In honor of September 11th, I want to talk about a documentary I saw on the MLB Network this week – “Nine Innings from Ground Zero.” If you break into a cold sweat at the word “documentary”, please keep reading. Released in 2004, “Nine Innings from Ground Zero” is a beautifully produced film about the country’s intangible need to get back to the business of baseball after a national tragedy.
“Nine Innings from Ground Zero” is mere sixty minutes long. Put down the remote. TiVo “The Jersey Shore” for the hour. Snooki isn’t going anywhere. (Unfortunately…)
“Nine Innings from Ground Zero” covers the 2001 World Series in which the New York Yankees faced the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, this wasn’t just any World Series. Months after 9/11, baseball had come to provide welcome relief from the uncertainty New Yorkers, and in turn the nation, felt about how to proceed with their lives. The Yankees, once the most hated team, came to symbolize everything that was, and is, America.
I have no motive here. I’m not getting any money for this blog and I’m not using it as a jump off for a political diatribe. (I’ll save another entry to discuss how disgusting those Park 51 protests have become.) I just feel like talking about how truly amazed I was how “Nine Innings from Ground Zero” was able to express something that nine years ago I couldn’t even conceive how to articulate.
It’s embarrassing to talk about. Why in the face of such horror, could I be concerned about a game (or lack thereof)? Once I got over the shock that day and I knew that my family was accounted for, I absent mindedly turned the channel to MLB Extra Innings. It was there that I saw this terrible blue screen with stark white lettering. It stated “All Games Cancelled until Further Notice.” It was then that I finally broke down in tears.
I’m not an idiot. Intellectually, I knew that the games couldn’t go on that day. The entire definition of National Security was being redefined in front of my eyes. Thousands of people had died just hours before a couple of miles away. The sky was completely silent.
Emotionally though, that statement had far deeper meaning. Life as I knew it was over and there was a damn good possibility that it wouldn’t return in any way shape or form. Nevertheless, it did return (albeit not in its same form).
“Nine Innings from Ground Zero” showed how people (many who faced far more than me that day) were going through exactly what I was going through. It was an amazing time when the most hated team in the league came to represent the country. Cities around the country stood in unity with New York. “Nine Innings from Ground Zero” illustrates how although we were down, we weren’t alone and we certainly weren’t out.
Although the ending of the 2001 season wasn’t a Cinderella one, it couldn’t be more prophetic. Every once in a while, even we lose. Nevertheless, everyone loves a comeback.
Last Sunday at the Music Box Theatre, we ran “We Believe: A Relationship That Lasts a Lifetime (2009)”, a documentary about the Chicago Cubs. After the film, I even got to co-host the Q&A. Directed by John Scheinfeld, “We Believe” is a celebration of the devotion of a great city for its baseball team. “We Believe” explores the relationship between Chicago, the Cubs and (at least for me) their absolutely inexplicably loyal fans.
Shot during the failed 2008 baseball season, “We Believe” documents the city and team as well as the 100th anniversary of the Cubs’ last World Series win while looking toward the team’s future. “We Believe” stars Lou Piniella, Hugh Heffner, Billy Corgan, Ernie Banks, Joe Mantegna, Ron Santo, current and former players as well as politicians, historians (one of which was my old boss at the National Baseball Hall of Fame) and their ever faithful fans. Scheinfeld gives the world a look into the unique city of Chicago and why its people are so passionate about the Cubs.
Even though there is another team across town…remember them?
Not being a native, I find Chicago history wildly interesting. How Chicago went from frontier town to “The Second City” is a true American success story. This film has footage of the city actually shot by Thomas Edison in the late 1800’s. From a self-proclaimed history geek’s point of view, how awesome is that?!
“We Believe” is also the first documentary to be completely sanctioned by the team. It also contains what is believed to be the only known footage of the 1909 Chicago Cubs. The story of how that footage was found is stuff right out of “National Treasure.” As a self-proclaimed baseball geek, how awesome is that?!
Scheinfeld’s opus to his beloved team seems to be the perfect storm of an awesome documentary but then the film began…
This promising documentary dissolves quickly into a self-loathing homage to a group of sad sack fans. It celebrates and never questions why there is this culture of losing on as well as off the field. During the Q&A, I asked Mr. Scheinfeld what makes the Cubs different? I’m sorry Cubs fans. Your team isn’t the only team in the history of sports to go through a comically long losing streak. He responded that Cubs fans and the Cubs franchise were that special and deserving of this attention because Cubs fans still root for their team when they lose.
I guess Royals fans don’t?
Woah! Why is that ok? I’m not saying to dump your team at the first sign of a sweep by the Pirates. What I’m saying is, maybe you shouldn’t go to the ball park and dump a hundred bucks on beers when the organization isn’t putting a winning team on the field. Maybe if you stayed home and the franchised was forced to face those empty seats, they would invest more in the team.
Sure, I understand that for the past season or so, the franchise was facing bankruptcy and now the team is under new ownership. However, what’s your explanation for the ninety-eight years before that? Or better yet, what’s your explanation for the team’s lack of inactivity during this off-season (other than dumping Milton Bradley, a no brainer)?
Scheinfeld said that Cubs fans were different because they were generational. What? And Red Sox fans aren’t? Would you like to tell that to my cousins in Lowell, MA? What about those White Sox fans?
Yeah…that team across town. You know, that other team with a comically long drought which still found a way to win five years ago?