Here Comes the Rain Again (and Finally!)

2015 Halloween Run

WRITER’S NOTE: This was originally written back in 2014.

The rain came down hard on Los Angeles Halloween night. The following morning still had heavy clouds hovering in the sky, leaves and branches were strewn all over the street, and my car finally got the wash it had been begging for. Yes, fall has finally arrived in Southern California, and it took the beginning of November for it to finally make its long overdue appearance. Of course, even with all the rain, it still won’t be enough to cure California of its current drought.

Although another Halloween has come and gone, the spirit of this wonderfully wicked holiday remained strong with Team to End AIDS. Then again, every day in Los Angeles is Halloween. Still, October 31st is one of the few days out of the year where we can embrace craziness with an infinite joy.

It was a small gathering at Griffith Park on this particular morning, but it wasn’t because of the weather. Many T2EA runners were out of state preparing for the New York Marathon which will be far stormier and have its participants dealing with headwinds which will undoubtedly slow them down in an incredibly frustrating way. Still, more power to them as this particular marathon, so I am told, is one of the best and most entertaining to run.

2015 LA Marathon cheeseburger costume

This was the annual costume run day which typically proves to be a good one to get people to donate to your efforts. One woman was dressed up as a delicious double cheeseburger, the kind we all see in those Carl’s Jr. and Burger King commercials. Of course, when you get to one of those fast food joints, the burgers never look as tasty as you expect. Still, looking at this costume made me very hungry, and my cholesterol level went up a few points as a result.

2015 LA Marathon hot dog costume

Then there was a guy who was dressed up as a hot dog. Moreover, it had mustard on it. I don’t know why there was no ketchup on it, or maybe I wasn’t looking at the costume closely enough. At one point, I couldn’t help but ask the guy, “Do you relish wearing this costume? Is it ‘chili’ wearing it in this weather?” This comment was greeted with a couple of laughs and numerous audible groans, but I had to ask. My brother couldn’t stop telling me puns when we were younger, so I get it from him.

As for myself, I didn’t bother wearing a costume this time out. After seeing one of my forms of my employment come to a shockingly abrupt halt, I was too bummed to shop for a new costume. I considered putting on my Jason “Friday the 13th” Voorhees costume, but I was tired of wearing it again. So instead, I just put on my usual running gear and a black rain jacket. If I had put on a black poncho and put the hood over my head, I could have said I was Bruce Willis’ character from “Unbreakable,” one of the few decent M. Night Shyamalan movies.

Today’s run had the newbies running four miles while the alumni ran five. Since most of the people in the pace group were new (or so I thought) to marathon training, I figured they would only want to run four, but I was surprised to see the majority were willing to run the extra mile. Was I cool with this? Absolutely! As much as we should be taking it easy, I was getting increasingly eager to rid myself of this spare tire which has formed over my stomach.

We went outside of Griffith Park again, down Victory Boulevard and towards Pickwick Gardens and Disney Animation Studios. We had to keep our eyes out for puddles, but what really made this run especially treacherous were all those broken branches and wet leaves we could easily have slipped on. And just when you thought it had stopped raining for good, it came pouring down once again. Memories of the 2011 LA Marathon went through the minds of its survivors as a result, but we pressed on regardless.

I again kept the group on pace as I remembered to bring both my watches, one of which has interval time and a broken strap. I did, however, screw up at the beginning as I forgot when our first walk break occurred. We ended up running for seven minutes straight as a result, and this forced me to carry my interval timing watch in my right hand to make certain this did not happen again.

I also have to give special thanks to Winston for helping me let the runners know when to run and walk. I did my best to keep my fellow pace group runners on pace, but if they couldn’t hear me, they could certainly hear Winston. It’s always nice to have someone back you up in anything and everything you do.

