I don't care whether you're talking about a movie, a band or a TV show, the best ones remain the best ones because they showcase a truckload of talent that creates an enjoyable experience and, in many different ways, you can still make fun of them. Think of Pearl Jam. Great band, great music, great messages… but tell me you haven't done the Eddie Vedder Voice and mocked the band before. The same can be said for "Forrest Gump", a delightful tale about a halfwit's success. The movie tells a great story in a touching way while being funny but nevertheless… well I mean, tell me you haven't done the Forrest Gump voice to make fun of someone. Tell me you don't have a friend named Jenny that has endured (for years) people using the Gump Voice when talking to her. You can't. (Trust me, you can't.)
You see, the best works of cinema and music endure, not only because of their best moments and superior quality, but also because you can laugh at them without demeaning them. In short, the best movies are like an old friend who doesn't take what you say about him seriously because he knows how much you care about him.
So, in honor of the Tampa Bay Rays, baseball's equivalent of Forrest Gump (young, clueless, immensely talented, heart in the right place, etc.), I am dusting off an old writing gimmick first brought forth by Bill Simmons (who doesn't do it anymore because people enjoy it) then later popularized by PIC legend Justin Rebello (who doesn't do it anymore because he's too busy writing about civil trials and ugly divorces) and I will be handing out awards for the 2008 Rays post-season based on quotes from a movie.
Guess which one I'm using.
Come along. It'll be fun. I promise.
"That Boy's a Running Fool."
To BJ Upton. Scotty the Handicapper and I have been going back and forth on Upton all year. Scotty played football his whole life and he doesn't really understand the loose mentality it takes to put up with the daily grind of baseball. Football players have a hard time understanding that some games, you just don't come to play as well as others. And it's not because you don't care. It's because there are one hundred sixty two freaking games a year.
Anyway, I've been defending Upton all season so it's nice to see him playing unconscious like this. And this really is a lot like the day Forrest learned he could run like the wind blows. BJ got to the postseason, the leg braces came off, and he went from "quirky, loveable flake who's tough to replace" to "sign him; right now and to a ten year contract. What the hell are you waiting for?"
Upton, put simply, is just a hitting fool right now.
"Stupid is as Stupid Does"
One of the underlying themes and most often repeated line of the movie goes to Joe Maddon, who has proven what we all know to be true, namely, that no sports writer on the planet does know or will ever know a team better than that team's manager, particularly when that team's manager just got the least expensive team in the Majors into the World Series.
"Sorry Lt. Dan. She tastes like cigarettes."
To the Tropicana Dome. Look, I don't care if The Rays personally beat Satan in that glorified auditorium, the place is lousy. One time a few years ago, I arrived for a dinner date an hour early (I was already in the neighborhood) and the girl in question had not yet, umm, shaven everything. She was a little distraught about me seeing her like that. And basically, that's kind of how every Tampa Bay fan feels when the national media shows up for the postseason.
"Umm yeah… well, the thing is, we weren't expecting you and well, um, at least the parking is cheap, right?"
"They gave you the congressional medal of honor?"
To Matt Garza, who was kicked to the curb by Minnesota as some kind of half-assed bonus in the Delmon Young/Jason Bartlett trade only to end up the MVP of the ALCS. Bonus points also for being the guy who told the national media that he was tired of being sold short and hearing all the hype about his opponent, Sox pitcher Jon Lester.
I promise you, Mr. Garza, that no one outside of Boston will be talking about Jon Lester next week.
"People said that World Peace was at hand, but all I did was play ping pong."
To David Price, who didn't seem to care that he was pitching to a very clutch hitter on the defending World Series champions with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. All he did was strike out JD Drew as if he were a little leaguer on loan from Williamsport and then close out game 7 of the ALCS for his first professional save ever in his ninth professional baseball appearance.
Ho hum and all that.
"I'm sorry I had to fight in the middle of your Black Panther party."
To the AL East. No explanation necessary.
"Sometimes there just aren't enough rocks."
