner did to his body to be able to throw 99 miles per hour (no injury does that, his mom probably had him so whacked out of his gourd on performance enhancing stimulants and goofballs it’s criminal), you can’t play in the MLB unless you’re 18 years old (17 if you’re an international player). Sorry gang, I don’t make the rules, Major League Baseball does so take it up with them.
Show me in an official Major League Baseball rulebook where it says a 12-year-old CAN’T own his own baseball team and decree he’ll also be its manager? You can’t because it’s simply not there. Rookie of the Year dabbles in pure fiction where Little Big League resides in pure scientific fact. Is it improbable? Sure it is! 12-year-olds usually don’t own teams or coach rag tag squads to division tiebreakers against an absolutely stacked mid-90s Seattle Mariners organization, but who would have thought a backup quarterback could have led the Eagles to a miraculous Super Bowl victory over the powerhouse New England Patriots? Overcoming great odds makes for a fantastic movie…whimsical childhood dreams and crude writing do not.
Think about it this way….no 12-year-old in the history of sport could EVER strike out the author of this post on a regulation diamond. Put any little putz 60-feet and 6-inches from Old Uncle Coggin and the result is going to be the same every time….that kid’s walking off the mound in tears as I shout obscenities in his direction and make lewd overtures to his mother while trotting around the bases, only stopping to admire the massive bomb I crushed off the pre-pubescent hack.
Now…could a 12-year-old out-coach your favorite blogger? Again, it’s improbable, but it COULD happen, especially if he’s a fountain of encyclopedic baseball knowledge like Billy.
And let’s forget the rulebook or improbability of it all for just a moment. Suspension of disbelief is key for a good sports movie. Let’s put aside the insanity of a literal child performing at an elite athletic level and magically striking out seasoned professionals and future hall of famers with only ONE pitch in his entire arsenal…one, I might add, that has been repeated many times by many athletes who came before and after Henry. 100 miles per hour is impressive, yes, but not un-hittable.
Let’s put all that nonsense aside and look into the character of our two protagonists. One, as I mentioned, is a sideshow freak only given the opportunity to pitch after displaying his impressive, genetically altered arm while throwing a home run back onto the field of play in Wrigley, a highly illegal and dangerous act that should have resulted in immediate ejection from the stadium. I don’t care if it’s tradition, if a fan puts the safety of the players at risk he should be banned from attending games for the rest of his life. It was an ugly action and Rowengartner was lucky he didn’t get anyone killed through his rash and impudent decision making.
The second is a clean cut, popular young man who EARNS his pinstripes, so to say, after his grandfather bequeaths him the Minnesota Twins franchise after his untimely death. Billy proves himself to seasoned pitching coach Mac Macnally during an impromptu tryout. After being thoroughly grilled with coaching scenario after coaching scenario, Heywood passes with flying colors and installs himself as the Twins new head coach. Immediately he shows a savvy and even-keeled approach with the media, answer questions like a professional and a man who is ready to take the weight of an entire franchise on his shoulders.
The same, sadly, cannot be said for Rowengartner, whose immaturity is seen at every level. He stammers and his voice cracks during his initial press conference. He displays an unprofessional and non-team oriented attitude when refusing to change with other players. He’s late to practice and never pays the fine levied against him by Manager Sal Martinella. He’s flaunting his position in the organization, knowing full well he won’t be terminated because of his worth as merely an ATTRACTION to the Cubs. Frankly, his actions are unbecoming of a professional athlete and result in the distrust and dislike of him from his fellow teammates.
Immediate success doesn’t come to either Heywood or Rowengartner. However, unlike Rowengartner, Heywood immediately puts his own job on the line. If his methods don’t see results he’ll fire himself, no questions asked.
This is what a leader does. He’s literally leading by example. He knows respect is earned, not given, and wants to rise above his status as an “attraction,” unlike his Chicago counterpart. He doesn’t want to be above or below the team, just a valued member of it, and the players rally behind his unorthodox ways. The results are evident. His leadership is valued and his elite strategies are quickly revealed. He motivates and educates his players at every turn, breaking through their emotional walls to get through to them as MEN…he wrangles every ounce of talent out of a mediocre talent roster and propels them to success.
Heywood is unflappable and always willing to put the team first. Sadly, I wish I could say the same about Rowengartner, but the evidence just isn’t there.
Take the finales of each movie. Both the Cubs and Twins find themselves in the incredible position of being one game away from the postseason. Of course, let’s be real for just a moment…who had more value to their respective clubs? Rowengartner, a lowly relief pitcher, or Heywood, the mastermind of the Twins new identity? Exactly.
