I was in the mood for a little bit of baseball today so I decided to throw in Bad News Bears. I haven’t seen this movie since I was a kid and I can only wonder why my parents let me watch it at a young age. The language is hardly the kind you’d want to impress on any youngster and there really isn’t a role model in the film.
Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) is a washed up old drunkard of a baseball player, now a pool cleaner, who is being paid to coach a baseball team of misfits and rejects after one of the fathers sues the league for excluding the team. There’s hardly a scene where Buttermaker is without a drink in hand. He drives drunk. He works drunk. He pitches drunk. The man is hardly ever sober. We learn that he once played AA ball, presumably as a pitcher, but never went to the majors due to “contract disagreements”.
I gave Buttermaker the benefit of the doubt, not remembering the movie from when I was young, and assumed that while his team progressed at baseball he would progress into sobriety. No luck. Throughout the movie he sits in the dugout with a bucket of cold Budweisers to keep him company. He comes off the bench from time to time to yell at the other team’s coach, the ump and his team. Even at the end of the movie he’s handing out beers to his team, clearly leading them down the same path he took in life. Not exactly a role model for anyone.
The movie follows the Bears, sponsored by Chico’s Bail Bonds, through their first season of playing in the once exclusive league. At the beginning, they’re hardly any sort of team to brag about. Buttermaker opted to forfeit their first game after less than half an inning when the other team scored more than twenty runs. Buttermaker seeks out the eleven-year-old daughter of a former girlfriend, Amanda (Tatum O’Neil), who he taught to pitch. He manages to get her to join the team and she helps turn the team around, but not completely.
Buttermaker sees talent in a kid, Kelly (Jackie Earle Haley), who hangs around the diamond on his Harley and goes after him to join the team. Kelly refuses at first but joins when he sees how much it would piss off the adults in the league if he joins. Between Kelly and Amanda, the team turns around. All the players get better with the moral that the two bring to the team. Before each game Buttermaker asks the Bears what each game means and the team responds with, “Bad news for the [team name].” As they get better, they eventually deliver on their promise. The Bears get good enough that they make it to the championship game.
The entire season the other teams made it quite clear that they didn’t want the Bears in the league. Some teams played dirty. Some teams said it in their taunts. Some of the boys on the other teams would go as far as harassing the boys anytime they could get them alone. The championship game is the Bears’ chance to show the league who they are.
I have to admit, the ending of Bad News Bears makes me happy because it isn’t a Hollywood ending. It isn’t an all around happy ending. It breaks a mold. It also promises a sequel. And a sequel I shall watch.