Chasing 3000 – A Review

I was never much of a sports fan. The idea of watching grown men paid exorbitant amounts of money to play kids games never really appealed to me.  While at work, I found myself listening to a lot of talk radio and Tony Kornheiser hit my radar.  I found him quite entertaining and got to know the stories and soon found myself following the storylines of sports rather than rooting for teams specifically.  For some people, the game—baseball especially—has memories attached to it.  There is a human connection which has the power to move and bond people.  That is the idea explored in Chasing 3000.

The movie follows the story of two brothers, Mickey and Roger, obviously iconic names in the game of baseball, recalling Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.  Told in flashback as an older Mickey (Ray Liotta) recalls the love that he and his brother share of Roberto Clemente and why it is so important that his family make it to a very important game.  His younger brother, Roger (Rory Culkin) has Muscular Dystrophy, the stress of which causes their father to abandon them.  The family has to move from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles for Roger’s health.  Mickey has trouble adjusting to his new situation and decides that purpose can be found in seeing Clement hit #3000.  So the two decide to drive cross country.

Chasing 3000 is essentially a road movie/buddy pic with brothers trying to find their way home.  Unfortunately, the movie is as subtle as the names of their characters.  In fact, it’s a character study with not particularly interesting characters.  Roger, especially, needed more material to work with as the movie only scratched the surface with him and their relationship.

“Never underestimate the love of a mother.  Or a brother.” –Mickey

There are a couple of themes crossing in the movie:  what it’s like to have the love of a brother as well as the anguish of a mother helpless to spare her sons pain.  The main underlying theme, however, is the power of the game to touch and unite people.  And the power of story to pull family together and find healing .  The brothers want to be a part of the story and history.  They read Roberto Clemente’s bio as if it were Scripture, learning from his life and teachings as the book “gets better with each read”.

“We loved the game.  So much so that someone got into a fight nearly every day over it.” –Mickey

No matter how bad things got in his life, Mickey had the game.  Baseball is one of the few games where numbers reign.  Averages and records, RBIs, ERAs, strikeouts, streaks, true adherents can cite the magical numbers off the top of their heads.    Yet Mickey has a FAITH in the game, he feels connected to a greater story.  That’s the true heart of a fan.  It can’t just be found in a box score or stats, his belief is more than just a set of facts.

“Got to use your heart, not your head.” –Mickey

Faith is an intuitive leap to what you choose to believe and how you choose to process the world around you. Any choice of a worldview requires a leap of faith, to believe that your worldview is the “right” one. I believe quest/knowledge journeys begin with a leap of faith, that is, what we choose to put our trust in. For some, it is ourselves (the individual or humanity). For some, it is science (the determination of our senses). For some, it is the spiritual (under the assumption that there is more to this life than presented, both in terms of the spiritual and in terms of after this life). To quote from the blog of my friend, Rich Vincent:

“Christianity does not consist in a series of verifiable and interlocking hypotheses. Nor is it a philosophical system consisting in satisfactory, mutually consistent propositions… the way that truth is sought and engaged with is not through detachment but through a living relationship of faith and love with the object we seek”. The Christian seeks more than “objective truth,” facts, or information. “The goal is not to find information, or even to discern fact, but to bring ourselves, as living subjects, into engagement with reality, culminating ultimately in a participation in the ground of what is real”.

Facts can only take us so far.  Faith imbues facts with meaning, or, better said, it’s hard to get to the truth of faith through objectivity. Sometimes faith means that we have to come to the conclusion that we don’t have many things figured out. That we have to learn to get comfortable with that and the idea of mystery (read: the great “I don’t know”).  And when those facts come into question and the game has the cloud of taint, his faith allows him to still believe in the ideal of the game.  Sometimes it gets harder and harder and faith is tested, but the mission perseveres.

Inspired by a real story, Chasing 3000 scores a little too high on the schmaltz meter.  Characters are nearly reduced to tears at the mention of the name Roberto Clemente (who died in a plane crash on his way to deliver relief aid to Nicaraguan earthquake survivors in 1972 soon after he reached 3000).  The movie dragged and featured trite dialogue.  You keep waiting for the movie to take off or to delve deeper and it never quite does.

I Understand A-Rod

Give me a break, baseball purists: there’s no need for asterisks. No sport has prided itself more on cheating than baseball: from spit balls to corked bats to gambling scandals (from Shoeless Joe to Pete Rose) to, I don’t know, not letting black people in the game.

I know I took Michael Phelps to task for his brand of apology last week, but I’m almost sympathetic to Alex Rodriguez. Almost. Yes, he’s a cheater and has tainted his legacy and any future work he has in the sport. Yes, this one stung a bit more because so many pinned theirs hopes on the idea that HE was one of the clean ones who would allow for the redemption of the sport. And I’m on board with all of that. I’m up for stamping a big ole asterisk across the entire hall of fame at this point.

But part of me gets where he was coming from.

I know there’s part of me that when I’m about to release a new novella or story, I don’t want to let my audience of readers down. I want to put out the best product I can. I don’t want to disappoint even a single paying customer with less than my best. Ditto my publisher: when I get an advance, no matter how large or small, I feel the subtle pressure to earn out. Yes, I still cash the check if I don’t, but I still want to justify people’s confidence in me. I know what it’s like to look around at my peers and be surrounded by a lot of people who are naturally head and shoulders better than you. Folks who you know you had better work as hard or harder than if you want to keep up. As entertainers and artists, we all face that pressure to succeed, that pressure to be seen as worthy, that pressure to live up to your potential.

It seems like it doesn’t matter how large your salary is or how good your reviews are, many of us wrestle with lots of insecurity: about job, about ability, about what others are doing, how others perceive you. Talk about believing the lie: even when you’re widely regarded as the best, you might not see yourself as good enough, pretty enough (memo to plasticized Hollywood), smart enough, talented enough.

And there is an underlying reality to that fear. This is a “what have you done for me lately” culture, and even as a writer, you’re only as good as your latest story. You’re always one book not selling well enough from your career being flushed away.

We live in a culture of deniability and instant gratification. Where peer pressure and worrying about what other folks are doing gets into your head. Short-sighted though it may be, our desperation and competitive natures can combine into a mix of bad decision making. We could yield to the temptations, the short cuts, of plagiarism or self-publishing, rather than do things the right way, the harder way. Where we have to read more. Practice more. Experiment more. Push yourself more. Where we learn and grow from the failures that it takes to climb up the ranks. Where we learn what works, what doesn’t, what people are looking for as we’re being shaped into the artists and performers we were meant to be.

I understand. It was still a poor decision, but I understand the root of it. We can all rebound from our mistakes (say like an early PublishAmerica mistep). So I’ll cut Alex Rodriguez the tiniest bit of slack and take his remorseful, apologetic, semi-confession for what it was and allow for the possibility of redemption.