This 5-mile run ended up making for a nice post-Halloween day. As the run came to an end, the sun started climbing out of the clouds and shone down brightly on us. At the same time, it was still raining softly and the sight of it against the sun was beautiful to take in. It reminded me of when Ron Shelton, in his commentary track for “Bull Durham,” talked about how he used machines to make it rain for certain scenes even though the sun was out and how embarrassed he was by that. Stopped being embarrassed Mr. Shelton, assuming he’s reading this, because it does happen, and it looks as beautiful as it did in your classic movie.

Someone left us some utterly delectable chocolate fudge treats which proved to be completely addictive once you tasted them. I had a couple but eventually had to force myself to lay off them as others had yet to have them, and there is the issue with that spare tire I was talking about previously.

So, it feels like we’re all off to a good start as we survived running five miles in the rain without slipping and breaking a bone in our bodies. Part of me misses the people who I have trained with in the past like Jessica, Annette, Marta and Tom among others, but I know I’m in good company with the ones who have decided to train this time around.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: It’s now 2018 and I am training for the latest Los Angeles Marathon, and I am running it in support of The Pablove Foundation. My fundraising goal is $1,500, and to date I have raised $890 (this includes donations from my most recent Facebook fundraiser). Please help me in my efforts to lay waste to pediatric cancer. Too many lives are being cut short at far too early an age.

CLICK HERE TO MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION.

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Why ‘Bull Durham’ Remains My Favorite Sports Movie

Bull Durham movie poster

This was one of the few R-rated movies my parents let me see long before I turned 17. Of course, I was already sneaking into R-rated movies before I reached that age. I’d buy a ticket to “Ghost” and instead walk into the theater showing “Marked for Death.” I guess my mom and dad decided, since I was watching all these movie review shows like “Siskel & Ebert” and “Sneak Previews,” and I had seen this movie’s trailer numerous times on the Movietime Channel (long before it turned into E! Entertainment Television), that the damage to my fragile little mind had already been done. Then again, it’s not like they were exposing my brother and I to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Had they done so, it would have scarred us for life!

When I first saw “Bull Durham” on VHS, I was already very used to the Hollywood sports movie formula where the hero suffers a crushing defeat and has to build themselves back up again to an audience-pleasing finish. When I was younger, I was far more comfortable knowing how a movie would end, and I wanted them all to end the same way. It feels like this with today’s generation of audiences as they thrive on repetition in stories and of the good guys beating the villains we are led to believe good will always triumph over evil. When you’re young, you have yet to learn that in reality the bad guys get away with a lot before anyone notices, especially if they have corporate and/or political connections.

“Bull Durham,” however, forever changed the way I looked at sports movies in general. It didn’t always have to be about training montages and the build up to the big game. Instead, it was about the reality of the game itself, and of the various personalities inhabiting it. Whether or not the characters get their big moment at the end, their victories and accomplishments were never about coming out on top or being the best. The real victory came from struggling through one important stage in your life, and surviving long enough to get to the next. Or, in other words, closing one chapter in your life and moving on to the future.

Most baseball movies focus on the major leagues, but what makes “Bull Durham” especially unique is it is about the minor leagues. Writer and director Ron Shelton based this film on his own experiences in the minors which he played in for several years, and he shows it to be a much looser environment and one which is far more fun and carefree. The baseball stadium may be smaller, but the connection between the players and the fans is more intimate and not engulfed in corporate greed or network contracts. Still, all these players see getting to the majors, which they refer to as “the show,” as their holy grail, the one thing they feel destined to get to at some point. The sad thing is, many of them will never make it there.

“Bull Durham” focuses on three characters throughout: Crash “the player to be named later” Davis played by Kevin Costner, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh played by Tim Robbins, and Annie Savoy played by Susan Sarandon. LaLoosh is the star pitcher of the Durham Bulls and is about to make his professional debut. When he does, he ends up, as Millie (the incredibly cute Jenny Robertson) says, pitching the same way he makes love, “All over the place.”

Hence, veteran catcher Crash is brought in to teach LaLoosh how he can control his pitching, and to get him prepped for the major leagues. During this time, the two of them will meet the high priestess of baseball, Annie Savoy. Her church is the one of baseball, and she hooks with one guy a season to help them with their playing and to expand their mind. This player also gets to share her bed with her, and considering just how amazingly hot Sarandon is in this role, it looks very foolish to even consider turning her down.

