As the hulking Babe stood in the bedroom of Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez” the night before the fleet of-foot hero decided to pickle the beast, he reminded him that “there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” As seminal childhood classic The Sandlot prepares to celebrate 20 years since it hit theaters on April 7, there are undeniable reasons why the film transcends gender, age and affinity for America’s national pastime. Peppered throughout a rather simply crafted narrative – where hapless “goofus” Scotty Smalls found himself new in town and completely friendless – the aforementioned and popular Jet served as his clean-up-hitting-Yoda as he’s introduced to the rest of the squad. Somehow, that childhood whimsy and uninhibited attitude is still relevant to the modern man who is now somewhere between 25 and 40-years-old.
The Sandlot isn’t merely a metaphor for life, it’s an explicit rule book in the same way athletes know that the pitchers mound is 60 feet 6 inches from home, and that there’s no absolutely no pepper allowed near a Major League ball field. Hidden amongst the pilfered pool smooches, gut busted baseballs, tobacco-induced puking and “s’more of nothing,” are morals and principles everyone can follow.
Bespeckled pain in the ass Michael “Squints” Palledorous had guts in place of hawkeye vision. There’s something to be said for allowing one’s gusto to lead important life decisions. When you’re 12/13-years-old, you don’t think of five year plans; the moment is just that – a split second where your follow-through either leads to success or failure. People would be wise to chase the seemingly unreachable idea – a la Wendy Peffercorn – instead of always taking the safe route and settling for the shallow end.
“Michael Squints Palledorous walked a little taller that day. And we had to tip our hats to him. He was lucky she hadn’t beat the *crap* out of him. We wouldn’t have blamed her. What he’d done was sneaky, rotten, and low… and cool. Not another one among us would have ever in a million years even for a million dollars have the guts to put the move on the lifeguard. He did. He had kissed a woman. And he had kissed her long and good. We got banned from the pool forever that day. But every time we walked by after that, the lifeguard looked down from her tower, right over at Squints, and smiled.”
From the moment we’re all old enough to walk, we’re constantly challenging each other to feats of physicality. From there, bouts of intellectual brilliance fuel us to constantly innovate and be better than the person in the cubicle next to us, the staff in the office across the street or the opponent across the globe who had inspiration strike at the same moment that we did. Competition is what makes sports so universal, and is the distinct and more likeable cousin to “hatred.” Competing for that hard earned victory is far nobler than sitting on the side and hating those who got the outcome you so direly wanted.
“It’s easy when you play with rejects and a fat kid, Rodriguez.”
Trial and error is an integral part of growth and self-improvement. Parents often see their role as that of a steel umbrella or iron trench coat, but there’s far more a child can learn from feeling the sting of his/her ill-advised choices than never feeling the kaboom at all. While you could chalk up riding an amusement park attraction with a plug of chewing tobacco in your cheek as boyish naivety, that hindsight is seen clearer through eyes that have done far worse in the past and have grown from that ignorance. Boys will be boys…and so will a lot of middle aged men.
“Big Chief…the best.”
– Bertram Grover Weeks
There’s a kinship among adolescent males that’s indescribable. One moment you’re complete strangers, and in an instant as swift as a baseball traveling around the horn and smacking leather webbing, you’re best friends. High fives, ripped jeans and a lost baseball are the memories that will last, not that million dollar deal you pull off when no one is there to chop you back down to size.
“We all lived in the neighborhood for a couple of more years-mostly through junior high school-and every summer was great. But none of them ever came close to that first one. When one guy would move away, we never replaced him on the team with anyone else. We just kept the game going like he was still there.”
– Scott Smalls
I was 9-years-old when The Sandlot came out on VHS and I’ll love it for-ev-ver, for-ev-ver, for-ev-ver.