Anyone happen to catch ESPN’s oddly drawn out and overdone homage to The Natural following the Mets-Cardinals game Sunday night? Admittedly, we were watching the telecast at a venue that was not playing the audio, but that may have been for the better – at least that way we couldn't hear the movie scream.
Before we go any further, let it be known that we love The Natural. It’s without a doubt our favorite sports movie of all time. And one of the main reasons we love it is that it has quietly managed to keep its considerable clout over the course of uncountable viewings during the past two decades.
But the emphasis here is on quietly – the beauty of The Natural is that you might forget about it for months or a year or two years, and then when you finally watch it again, it still manages to blow you away.
It’s a tonic that needs to be administered in the proper doses, which is to say that there’s a limit to how many times consecutively anyone would want to see Roy Hobbs blasting out the lights with that epic home run. Yet ESPN seemed determined to show the same clip of his famed Wonderboy bat connecting in slow-mo with the baseball every 85 seconds. By the end of the show, that chill-inducing moment had undoubtedly and inevitably been cheapened.
And frankly, the whole viewing experience seemed to do nothing much more than undercut the cache of the movie’s most compelling images. Sure, it was meant to be a love fest and tribute to the film complete with testimonials from players (including Derrek Lee and Nick Swisher), but it felt more like a sycophantic gathering of nerds who came together to suckle at the film’s teat for two hours until any excitement or interest had completely dried up.
It’s tough to explain how we really feel about it, but let’s put it this way:
At one point fairly late in the show, when Swisher was on camera for about the fifth time saying who knows what about the movie, his long flowing locks looking like they’d just received a once-over from a bottle of Pert Plus and a hairdryer, the person sitting next to us – clearly as irritated as we were by the whole production even though the TV wasn’t making a sound – turned and said, “Nick Swisher’s a fuckin’ douche.”And for some reason, that pretty much summed everything up.