At the age of 14, I may not have understood all of what “Bull Durham” was about, but it was not a movie as disposable as a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Shelton offers us a closer look into the world of baseball than I could have expected to see back in 1988. The intimate details of the minor leagues make it very unique among other films of its genre. You also get to learn the importance of the relationship between the pitcher and the catcher, and of how one better not cross the other if he is looking to win.

Aside from the main players, the other team members are individualized to where you can tell one from the other. There’s the one player who swears by the bible and wants all his fellow teammates to follow in his righteous path. Then you have another who uses a necklace with a cross to bless his baseball bat, and who later needs a live rooster to take the curse off his glove. Crash Davis also shows an alternative way to get a rainout which results in one of the movie’s funniest moments.

Kevin Costner was perfectly cast as a veteran baseball player, and he also had the athletic ability to hit a ball right out of the park during filming. In “Bull Durham,” Costner gives us a man knowledgeable of the majors and the minors, and through his eyes he shows us the yearning he has to get back to “the show” as he was there once for 20 days, the greatest days of his life. You can only imagine how much he is working to get back there, but it seems more like a mirage that gets further and further away from him as time marches on.

Looking back at Tim Robbins’ performance, it is clearer to me now he had the toughest role to play in “Bull Durham.” Throughout, he has to take LaLoosh from being a wild and crazy guy on and off the baseball to someone more mature and ready to enter the majors. Robbins makes the transition look seamless, and it was the first indication of the brilliant actor we now see him as today. Seeing him again in “Bull Durham” after all these years is a kick because he is so loose and fancy free.

But seriously, the most memorable performance comes from Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy. To say Sarandon is sizzling hot remains an understatement as she captivates the audience in the same way she reels in Robbins and Costner. With this character, Shelton gave us one of the most original female characters ever seen on the silver screen. Annie is a strong female, and Sarandon succeeds in making Annie this and more. It may almost sound ridiculous to have a character believing in the “church of baseball” when you look at it on the page, but once Sarandon utters those words which start off “Bull Durham,” you never doubt that she fully believes in it for a second. After all these years, it is still a travesty she didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for her performance.

But the real star of “Bull Durham” is Shelton, and he sees a lot of Crash Davis in himself. After this film came out, he became the go to guy for writing sports movies. You never get a “Rocky” like movie from him, and the characters he creates are rich, complex, and they always have such fantastic dialogue coming out of their mouths. This great talent of his led him on to make “White Man Can’t Jump” where Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes were as brilliant at hustling on the basketball courts as they were at verbal sparring with each other and their opponents, “Tin Cup” which left me thinking Costner and him should make as many movies together as possible, and “Cobb” with Tommy Lee Jones which may very well be the definitive anti-sports biopic of all time.

Incidentally, the commentary track he did for the DVD remains one of my all-time favorites. Throughout the movie, he strips away the mythology of other baseball movies to give us an idea of what the game is really like. I also loved how he talked about the fight to get Robbins cast even though the studio didn’t view him as a big enough star. The way they saw it, the audience would never believe Sarandon would ever fall for a guy like him. This led Shelton to bring up how he is godfather to one of their sons.

Shelton also pays great respect to the other actors like the late Trey Wilson who is so good here as the coach, and to Robert Wuhl whom he cast despite him giving the worst audition of any actor he had ever seen. He also lays bare how much he loves making movies and how much he hates the business.

Shelton may have never made it to the majors, but his experiences allowed him to give us “Bull Durham,” one of the funniest and most irresistibly sexy films of all time. I still see it as my all time favorite sports movie, and I don’t care how much more acclaim “Rocky” and “Raging Bull” have over it/ Besides, where else will you find a movie about minor league baseball? Oh yeah, there’s “Major League: Back to The Minors,” but who’s in a hurry to see that?

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