THE TENTH INNING, 2010
Cast: Baseball and Barry Bonds
THE TENTH INNING tells the tumultuous story of the national pastime from the 1990s to the present day.
Introducing an unforgettable array of players, teams and fans, the film showcases the era's extraordinary accomplishments and heroics — as well as its devastating losses and disappointments.
Combining extraordinary highlights, stunning still photographs, and insightful commentary by players, managers, and fans, THE TENTH INNING interweaves the story of the national pastime with the story of America.
Release Date: 28 September 2010
Full disclosure: I am rapid baseball fan. Most of my fondest childhood memories has to do with baseball and I extremely enjoyed the original baseball 18 hour documentary by Ken Burns. In fact, I enjoyed Burns' documentary so much I actually went back and watched all of his documentary films and have continued to follow all of his films since. Focussing his life at depicting various important stories of the United State, no other man is able to showcase all sides of this polarizing nation. He understands that things aren't black and white as there is always shades of grey within the shades of grey. And that's what he continues to search for in his career: Documenting all sides of a subject like The Civil War, Jazz, the history of New York City and now for the 2nd time, baseball!
It's funny because Burns ends this film by having one of his interview subjects talk about what the difference between a moralist and an artist is using Barry Bonds as a subject. A moralist is a fan of sort. A person who always needs to choose sides. Makes yes or no decisions. Whereas an artist is someone who attempts to explore the complexities of this life knowing that things are never that easy to come up with just a simple conclusion. It was like he was channeling the genesis of his entire career.
If there was a main character in the Tenth Inning it would definitely be Barry Bonds. In the last 20 years there hasn't been a more interesting person than Bonds. Here's a guy who had two Hall of Fame careers which you can split into the normal sized Barry and the extra large Barry. The extra large Barry is the more fascinating tale because this was a man who actually gave the people what they wanted at the time: the homerun. Bonds broke McGwire's single season homerun record and Hank Aaron's career homerun record while gaining more enemies than fans in the process. The media didn't like him at all for various reasons and neither did anyone else minus his hometown San Francisco team. It was obvious Bonds used steroids, but so did everyone else. He battled against people who were juicing just like he was. But it was obvious he was playing a completely different game.
The Tenth Inning goes into the topics of steroids and what it means in historical reasons eventhough as of the film's viewing in 2010, it still isn't a closed book issue. It really takes up over 25% of the film showing how we all kind of knew what was happening during the McGwire/Sosa chase, but didn't seem to care because it made us all so happy.
Pedro Martinez comes up with the best line of The Tenth Inning by stating: "Innocence is a beautiful thing........sometimes!"
And that tells the story in a nutshell. Innocence is a beautiful thing but in historical viewpoints it's a very tainted thing. I look back at my own childhood and while I was living it, I thought it to be a very innocent and magical thing. But now looking back on it I only feel sadness and resentment because I now know the full story. So while living the great 1998 homerun chase, it was a fun time, but now looking back it looks to be a very BS time full of lies and conspiracies. So innocence is only a beautiful time while living in the moment but memories are what really counts.
I understand why Burns went back to this documentary but I have to admit I found the entire experience a bit puzzling. It didn't have the same spark and excitement than the original and I have tried to but my finger on it:
1) The narrator is different and therefore the tone and pace of the film is different now too. Changing the narrator for the baseball film is like replacing Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in the 24 TV series. The show will still go on as the performer isn't as big as the story, but it just isn't the same anymore. You only know how important someone is when they aren't there anymore.
2) Whereas the original baseball documented times that I only knew through reading stories and seeing various clips as I was born in the late 70s, The Tenth Inning documents the times that I experienced myself. The whole experience was strange because it was the first time I watched a historical documentary about a time that I was there, living with the moment. I have never felt old in my entire life until now. I am now at that age where I have lived in times are now being made into films.
3) The strike of 1994 was of course talked about, but I felt that they kind of glossed over it a bit quickly. In my opinion, this strike (or owners lockout. Whatever you want to call it) was one of the most important moments of the last 20 years, and not just in baseball and sports terms. What happened here really set the tone in all of the other sports, but also in many other businesses that had labor issues. If you look at the labor involvement in North America post baseball strike 1994, you see an entire different landscape than in years past.
The entire issue actually needs to have its own documentary film. But of course the problem there is that the issue isn't as sexy as say homeruns and World Series games.
BUT through it all I enjoyed The Tenth Inning because I am a sucker for baseball. Burns takes us through the 20 years of baseball in random blurbs. Through the Yankee dynasty, the explosion of the foreign latin and Japanese players namely Petro Martinez and Ichiro, the players juicing, the incredible 2004 Red Sox/Yankees series and of course through it all, Barry Bonds.
And mark my words, in the next 40 years if no one else has made a Barry Bonds movie, I will. He's such a fascinating character. What I'll do to showcase the two different sizes of Bonds is do what they did in Raging Bull where Robert DeNiro had to change into a lean middle-weight boxer to a heavy older man in the later portions of the film. They took at 4 month break in order for DeNiro to gain all the weight. So I'll film the first half of the movie with skinny Bonds and then take a 2 year break in order for the actor to gain the needed muscle to play him. OR, I'll go CGI and just add the muscle with the computers. I haven't figured it out just yet
But thank you again Mr. Burns and company for bringing back this series.