Back in September of 2017, buzz began swirling around a film making its rounds in the film festival circuit, which is typically a common occurrence. What made this buzz different for this film, however, was the rumor of it featuring an awards worthy performance from a tremendous actor who has been long overdue for such accolades. That film was the World War II set Darkest Hour, and the actor was Hollywood veteran Gary Oldman. With Oldman racking up the awards for his performance, including the Golden Globe for “Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama”, Darkest Hour has finally received a wider release in the hopes of proving Oldman’s performance lives up to the hype.
Darkest Hour begins in May of 1940, where British Parliament has grown uneasy due to the lack of action by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup). Chamberlain is replaced by General Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), a seemingly past his prime politician whose reputation as a drunkard and a militant makes him unpopular in the government. Churchill finds himself and his country under fire, as Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany are imposing their force and taking down Europe country by country. Churchill must overcome his reputation and the seemingly unstoppable Nazis before Great Britain is invaded and is no more.
The biggest compliment I can give the film is all the hype surrounding Oldman’s performance is warranted. Oldman has the reputation of being a great actor despite appearing in critically maligned films from time to time, and has never gotten his due via an Oscar win. His performance in Darkest Hour should change that, as his alcoholic dialogue slurring, cigar smoking, and motivational speaking all highlight an actor at his apex, and is the clear favorite to walk away with Oscar gold this March.
Two other noteworthy performances come from veteran actress Kristen Scott Thomas, who plays Churchill’s wife, Clementine, and Ben Mendelsohn, who plays King George VI. Scott Thomas adds more humanity to the film by representing the balance to Churchill’s life, and it’s a shame her solid performance didn’t garner any awards attention. Ben Mendelsohn also delivers a solid performance as King George VI, and the development of the relationship between George VI and Churchill is one of the more intriguing aspects of the film.
The rest of the film, unfortunately, can’t match the quality of the lead and aforementioned performances. Even at a running time of just over 2 hours, the film poorly paced war film from director Joe Wright plays like a history lecture you’d be tempted to fall asleep during. The grey color palette doesn’t help accentuate the setting either, and the film rarely flashes to battles during World War II to wake the audience up. Young starlet Lily James, who left a huge impression on most with her performance in Baby Driver earlier in 2017, hardly resonates in the film as an assistant of Churchill’s, a waste of a young, talented performer.
Darkest Hour benefits greatly from a surely Oscar worthy performance from its lead actor and a couple of other solid supporting performances. The rest of the film, however, can’t quite match the quality its lead performer has. Gary Oldman deserves to take a bow for his finest hour as an actor and walk away with a little golden man, but Darkest Hour is nowhere near deserving of its “Best Picture” Oscar nomination, making it the weakest of the Academy Award’s “Best Picture” bunch.
Rating: 2/4 stars. Rent it.
Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ronald Pickup, and Ben Mendelsohn. It is in theaters now.
Super Bowl 52 came and went, but does it crack the top 10 of the greatest Super Bowls of all time?
Despite its grandiose nature, the Super Bowl is often a one-sided affair and relatively uncompelling. Every so often, however, we get a Super Bowl that is actually competitive and exciting, and it’s important to cherish these games since they don’t come around often. The top 10 Super Bowls of all time are:
10. Super Bowl V: Baltimore Colts V. Dallas Cowboys
Also known as “The Stupor Bowl”, this game is often ranked as one of the worst games of all-time due to its sloppy play, but it’s undeserved. Sure the game featured 11 turnovers combined, a missed PAT, and even some officiating miscues, but Super Bowl V was a back and forth contest that came down to the final play of the game: a 32 yard field goal by Colts kicker Jim O’Brien. If that doesn’t qualify as a great Super Bowl, then what does?
9. Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos V. Green Bay Packers
After agonizing defeat after defeat, Super Bowl XXXII was shaping up as another disappointment for Denver’s QB John Elway, as the Broncos were 14 point underdogs against the reigning Super Bowl champion Packers, who were led by QB Brett Farve. Super Bowl XXXII went down to the wire, and featured one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history, when Elway launched himself in the air in the hopes of gaining a first down, and was hit and spun around like a helicopter. Talk about a heart of a champion.
8. Super Bowl XXXVI: New England Patriots V. St. Louis Rams
In the wake of 9/11, how fitting was it that a team called the Patriots pulled off an incredible upset against the then St. Louis Rams “Greatest Show on Turf”? Sure, allegations of cheating have marred the Patriots dynasty, but it was the first Super Bowl appearance and victory in their remarkable 18 year run that featured an enthralling game winning field goal from New England kicker Adam Vinatieri.
