Karyn Gerhard is a senior editor at Alpha Books and an information addict looking for an adventure. This blog documents her explorations into of all those dusty corners of human culture that no one has bothered to clean in years.
Tanner: We lost eighteen to nothin’, Buttercrud, and the Athletics are the worst team in the league!
Ahmad: Second worst…
Tanner: Sorry, I forgot.
When I was a kid back in the mid ’70s, my mom signed me up for a little league team at Taft Park around the corner from our house. To say I was excited would be the absolute wrong thing to say; I was not a kid who enjoyed sports, or being outside. To make matters worse, I terrible at baseball. I was a triple threat—I couldn’t hit, I couldn’t run, and I couldn’t catch. But like every little league, you had to use the kids who signed up, so they put me in the outer-outer-outfield, where I couldn’t do any damage. I was so far away from home plate that I’d miss hearing when the inning was over, and if a ball ever did get out that far, I’d run from it like it was on fire. I did have a red glove, though, which I adored, and we got to go to Dairy Queen after the game, whether we won or not. Needless to say, that was my favorite part.
Years later I saw The Bad News Bears and was immediately transported back to that summer of red gloves and Dilly bars. The movie was hilarious on so many levels, but what made it even funnier was the fact that it was like watching my childhood on screen, foul-mouthed kids, nutso parents, bad ball-playing, and all. It has since become one of my favorite comedies of all time, not only because it reflected my childhood, but because it is a hands-down riot.
The Bad News Bears centers around Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau), a beer-guzzling has-been of a minor leaguer who is hired to manage the Bears, a little league team made up of a bunch of misfit kids who couldn’t get on other teams. There’s Ogilvie, a 98-pound weakling who looks like he hasn’t seen the sun since the Dodgers left Brooklyn; Stein, a bookish nerd whose glasses look like the bottoms of Coke bottles; Engelberg, a pudgy kid with an attitude problem; Lupus, a shy geek with a constantly running nose; Tanner, a foul-mouthed little bruiser who’s constantly getting into fights; Ahmad, who desperately wants to be Hank Aaron but couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a Buick; and Miguel and Jose, two kids who don’t speak English. Buttercrud (as Tanner calls him) is pretty much only doing it for the paycheck, but after meeting the jerkface overachieving manager of the rival team (Vic Morrow), decides to help the Bears try to win. He brings on two ringers: Amanda (Tatum O’Neal), a tween with a wicked curveball who’s the daughter of an ex-girlfriend (Tanner’s response to Amanda joining the team is the best line in the movie), and the motorcycle-riding punk, Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley). With these two on board they actually start winning games and get all the way to the championship, where they face their nemesis, the Yankees. Do they win? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Aside from it reminding me what it was like when I was a kid, I adore this movie because it is just gleefully un-PC. Sadly, it’s movie that would never get made today. It’s raunchy and politically incorrect, which would be fine if the movie was about adults; but it’s the kids who are being off-color. These kids are grungy; they fight, they swear, they pick on each other, and the stuff that comes out of their mouths would make the censors blanch; but really, they’re just acting like … well, kids. Not to mention, some of the things the adults do would have Child Services in a panic. It is sad that movies have become so sanitized nowadays, but that’s a soapbox for another day. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a cruel or mean film at all—it’s hilarious and touching, and if you were a kid in the ’70s, I guarantee it will have you waxing nostalgic. By the way, this brilliant script was written by Bill Lancaster, the son of legendary actor Burt Lancaster. He has said that he wrote it about his experiences with his dad; Buttermaker was based on Burt, and Amanda was based on himself.
There is so much that I love about this movie—Buttermaker’s choice of sponsors for the team; him drinking himself into a stupor and trying to pitch to the kids with a 6-pack on the mound; Tanner’s one-liners; the relationship between Buttercrud and Amanda; the soundtrack (Bizet’s Carmen, of all things); even the way the pitcher of their rival team (the son of the jerkface manager) gets his revenge on his dad after he clocks him for letting a pitch get away. The kids are great, and Matthau is just perfect.
There is a great scene in which Tanner defends the “booger-eatin’ moron” Lupus against two bullies at a concession stand; even though Tanner ends up in a trash can wearing half off Lupus’ burrito, you have to love how he stands up for his team mate. In honor of our little bruiser, our recipe is Tanner’s Bean and Cheese Burrito. Whip some up, and enjoy one of the best comedies to come out of the ’70s.
Iím going to call my mom and see if she still has that red baseball glove.
Variations: This recipe is easy to customize. Add additional protein with cooked diced chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, fish, or tofu. Chopped grilled vegetables like onions, peppers, mushrooms, and squash make tasty and healthful additions.
Note: These burritos freeze beautifully. Wrap rolled burritos tightly in waxed or parchment paper, place in a large zipper-lock plastic freezer bag, label, and freeze. To reheat after freezing, remove burritos from paper and place in a paper towel-lined plate. Microwave for about 2½ to 3 minutes or until heated through.
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Easy Freezer Meals, page 111