Thursday, August 12, 2010

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Boston: Game 6

| by Justin Thomas |

I don’t believe in God. I believe in Thomas Jefferson.

Michael Hoffman's Game 6 needs the viewer to either believe in God or at least know about the concept for the pivotal scene to work. Wrapping baseball into the mix, particularly that Game 6, helps bring the notion of God, or a god, into a place where God, or a god, seems to function well. Baseball, baseball players and baseball fans are weird people and the game is so wrapped into the psyche of those involved at any level it’s difficult to allow it in and not believe in something more powerful controlling things.

Nicky sits in a New York bar on the night in 1986 when the Mets came from behind to defeat the Red Sox and force a Game 7. Prior to 2004, that night is the night Red Sox fans can point to when needing to explain the cross they carried, and Nicky explains at length over the course of the film why that’s the case. He doesn’t mention curses or baseball gods working against Red Sox Nation, but the idea of the higher power enters into the conversation as the innings wane and the Red Sox near what Nicky knows will be the collapse. In a stunning piece of authenticity, not a hindsight wink at a fanbase, Nicky knew they’d blow it. It was just a matter of how and how excruciating it would be when it happened.

But then Toyota, his cabbie and his guest for the drama of Game 6, asks Nicky to start believing in something. Hesitantly he does so. Maybe this isn’t the one that’ll crush him. Maybe this is the one that will work. She tells him to start believing in his team. He starts believing in his team. Mookie Wilson hits the dribbler down the first base line. Bill Buckner moves over, grabs the ball and Nicky sees him tag the base, ending the threat. The game continues and Nicky is unaware of what’s happened, what’s really happened, until later when two Mets fans help explain things to him in a way only Mets fans can do.

What did the kind and merciful God do for Nicky that night? The Red Sox didn’t win; the outcome remained the same. The kind and merciful deity, whomever that might be, spared him the moment of watching Buckner botch the play, yet another moment in Red Sox history in a long, long line of moments in Red Sox history that weighs down a fan. He won’t be able to discuss with other Red Sox fans what his heart did at that moment, when he watched Ray Knight cross the plate to force Game 7, and it will be his one missing piece to the puzzle of being a Red Sox fan.

I don’t know how to discuss an independent film, one that strays not from the formula of a movie but from the form of a movie. Nicky bothered me because every line of dialogue was so writer-y which fits because he’s a writer but it gets old. Michael Keaton shows, as he frequently shows, he’s capable of more than Multiplicity (as is Harold Ramis but that’s a rant better saved for another time). I know there are themes to be found, things to be discussed and ideas to be pondered, but I got hung up on that one moment and how it affects Nicky’s showdown with the Phantom of Broadway. See, Red Sox Nation didn’t hold a monopoly on baseball frustration before 2004 and it certainly doesn’t now.

Why should someone see Game 6? Red Sox fans don’t need to because what happened and that mindset is no longer applicable; enjoy the two titles, forgive Buckner and head to Fenway if for no other reason than the greater glory of the Fenway Frank. Baseball fans on the North Side don’t need to see it because being a baseball fan on the North Side means beer and broads, not baseball. Maybe I’m recommending it to Michael Keaton fans. You know you’re really talking to a Liam Neeson fan if that person has seen Seraphim Falls, or a Tony Curtis fan if they’ve seen Sweet Smell of Success. Keaton is a fine performer and this is one of those hidden nuggets of gold in his filmography. So get thee to a video store quickly, you Michael Keaton Nation, and see this for what he does with Nicky.

And for anyone who gets angry at losing a Game 6 and allowing that to dominate how one remembers a series? Losing Game 6 always, always, always means Game 7 can still be won. Boston had a 3-0 lead in Game 7 until the bottom of the sixth inning.
Buckner wasn’t the only one at fault.

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