Beyond the Box Office: Introducing a weekly baseball film series to help pass … – Lookout Landing

I hate the offseason. I hate the offseason because I actually end up thinking about baseball more than I do in September, when there is actually Major-League baseball being played.

That may sound like a silly statement, but I mean, you’re reading this on a website that covers the Seattle Mariners, and now I don’t think I need to justify what I just said any further. The mental break is nice, even perhaps neccessary, but nevertheless by December or so the pangs start up again–first slowly, then more frequently, during moments when I’m supposed to be focused on something like coursework or late at night when I suddenly realize I’ve been mining video of 2012 Brendan Ryan defensive highlights in MLB.com’s database for hours. This year has been somewhat of a different conundrum–for chris’sakes, Jerry, slow down–but we all know it’s only a matter of time until the wire goes quiet and we’re all hoping for a meaningless Peoria game in the interim. The calendar crawls.

I’ve never really had a great plan for how to deal with the whole thing, this damn offseason. I do manage to keep myself perhaps a little too busy (do not go to graduate school it will be the stupidest decision you’ve ever made), but that usually only makes it worse. That’s because the deeper I dive in one end, it makes me feel like I have some duty to oscillate back towards the other: Ken Burns’ Baseball sends me guiltily back to something I’m supposed to be working on, three paragraphs of “work” somehow signals a four-hour trade-rumor Twitter “break.” And I can’t imagine it’s all ponies and flowers for you, fellow LL’ers–between analyses of rare (well, in most other years rare) moves the rest of us reach, grasp upward at the holy altar of #CONTENT for any mercy to suture our wounds back together, just so we can make it to Opening Day once again.

So there I was, in the basement of my school’s library (nobody ever gives the Humanities any windows), simultaneously thinking about how to feed both my hungry baseball stomach and my stern conscience, pointing its wagging finger towards productivity, when I found it:


book
book

Of course. Why didn’t I think of it earlier? I struggle so much with writing in the offseason because 1) I can look at numbers but I don’t remember anything about math since third grade or so, and 2) All I know how to do is write recaps. That’s it. See, think, wordvomit. On command. I need something tangible from which to work. Which is what makes this so perfect.

I quickly started to flip through this guy, and then I got started thinking about what I was going to do to pass the time until Felix Hernandez throws out the first pitch of 2016, and then I realized that I had a new series sitting right down in front of me. So in lieu of actually having real baseball games to write about, and considering I spend the rest of my “productive” time watching movies and writing about them, I thought why not bring it to LL? So I introduce to you, named brilliantly by my colleague and fellow LL’er David Skiba (and with nothing but love to the kind folks at our fellow SBN affiliate): BEYOND THE BOX OFFICE.

I know what you’re thinking. This sounds indulgent. Yes! It is! But then again I can guarantee that you don’t want to listen to me try and analyze why newest Mariner relief pitcher Evan Scribner can avoid walks like the plague while rolling out a near-30% HR/FB rate. You don’t, you really don’t. And I also know you don’t want to read some toothless movie review about Field of Dreams or that obnoxious 30 for 30 about the 2004 Red Sox where Bill Simmons squats down in just the most obnoxious Baaahstin bar with Sam Adams tap handles in the background while reliving Dave Roberts’ steal like it was more important than The Double, which well maybe we can talk about that I guess he might have an argument with that I suppose it actually might be buYOU GET MY POINT. It’s 2015–just as much as you don’t want to read any of that, I don’t want to write it.

So in lieu of knowing what this will actually turn into, I’ll just offer perhaps a perfunctory road map before next week’s first actual post. Each week I’ll be watching one feature film–or a series of shorts/broadcasts–from all the way back to 1895 (roughly when scholars accept “the cinema” as such was “invented”) to the modern day. I’m going to try and avoid all the usual go-tos: Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Bad News Bears–but who knows what will actually end up happening. In addition, I’m not going to give you reviews, but I’m also not going to try and couch it all in needless masturbatory academic language. I have more than enough time to do that in my spare time. Yeah, yes, I read that sentence the same way you just did.

Instead I hope to try and unpack some of the historical context of whatever I’ll be watching not only within media history, but also, importantly for this site, within the global history of baseball as a sport, cultural institution, and site of both leisure and history. I’m going to try and watch stuff all the way from an 1899 Edison rendition of Casey at the Bat, to Masaki Kobayashi’s I Will Buy You, a 1956 Moneyball-avant-la-lettre produced in one of the greatest Japanese film studios in the history of cinema. My goal hopefully is to open up a little bit about the films themselves as well as try to connect these pieces of the game to the very same debates and narratives which occupy our current sports headlines to this very day. Also to just make it to April, because at this rate, the team is gonna be completely turned over by the time I even get to writing my first installment next week.

Will any of this work? I don’t know. The good news is that LL will be in great hands even if I never type another word after this one–so if you want, just go ahead and skip on by this nonsense each week to read all you’ve ever wanted to know about Boog Powell and whatever NRIs will be on the roster by February. But if you want to join me for a little fun, I hope to chat next week in an attempt to unpack connections about this game which drove us all to type in the name of this website in that blank address bar up there, up at the top in order to read this in the first place. And by all means–if you have suggestions or recommendations, leave a note in the comments.

Otherwise, I will see you next week, starting pretty early with some American silent works. I’d say I’m crossing my fingers, but we all know that Joey Cora technically stepped out of the basepaths and wasn’t called out–so luck isn’t exactly the kind of thing we should ever be talking about around these parts. So until then.

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