Sports Illustrated this week polled MLB players to answer the burning question: Who is your favorite fictional baseball player? The results weren't close, but they were disturbing:
Roy Hobbs: The Natural - 26%
Crash Davis: Bull Durham - 13%
The Natural originates in a sepia-toned Rockwellian portrait of America's finest values. It fills the screen with our nation's favorite leading man and a most beloved collection of American character actors.
That's a nice way of saying that the movie is a fantastic display of overindulgent saccharine-laced sentimentality with a running time that would make Francis Ford Coppola blush, which is roughly how Crash Davis himself might describe it. Let's put aside a 47-yr-old Redford with arthritic hands trying to convince the audience that he is a magical amalgam of Walter Johnson and Ted Williams (albeit more charming). HD would not be kind to this film.
Bull Durham should be on any short list of the tiresome greatest sports movies of all time discussion. SI actually got this one right. Sexy, funny, irreverent, vulgar, hopeful and it actually gets the sports part right. Cold reading the dialogue alone would make for a far more entertaining afternoon than watching The Natural in a private theater with Kim Basinger serving the drinks (OK, maybe the last part is a stretch).
Crash Davis is real; or he is at least a real amalgam of countless players that current major leaguers have sweated with, drank with, rode the bus with and left behind on their way to the Show. You wouldn't prefer his company to Roy Hobbs's? Please.
I would chalk it up to recency bias, but The Natural pre-dates Bull Durham by four years.
Maybe MLB players simply aspire to be the transcendent superstar who fields like DiMaggio, hits like Williams and does it all with A HOME MADE BAT!
They lead rich fantasy lives. So, too, does the general Facebook-voting public, who prefers Hobbs (28%) and adds the ignominy of shoving Crash Davis down to the third behind Charlie Sheen's Ricky Vaughn from Major League. Thank God there wasn't a late voting push for Willie Mays Hayes.
I weep for our future.
p.s. I am assuming that current NFL players would never vote for Phil Elliott from North Dallas Forty as fictional favorite. Pity. Although perhaps a cynical painkiller-addicted alcoholic might strike a wee bit too close to home.