This poignant and timeless observation goes to Chuck Lamar, the first General Manager of the Rays. He was booted from the organization, took a lower paying job as the Phillies Director of Scouting, and now he'll get to answer questions about the team he used to run for the entirety of a seven game series. If you think that dude won't be going home to a bottle of the hard stuff and a puffed up punching bag, then you don't know baseball.
I like to picture Chuck, standing outside Tropicana Dome, throwing rocks as hard as he can at the front entrance. Poor guy.
"You can sit here if ya want."
The most inviting line of the whole movie works well with the most inviting fan base in baseball. This award goes to every Tampa Bay season ticket holder, every kid and/or adult who purchased Rays merchandise and had to sit next to Boston fans, Yankee fans and (for one series anyway), annoying Cardinals fans that included myself. Rays fans have been drowned out in their own stadium for going on a decade. Imagine, if you will, paying to go to a game in your home town and knowing the other team will have more fans than your team will. Now, imagine it like that for a decade.
When you put it like that, isn't it a wonder no one from Boston got murdered in Tampa last week?
"Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
This little truism goes to Rocco Baldelli, the Tampa Bay Ray who was diagnosed with some weird mitochondrial disease that I can't understand or explain. The long and the short of it is, the dude's basically dying and is unable to play two games in a row. Win or lose, it's hard not to root for the guy.
"Remember what I told you, Forrest. You're no different than anybody else is."
To Willy Aybar, the sometimes DH, sometimes third baseman, sometimes first baseman, sometimes outfielder who contributed in big ways and who may have been the glue that held the team together when injuries hit Longoria, Bartlett and Pena this year. Speaking of which…
"If it wouldn't be such a waste of a damn-fine enlisted man I'd recommend you for OCS! You are gonna be a general someday, Gump."
To Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and Jason Bartlett. Along with Upton and (possibly) Navarro, these guys are the core of this team and they're just getting started. They could be very good for years to come.
Oh, and not for nothing, but every time I see this movie, I try to imagine Forrest Gump as a general. Try it one time. It's like trying to picture your sister as an NFL linebacker. Practically impossible.
"Dear God, make me a bird, so I can fly, far far away from here."
To the Rays bullpen, who (after game 5) probably wanted to fly away as quickly as possible. The Rays need their bullpen to get it together. Big time.
"I'm not a smart man… but I know what love is."
To Jim Hickey, the Rays pitching coach. The dude looks like he should be selling Jaguars or hosting a low-end game show. I have no idea how he's done it but, well, I don't remember hearing much about Andy Sonnenstine, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson or James Shields before this year. Do you?
"That's My Boat"
To Carl Crawford, the only one on this team that ever made a fantasy team before this season. He's endured the piling losses and the empty stadium for too long and if any one player can claim ownership of the boat that is the Tampa Bay Rays, it's the Craw Man.
"Don't ever let anybody tell you they're better than you, Forrest."
To the starting rotation of the Tampa Bay Rays. Their average age is 25. They are brash, confident, arrogant and not about to let anyone tell them who's better than who.
"Now, you listen to me. We all have a destiny. Nothing just happens, it's all part of a plan. I should have died out there with my men!"
To Phillies fans. How pissed do you think they are that they didn't get the hated Boston team for the World Series? Philly fans love to hate. They seethe and brood, throw things and boo. But it's tough to hate the new guy because there's no history. And anyway, this new guy, well he seems very young and a little slow…
"Forrest Gump" was a great movie. And it's fun to mock. The Rays are a great team. And they're fun to mock. And if they win the World Series, I'm sure they won't mind you joking about how young they are or how much money they make or how loose they are or the fact that they play in a glorified auditorium. Nope, if they win it all, you can mock their shortcomings for the entire off-season, you can second guess Joe Maddon's mind, Upton's heart, Baldelli's health or even Carl Crawford's haircut. The Rays won't mind. They've heard it all before.
Like "Forrest Gump", the 2008 Rays will be hard to forget. The best stories often are.