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Archive for November, 2016

To paraphrase what David Mamet once said about the theater—Baseball is always dying and always being reborn.

The Chicago Cubs winning the final game of a best of seven game World Series was the stuff of high drama. A couple of years ago I wrote a post called Screenwriting and the Super Bowl. This post could be called Screenwriting and the World Series.

Here’s a quick overview of why the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series captured the attention of so many here in the United States with an estimated 40 million viewers watching on TV. And because this is a screenwriting blog, I’ll talk about it in terms of the theatrics. (And I’ll just limit it to 11 points)

BACKSTORY: Chicago is third largest city in the United States. And even as the 2.7 million population is not in growth mode there are millions of others scattered throughout the country with roots in Chicago. And part of those roots is being a Chicago Cub fan. The fact that the Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908 meant to be a Cubs fans meant generations of being perianal losers. The quintessential “This wasn’t out year/Wait until next year” fan.

Toss in the legend of the Curse of the Bill Goat where the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern was asked to take his Billy Goat out of Wrigley Field because its smelled bother other fans  so he allegendly cursed the team and it’s not hard to see where even the non-baseball fan was pulling for the Cubs.

And because of labor strikes by players and steroid drug scandals over the years Major League Baseball isn’t quite the national pastime it once was. The NFL and NBA are the glamour models of professional sports in the United States. And everything from UFC, smart phones, video games, etc. don’t make the culture at large as interested the slower game of baseball as popular as it once was.

But last Wednesday night people sat up and paid attention to baseball.

So game 7 of the World Series—winner take all. The series tied three games a piece. The odds are against the Cubs for several reasons and of the main ones is the game was played in Cleveland. But the twist is because of the historic chance to win a World Series, Cubs fans from around the world pay on average $2,700 per ticket. (But actor Bill Murray gave an extra ticket he had to a Cubs fan.) So a healthy amount of Cubs fans are in the stands so it’s not a typical away game. In fact, behind the Cubs dugout it probably felt like a home game.

STAKES: For all the reasons above the stakes are high for the Cubs.

DYNAMIC OPENING: The very first batter of the game, Dexter Flower, hit a home run for the Cubs. A lead off home run in game 7 had never happened in World Series history.

GOALS: Each team/fan has a simple definable goal—to win game 7 and the World Series. There’s no real bad guy/bad team here, just two equally matched teams. Though because the Cubs haven’t won in so long the are seen as underdogs and people love to root for underdogs.

CONFLICT—There’s contant conflict throughout the game as teams fight to score runs and prevent the other team from scoring.

CRISIS-In the next to the last inning, the Indian get a two run homer to tie the game. The tide appears to be shifting for the home team. NBA champion and MVP LeBron James is in the stands and does a Hulk Hogan impression of power. After the regulation 9-innings the game is tied 6-6. But in the tenth inning the Cubs score two runs to take a 8-6 lead.

CLIMAX: All the Cubs need is three outs to finally win a World Series after 108 years. They get two outs, but the Indians also score a run and have a man on base meaning a home run by the next batter would result in the Indians winning 9-8. But he grounds out and the Cubs win. Celebrating begins and doesn’t stop for a couple of days.

RESOLUTION: The celebration continues as the Cubs return to Chicago for a old school downtown parade. (The kind astronauts got after the returned safely from space.)

IS IT A MOVIE? Sure it was an exciting World Series, but does that make it worthy of a movie? Time will tell. There definitely will be long and short documentaries on the 2016 Chicago Cubs. But chances are if the first feature dramatic film made about the Cubs winning will probably be a quirky indie film set around the events of the memorable 2016 team.

Take for instance the man who made a promise with his dad that if the Cubs were ever in the world series that they’d listed to the game together. The problem was his dad was dead. So the 68-year old man drove 650 miles from his home in North Carolina to a cemetery in Greenwood, Indiana where father was buried after he died in 1980. Sitting in a chair next to his father’s headstone he listened to the game. That’s the stuff of great drama. The Straight Story meets Field of Dreams.

EMOTIONS-After the last out in game seven, I bet there hasn’t be so many grown crying in the USA over something athletic since Brian’s Song first aired back in the 70s. (By the way, another Chicago-based movie.) And there were plenty of women and children caught up in the celebrations and mixture of emotions.

WHAT’S CHANGED?: The world is different now for Cubs fans. They are winners now.

It’s a little sad that we’ve lost The Bad News Cubs, but congrats to the 2016 Chicago Cubs for bringing a jolt of life to baseball—especially in light of a time when American politics appears on life support.

P.S. And since this blog is titled Screenwriting from Iowa I should point out that the Chicago Cubs have a minor league team in Des Moines, Iowa. And one of the millions of subplots surrounding the Cubs win 85-year-old Darel Sterner, a life long Cubs fan and Iowa resident, watched the Cubs finally  win the World Series and died three hours later.

Related posts:

Screenwriting da Chicago Way
Postcard (Wrigley Field)
Bleacher Bums

Scott W. Smith

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Chicago vs. Cleveland

The Cleveland Indians host the Chicago Cubs tonight in the deciding World Series game. The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948 and the Cubs since 1908. And both teams also have a bit of Hollywood history with Major League (1989) written by David S. Ward and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) written by John Hughes.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“In the entire history of theater, it would be difficult to think of a play that’s more purely American than Bleacher Bums.”
Los Angeles Times review 

If the Chicago Cubs lose tonight there will be some happy Cubs fans. That’s not a typo. Yes, the Cleveland Indians fans will be happy if there team wins game 6 and become World Series champs for the first time since 1948.

Why, you may asked, would some Chicago Cubs fans be happy if their team loses another World Series? That is a rational question. But you see, the Cubs haven’t won a World Series game since 1908. Part of what’s baked into being a Chicago Cubs fan is your team is a perennial loser.

Several generations of Cubs fans have a shared camaraderie that their team is not going to win a World Series. I doubt there is anyone in Chicago (maybe in the world) who was alive and remember the last time the Cubs the World Series.

And, Yahoo! Sports reports that while the majority of Cub fans (91%) would like to see the Cubs finally win the World Series, that “1 in 4 Cubs fans will miss their identity of losing if they win the World Series.”

An identity of losing—that’s a theme worth exploring dramatically. And in fact, if I recall correctly, that was the basis for the play and TV movie Bleacher Bums. According to Wikipedia the 1977  play was “written collaboratively by members of Chicago’s Organic Theater Company, from an idea by actor Joe Mantegna.

I saw the play at a small theater in Los Angeles in the early or mid-80s and actually don’t remember much about it except it was enjoyable to watch. The play takes place in the cheap seat, outfield bleachers during an afternoon game at Wrigley Field as the ensemble cast of Cubs fans interact with each other.

Two Tv versions were made based on the play including this one from 1979 which aired on PBS:

If the Cubs lose tonight (or tomorrow night) Cubs fans in Chicago can still “celebrate” by catching the tail end of an updated Bleacher Bum run at the The Broadway Theater of the Pride Arts Center in Chicago. (According to the Chicago Tribune the play closes November 6.)

P.S. Back when the Indians won in 1948 one of their pitchers was Satchel Paige who on October 10, 1948 became the first black pitcher to to pitch it World Series history. That’s 45-years after the first World Series game was ever played. Which reminds be of another baseball film, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976). Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins wrote the screenplay based on William Brashler’s novel.

Related Posts:
Screenwriting, Baseball & Underdogs
Burns, Baseball & Character
‘The Battered Bastards of Baseball’
Baseball, Bergman & Bull Durham
Moneyball & Coach Ferrell

Scott W. Smith

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