Before I watched this one, I wasn't sure which subject I was going to touch on when I wrote about it. There's the ever popular theme of parents pushing their children too hard in sports to relive their dreams of failed glory (yawn). There's the more fun idea that the 70s were so politically incorrect that it's hard to tell when something is overtly racist, or they're trying to prove a point that the times are different, i.e. when Tanner Boyle says, "All we got on this team are a bunch of Jews, spics, niggers, pansies and a booger-eatin moron." He's batting a thousand there. I don't even know how to respond to that, so I'm not going to touch that one. All I can say is that's an actual line from the movie. Easy Tanner. What I also noticed this time I watched it, is that the only reason the Bears come into existence, is some parents file a class action suit against the league (led by a ginger no doubt) in order to create another team for all the kids who basically suck, so the have a chance to play. If that's not the Democrats for you, I don't know what is.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I cannot avoid talking about Buttermaker's alcoholism, which has him currently ranked in my Top 5 Alcoholics in Cinema History list, and he just may be #1 when all is said and done. Somehow, I believe the way Walter Mathau acts in this movie, rubbed off on me as a child to the point that when I think of someone who is an alcoholic, I think Buttermaker. Here's why:
1. First practice for the Bears, beer in hand.
This isn't too bad. If I were coaching a little league team, I wouldn't bring a beer. I'd probably like to, and it may make it more fun, but I'm thinking it's probably not good to drink a beer in front of children while you're teaching them the art of baseball. It's 1976 though, and times were different.
2. Liquor in car in front of children
Now I know drinking and driving wasn't too big of a deal in the mid 1970s, but still, having an open bottle of liquor in the car in front of children seems bad. I know this is before M.A.D.D. and what not, but come on Buttermaker.
3. Mixed cocktail at the batting cages
Somewhere around #16 on the "Signs of Alcoholism" is bringing a mixed drink to a public location that's centered around children. This is one before bringing a mixed drink to McDonalds to wash down your Big Mac. It's 1976 though, and times were different.
4. He has the kids making Martinis for him.
I'm sorry, but this is awesome. I don't know what's better, the fact that he's putting the kids to good use, or the fact that one actually knows how to make a martini. That's good stuff right there.
5. Passed out at practice.
You can see it's getting worse not better. At least when he was simply having a beer at practice, he was conscience.
6. Beer at picture day.
I suppose this isn't any worse than other things. It's right around now you realize no matter what the situation, Buttermaker is going to have a drink in his hand. I guess it's better that it's just a can of beer rather a martini or a flask.
7. Drinking in his car waiting for his daughter.
This is pretty bad. It's one thing endangering your life, but WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!! It's 1976 though, and times were different.
8. 12 Pack in the dugout in the ice bucket.
Nice work. I bet Mr. Hungerford my little league coach wished he thought of that!
9. Throwing a beer at your daughter.
I'd say this is #2 on the "Signs of Alcoholism" list right after punching your daughter out in a drunken rage. This scene is so heartbreaking. This is right when his daughter starts loving her daddy again, and he rejects her love and basically admits he's just using her to win. This is what makes this movie so great though. This is pure real life drama at it's best, as tough as it is to watch. This poor little girl is bawling her eyes out, and Buttermaker just keeps drinking. You wanna cry, but then realize, it's 1976, and times were different.
I'm going to end on that note because it really can't get any worse than that. The underlying craziness is that the team gets better throughout the movie. It's a feel good movie, yet Buttermaker never even attempts to give up drinking. It's just who he is and you have to accept it. Of course, the movie ends with him giving beers to his team after they lose to the Yankees, which you have to applaud because it's 1976 and ...