Spent the last couple of days watching the Ken Burns Baseball documentary. I’m not really even sure why; I honestly don’t give a shit about baseball at all. It’s slow and boring and if I’m going to watch sports at all (which is pretty rare for me), I much prefer football or basketball or even tennis.
But none of those sports have the kind of mythic Americana that baseball does—you think about trains and World War II and Edward Hopper and people reading newspapers in diners. You think about Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac and Duke Ellington and John Ford. You think about history, and democracy, and the whole untested and limitless potential of America. Which is to say you think about a time and a place that never really existed.
And Ken Burns is a master at dredging up these emotions in me. I’ll acknowledge that a lot of the criticism of his work is accurate—“a strange mixture of New Deal and New Age”—but you know what, fuck it. I don’t know of another filmmaker who makes such unapologetically American films—sentimental, longwinded, sort of pompous, but that’s kind of what America is.
And I don’t know if I’m just having a bad day (frankly, I am), but when the eighth episode begins, with sepia footage of a wrecking ball—painted to resemble a baseball—destroying the abandoned Ebbets Field while an especially mournful piano-only version of “Auld Lang Syne” plays…well, goddamn. I just about lose it.