Rowengartner and the Cubs find themselves in a deciding game against the New York Mets. Veteran hurler Chet “The Rocket” Steadman, a salty prick who has dealt with Rowengartner’s shit throughout the entire season, pitches his balls off until suffering a career ending injury recording the final out of the 6th inning. Never mind that Henry doesn’t comfort Steadman as he LITERALLY limps off the field into retirement, but he’s so jealous of the Rocket’s success that he puts himself ahead of the team in order to outdo the mentor that has given Henry so much. Steadman had shared his wisdom of the game, his wisdom of life, and his wisdom of pitching to his young ward, all while fucking his mom in the process. 90s baseball movies loved having athletes mentor children and fuck their moms along the way.
Rowengartner injures himself before the 9th inning and knows full well that he no longer possesses the ability to throw at an elite level anymore, yet discloses the information from his manager. His narcissism knows no bounds, as he refuses to exit the game to let another reliever take his place. Bear in mind he’s the second pitcher to appear for the Cubs and the team has an entire roster of relievers with more experience who are ready to go.
Rowengartner doesn’t care and stubbornly keeps himself in the game. He resorts to insane measures, allowing the game tying run to reach base on an intentional walk, and then ILLEGALLY performs a hidden ball trick to record the first out of the inning. Remind me, are you allowed to be on the pitching rubber with the rosin bag posing as an official MLB baseball in your glove? YOU ARE NOT, GOOD SIR. Should have immediately been called a balk, runner advances, and the Cubs find themselves in dire straits.
This piece of illegal chicanery is somehow missed by the umpires and Rowengartner remains in the game, recording the final two outs through a series of hurtful and derogatory insults aimed towards a minority opponent that flusters him so much he makes a crucial mistake and allows himself to be caught in a rundown for the second out. The third out is pure Hollywood fantasy, striking out a brutish and stereotypical caricature of a professional athlete to win the game. Pure Hollywood nonsense.
Now, compare this with Billy Heywood’s masterful managerial strategy in the Twins final game against the Mariners. Heywood fields the best possible team, realizing his bullheadedness was hurting the team and inserting professional hitter and team leader Lou Collins (who is fucking Billy’s mom) back into the lineup weeks before. He’s able to overcome his prejudices against Collins, a good man who makes Heywood’s mother happy for the first time since the death of his father, and puts the team first.
It’s a tight affair, and through Billy’s genius lineup tinkering, his perfect handling of a worn out pitching staff, and an ingenious trick play the likes of which have never been seen on a baseball field to record a crucial out of Ken Griffey Jr. in the waning inning, and the Twins find themselves in extra innings with a shot at the playoffs.
Sadly, a manager can only do so much, and the Twins find themselves with a one run deficit in the bottom of the 11th inning. Before his final at bat with a man on base, Collins asks Billy’s permission to marry his mother (who he’s been fucking) … despite Lou’s slight unprofessionalism, Billy cracks a joke about giving him permission if he hits a home run off of Randy Johnson to win the game. As any good manager would, Billy grants Lou’s wish whether he hits a home run or not, knowing full well that life doesn’t end or begin with professional sport. Lou does his best, and if not for the superhuman effort of a home run robbing catch by Griffey Jr., the Twins succumb in the end.
That’s real life, gang. The Twins faithful stay behind to laud their hometown team and young ward, giving the squad a standing ovation even after the final out. Heywood realizes he’s missing out on what it means to be a youth and decides to give up coaching. The team is devastated, but understands. We as viewers realize that not everything has to be coated in a glossy, high definition, saccharine sheen to be worth our time. The Twins grew as athletes, Billy grew into the man his grandfather wanted him to be, and Lou found a wife.
The Cubs somehow go on to win the World Series despite not having their rotation ace in Steadman, who in all probability likely refused to wear the Cubs uniform again if Rowengartner would be hanging around the clubhouse, and their pill-popping performance enhancement star reliever in Rowengartner. It’s pure Hollywood fiction, only serving to placate the rubes that didn’t want to put an ounce of thought into their cinematic experience.
It’s no contest. Do you want a movie that’s going to make you think, that will challenge all of your preconceived notions about masculinity and professional athletes? Do you want a movie that doesn’t hold your hand through the dynamic sexual relationship between a single mother and a lonely man? That doesn’t pull any punches about adolescent cravings of the flesh and the sexual awakening of a young man as he watches “Night Nurses from Jersey” in his hotel room?
Or do you want a movie that showcases all that is wrong with professional athletes and bullheaded, ignorant youths of America?
Billy Heywood and Little Big League, we salute you.
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