When the world of cinema combines with the world of high level competition, it can produce some of heartwarming, beautiful pieces of work that cross the barrier of art and athletics. An unknown street fighter from Philadelphia became so loved, it led to a cinematic universe that would make Marvel blush. Bill Murray on a golf course, because what else does your movie really need? And real life, tear inducing stories of looking beyond skin color to find friendship on a football field, both in Brian’s Song and Remember the Titans.
Another film in this genre of causing people to cry is “Field of Dreams,” the 1989 classic that teaches everyone that building a baseball field is more important than paying your mortgage.
One of the most iconic films in the past three decades and certainly a must watch film for any fan of baseball. Kevin Costner’s character of Ray Kinsella starts hearing voices that tell him to build a baseball field in his backyard so that the ghost of the 1919 Chicago White Soxs can play baseball. The voices in his head lead him on a cross-country journey that involves him kidnapping James Earl Jones, playing a 1960s radical author who lives as a recluse and concludes with Ray playing catch with his departed father….. Spoilers.
You know, reading the plot out loud, the story is just as disturbing as it is heartwarming, if not more. The kind of disturbing that can only be seen as whimsical and charming in a theater than in real life. Field of Dreams find itself as the most popular film in the sub genre “champion ghost films™.” These movies combined the afterlife with the world of sports. Though “Field of Dreams” does not have a championship to win, the principles are the same: the afterlife is interacting with people to play sports, and no matter how weird it looks to people who do not see the ghost, they have a very bull-like passion towards this one goal.
Another film that plays on this principle is the comedic 1997 movie, “The Sixth Man” starring Kadeem Hardison and Marlon Wayans. Hardison and Wayans plays two brothers, Antoine and Kenny who are the best players on the University of Washington baskeball team. The film begins with Hardison’s character, Antoine, dying in the middle of a game. After that emotional punch to the gut, Antoine returns as a ghost but can only be seen by his brother, as he assist his team in winning the National Championship, as well as help mature his brother before departing to heaven at the end of the film.
As stated before, Antonie assists his former team and his brother to win after win after win, though “assists” probably would not be the best word. Help, no. Aid, no that’s not it. Support, still not correct. Cheats, that’s the word! He cheats. Essentially, the film is a never-ending montage of teams who work harder and have better athletes lose to a team that is knowingly cheating to win the National Champion. And yes, all the players on the team learn about Antoine’s presence and have no issue with it for the majority of the film. For the National Championship, Kenny tells his brother not to intervene so that they can earn the title fair and square, despite all the games won to get to that point that had a literal angel’s hand attached to it.
And speaking of angels, we get the trope of “outside assistance” in the 1994 remake of “Angels in the Outfield,” starring a young Joseph Gordon Levitt, archangel Christopher Lloyd and Danny Glover as the Angels’ manager. Replace collegiate basketball with Major League Baseball, two brothers with friends who are orphans looking to be adopted and instead of one angel cheating, you have an army of angels cheating to help an inferior, undisciplined team beat actual good teams win the pennant…. Also, Adrien Brody and Matthew McConaughey are in it…. Also spoilers.
The lesson that should be learned from these movies is this: when dealing with the afterlife, no action taken by the protagonist or the spirits of the dead is wrong. Lie, cheat, threaten to injury or kill and steal money from revenue generated by teams whose seasons were ended by God’s army. That being said, these movies are a lot of fun, and you should watch them if you don’t like scary movies around Halloween.