August 07, 2009
"Hey batta-batta-batta-batta, sahweeng, batta!"
"Hecanthitit, hecanthitit, hecanthitit, sahweeng, batta!"
— Cameron Frye
As a baseball blogger who loves tying his favorite sport to the world of pop culture, my mind naturally went straight to Ferris Bueller's Wrigley Field scene upon hearing of John Hughes' untimely passing on Thursday.
Dan Shanoff of The Sporting News calls the scene "the most memorable sports scene in a non-sports movie" and while I can't fully agree with that statement — no, not as long as Enrico Palazzo still rules The Naked Gun — I'd argue that it's by far the most influential and important when it comes to being a fan.
Throughout his fantastic career, Hughes had an uncanny knack for turning routine American happenings into romanticized rituals, whether it be a family vacation, a 16th birthday or a Saturday detention stay. He did the same in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," making sure that the ultimate hooky day included a stopover at the Friendly Confines. During the scene, Ferris catches a foul ball, Cameron heckles the opposing batter and Edward Rooney ensures that every reported 0-0 score for the rest of recorded time will be followed by a smirking 'who's winning?' (followed, naturally, by "the Bears.")
Admittedly, the scene isn't very long and it hardly advances the plot. Really, if it had ended on the cutting room floor, you'd still have a great movie about being rebellious and young and maximizing your take from those carefree days.
Still, I believe that Hughes' decision to include a stop at the game within his script was a master stroke, not only for his movie, but for the Cubs and all of baseball.
After all, there aren't many things more American than cutting school to see a baseball game and though kids had been doing it for years ("Tiger Town" documented it three years earlier), Hughes cemented the tradition by placing it in the middle of history's greatest tale of truancy. If you weren't an American patriot for skipping school to watch baseball before Ferris Bueller existed, you certainly were after the movie was released in 1986.
As for the Cubs, I think it's possible to argue that Hughes had a huge hand — along with WGN, Harry Caray and an increasing nostalgia for days past — in turning Wrigley Field into Wrigley Field. Each year, thousands of tourists show up in Chicago convinced that attending a Cubs game is an essential stop in the tour of the city's summer paradise and Hughes is partly responsible. It's somewhat of a pain in the neck for us locals — try paying a fair price for a ticket to a weekend game these days — but Hughes really captured what it meant to be a Midwesterner enjoying a ballgame during the summer weather.
What's more, he made people all around the country and even world want to share in that experience. As a proud Chicagoan, that means a lot.
I'm sure there are a few cynics out there sharpening their commenting knives, but it really doesn't matter. They're likely the same people who scoff at the ending of Field of Dreams and really never got it in the first place. During a time when we're distracted by steroid scandals and escalating salaries, it's still nice to get back in touch with our ideals and remember why we like and enjoy baseball so much in the first place.
For one perfect scene in the middle of one of the most perfect movies ever, John Hughes was able to do just that. Simple and sweet, just like Hughes' movies themselves.