The Bad in the Bad News Bears

My youngest son’s soccer team has come a long way this season.  The season opener was a tough loss to a superior team and the kids seemed to be a bit demoralized from it.  But, to give credit to the coaches and the kids, they toughed it out and began a rigorous practice schedule that emphasized some of the obvious areas of need.  

In the next game they looked better but still fell back on some old habits. The following practices focused on some of these basic areas again and the next game showed some improvement.  This routine repeated for a couple of weeks until things really started clicking.  Finally, after the midway point of the season, they gained their first win.  They were elated, as you can imagine.

The turnaround for the season harkened me back to the movie “The Bad News Bears”.  The story of a ragtag group of kids who were able to pull together, to improve and to eventually reach a level of elation that comes from hard work and, dare I say it in our self-esteem-centric world, winning!!  So, when we got home I ordered the original classic from 1976 that I watched as a kid to share with my boys.

As I recall it, I watched the movie when it was still in theaters.  We didn’t have DVDs or even VHS tapes in those days.  If you wanted to watch a movie you waited for it to come on one of the 3 networks or you went to the movie theater.  My mother would take me or we would go with one of her friends and their kids or at times be dropped off with a group from the neighborhood.  A lot of things were different back then.

But I digress.

I remember The Bad News Bears as a movie that was funny and inspiring.  Kids being goofy, clumsy but eventually achieving their goals and, yes I will say it again, winning.  I recall seeing several of the movies in the series.  Who doesn’t remember Tanner running away from the officials in the Astro Dome to the chants of “Let Them Play!”.  So I was very excited to share this story with the boys.

One night we sat down, began watching the film and I was pretty quickly astonished.  I remembered that Walter Matthau’s character in the movie drank and smoked but was still surprised with the beer and bourbon mixture in the opening scene.  I remember some foul language and the kids mouthing off but the racial slurs that were repeated several times in just the first part of the movie had me scratching my head.  Had I made the wrong call letting my kids watch this?  Was it really this bad 36 years ago?  Or was I just that prudish about exposing my kids to some of the “real world”?

I have at times considered myself over protective with the kids.  I waited to let them watch movies like Transformers and even Star Wars until I was sure they could understand the violence to be part of the movie, and something we could discuss and understand.  And we all shield our kids from some of the ugly sides of society with the vulgar or racist remarks as well as some of the elements that can cause questions that they may not be ready to discuss around alcohol, smoking and some of the other topics.  But my boys are old enough that many of these topics have been discussed at home and at school.  And we have certainly created an understanding around proper language and how things we see on TV or movies should not be repeated and why.

I also don’t consider myself too politically correct.  I am guarded to try not to offend those around me but can take a controversial tone at times when I speak my mind.  Not to say that I am so liberal with thought and speech that I use some of the slang present in the movie, the racial slurs uttered are quite unacceptable, but I do find some of the common political correctness pushed today to be overboard and absurd.

With all that said, I was a bit concerned with the boys being exposed to the words and elements of the movie that were borderline shocking using the lense of today’s standards.  I knew I couldn’t just shut down the movie without drawing additional attention to what was being done and said.  But I also wanted to emphasize that the cultural nature of the movie was not normal for our modern lifestyle.

So we talked about it.  We made sure there was understanding that some of what was said and done was not appropriate.  From riding a motorcycle without a helmet to not smoking (the boys picked up on that one themselves pretty easily) to not repeating words used and so on.  They got it, they understood and by not drawing too much attention to it by overreacting, I think our discussion was enough to get the point across.

The first night we watched a little less than half of the movie and then several days went by without a mention of it.  I admit that I was kind of hoping they didn’t find it interesting enough to watch more and we could avoid a repeat of the topics it brought.  But, they did ask about it a few nights later and we have continued to watch it (and at least it is not getting worse).  Again, through discussion and not making a big deal about it, they are taking it with the right tone.

So by talking about it, at least we know what they are thinking and they know what our expectations are.  We are able to discuss the right and wrong of the content as well as how they feel and how they should react (or not react as the case may be).  Sure, shielding them entirely might be an option but sharing the experience and guiding them along, I feel, puts us in a better position to help them mature and grow in a positive manner.  So even though there is a lot of Bad in the Bad News Bears, we can enjoy the good and use it as a growth opportunity with the right handling and posture.

Now play ball!!

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