Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s “The Tenth Inning” is a recap of our national pastime from the 1990’s to the present, and for those of you who are baseball aficionados and are looking for that warm and fuzzy feeling that baseball used to bring to us, be prepared for a good dose of nausea. But for all the melancholy-induced memories of this time period, there is one solid message: Baseball will endure.
The first part of the two-series documentary which played last night (Sept. 28), took the viewer from the trials and tribulations of the troubled Barry Bonds, through the baseball strike, and into the “steroid era.” And although these events are enough to bring on a major case of baseball apathy to anyone who follows the game, there always seems to be a prevailing cure that shows us the light at the end of the tunnel. The perfect example here is the rebound baseball made after the strike (possibly the lowest point in the game’s history), to the almost single-handed baseball saving performance of Cal Ripken Jr., who broke the consecutive played game record previously held by Lou Gehrig. As the series quotes: “Ripken brought America a huge dose of Prozac.”
The viewer also travels through the steroid era, which also brought the game to shame. From Canseco and McGwire, to Bonds, the Balco scandal emerges. A quick history lesson of the game reminds us that there has always been cheats in the game. “Greenie use (amphetamines), corked bats, spit balls, and a number of other unsavory tactics are exposed in a look at previous unsavory practices. This does little to comfort the viewer dealing with the magnitude of steroid mess. With all this being said, the recall of the Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire home run race still brought chills down my spine.
The series maybe a little top heavy on the writers’ two favorite teams, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, and also their apparent obsession with the San Francisco Bay area. At times it seems that baseball does not exist anywhere else besides these three cities. But that is their prerogative. If I was writing the story, I would have a good dose of the Chicago Cubs (talk about depressing).
The simple message is this: The game is resilient; it is a microcosm of America itself. Whatever happens, we will prevail. Three cheers for Burns and Novick.