McGraw: As Cubs take to the corn, is 'Field of Dreams' worth watching?
The second version of MLB's "Field of Dreams" game in Dyersville, Iowa, certainly lacks quality when it comes to the participating teams.
So maybe the best way to prepare for Thursday's Cubs vs. Reds battle in the cornfield is to watch the "Field of Dreams" movie for the first time in a long time and see how it holds up.
A recently retired sports editor suggested re-watching "Bad News Bears" would be a better exercise for understanding the 2022 Cubs. That's a clever retort, but I already have strong thoughts about the original "Bad News Bears" (masterpiece), plus the Cubs are playing in Iowa, not the North Valley League.
From a personal perspective, the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams" usually brought descriptions like corny, cringey, ridiculous, overrated. But I'd only watched it in bits and pieces on television, never straight through. So with the Cubs headed for the cornfields, it's time to give "Field of Dreams" another chance.
It always seemed like "Field of Dreams" required a strong dose of baseball nostalgia. Maybe it was the bond of playing catch with your dad, or being able to reflect on the old days when baseball was king. People in my generation grew up when the NFL was far and away the most popular sport, and depending on the year, baseball had dipped below the NBA into third place. So not much national pastime nostalgia here.
The James Earl Jones speech late in the film -- "The one constant through all the years, Ray, is baseball. ... It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again." -- is just absurd. It feels like it belongs in a Bart Giamatti book of baseball poetry.
There are several ridiculous scenes in "Field of Dreams" -- the book-banning rally, the illogical first meeting of Kevin Costner's Ray character and Jones' Terence Mann, young Moonlight Graham jumping into the car as a hitchhiker.
After watching the movie straight through, I realized the negative impression is mostly due to watching the worst scenes or hearing the Jones' speech out of context.
Seeing it again, "Field of Dreams" doesn't even feel like a baseball movie. There's some nice trivia about Shoeless Joe Jackson and true-ish facts about Moonlight Graham, a player who logged exactly one game in the major leagues. But it's more about the personal nostalgia of getting older; how a life is inevitably filled with both happy memories and deep regrets.
The strongest scene, in my opinion, is when Costner meets Burt Lancaster's Graham character. He says, "We just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening. At the time I thought, 'There will be other days.' I didn't realize that was the only day."
This is something older people know well, and younger people are about to find out. Sure, I miss playing catch with my kids, coaching them in youth baseball (and other sports). But those are just two small examples. Everyone's past is filled with moments they'd love to relive or wish they could do over again.
Beautiful sunsets over the Iowa cornfields are another asset to the film. The forecast for Thursday in Dyersville is partly cloudy with a slight chance of rain.
There's some humor, like when the late Ray Liotta dips into "GoodFellas" mode to take joy in sticking it to Ty Cobb. Shoeless Joe had baseball taken away from him, but everyone has to move on from the best moments of their lives. Shoeless Joe's exit from baseball just came with the unusual circumstance of a team throwing the World Series.
Parts of the film make no sense. Some members of the Black Sox know exactly how long it's been since they died or played in the World Series, while Jackson acts confused by playing under lights, even though he died in 1951, long after night games became the norm everywhere but Wrigley Field.
According to the Des Moines Register, Costner will not attend Thursday's game and there won't be an MLB "Field of Dreams" event in 2023.
Former White Sox star Frank Thomas led a group that bought the site last year. It sounds like the plan is to turn it into a baseball and softball complex that could become a travel tournament destination. Pending construction is the reason MLB won't be there next season, but it could return in the future.
As far as the movie goes, it gets a little silly at times, but overall it's pretty good.