7. Super Bowl LII: Philadelphia Eagles V. New England Patriots
This year’s Super Bowl featured one of the more exciting games in the big game’s history. A back and forth contest that saw the Eagles and Patriots combine for 1,151 yards offensively and featured only one key defensive play late in the fourth quarter, it also featured a blown lead and two comebacks. Somehow, the Eagles managed to shake-off their choker label and win their first Super Bowl in franchise history, and Super Bowl LII should be remembered as an all time great Super Bowl.
6. Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh Steelers V. Dallas Cowboys
Two of the NFL’s most iconic franchises did battle for the second time in four years, and this one was one for the ages. An offensive explosion that featured seven touchdown passes from future hall of fame QBs, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw and Dallas Cowboys QB Roger Staubach, the game gave us another iconic Super Bowl moment when Cowboys TE Jackie Smith dropped a pass in the end zone that would’ve tied the game at 21. The Cowboys would never recover, and the Steelers walked away with their 3rd Lombardi Trophy in a thrilling contest.
5. Super Bowl XXIII: San Francisco 49ers V. Cincinnati Bengals
Another re-match bowl, Joe Montana and the 49ers capped off their 3rd Super Bowl victory with a 92-yard touchdown drive that all started with a spotting of comedy legend John Candy in the stands. To win the game, Montana threw a 10-yard touchdown to WR John Taylor, his only catch of the game. It added to Montana’s legend as “Joe Cool”, and was the last game Niners coach Bill Walsh roamed the sidelines on as a member of the organization.
4. Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants V. Buffalo Bills
After New York executed a game plan that kept the ball out of the explosive Bills no-huddle offense, Buffalo still had a chance to win the game with a 47-yard field goal with eight seconds left. Bills K Scott Norwood missed the kick wide right, a thrilling finish to a game that would mark the end of coach Bill Parcel’s tenure with the Giants and the beginning of the Bills four straight Super Bowl appearances in the 90s. Broadcasting legend Al Michaels’ two words, “wide right”, continues to haunt the city of Buffalo to this day.
3. Super Bowl XXXIV: St. Louis Rams V. Tennessee Titans
Sure, the Rams at one point led the game 16-0, but Steve McNair and the Titans led a furious comeback to tie the game at 16. After Rams QB and league MVP Kurt Warner threw a 73 yard TD pass to WR Isaac Bruce, the Titans had a chance to win the game with 1:54 left. On the final play of the game, McNair completed a pass to WR Kevin Dyson, who was tackled by Rams LB Mike Jones 1-yard short of the goal line. One. Yard. Short. Perhaps the greatest finish in Super Bowl and NFL history.
2. Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers V. Arizona Cardinals
For the Steelers, appearing in Super Bowls is second nature. For the Cardinals, it seemed like a pipe dream. A close contest throughout, Super Bowl XLIII gave fans one of the greatest plays in football history when Steelers LB James Harrison intercepted a pass from Cardinals future hall of fame QB Kurt Warner and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown before halftime. The Cardinals would battle back valiantly, scoring the game’s next two touchdowns, including a 64-yard touchdown reception by WR Larry Fitzgerald, which gave Arizona a three point lead with 2:37 remaining. Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger then led the Steelers on an 8 play, 78-yard drive that was capped off by WR Santonio Holmes’ terrific tip-toe catch in the back of the end zone to secure Pittburgh’s 6th Lombardi trophy, the most in NFL history.
1. Super Bowl XLII New York Giants V. New England Patriots
With the prospect of a perfect season on the line, the New England Patriots had only one game to win in order to immortalized as the greatest team ever. The New York Giants had other plans. The game was a 7-3 score stalemate throughout until an amazing fourth quarter took place. First, the Giants took the lead after QB Eli Manning threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to unknown WR David Tyree (*more on him later) to give the Giants a 10-7 lead. Just a few possessions later, Patriots QB Tom Brady did what he does best by leading a 12 play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a 6-yard touchdown pass to WR Randy Moss to give the Patriots a 14-10 lead. On the Giants final possession, Eli Manning escaped the clutches of Patriots DE Richard Seymour and DE Jarvis Green and delivered a 32-yard completion to WR David Tyree, who out-jumped Patriots All-Pro S Rodney Harrison and caught the ball by pinning it to his helmet in what is now referred to as “The Helmet Catch.” Four plays later, Manning tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to WR Plaxico Burress to cap the upset of the century, and the greatest Super Bowl of all-time.
After postseason disappointment after postseason disappointment, the Philadelphia Eagles ended their title drought and won Super Bowl LII 41-33 against the favored New England Patriots.
Sure, the Eagles looked dominant during the season, but their star 2nd year QB, Carson Wentz, suffered a torn ACL, MCL, and LCL in week 14. The Eagles limped into the playoffs with back-up QB Nick Foles. Everyone counted them out.
But not the Eagles themselves. They embraced the role of the underdog literally throughout the postseason, donning dog masks whilst holding the favored Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings to 17 points total between the two, steam-rolling their way to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII.
But people didn’t believe the Eagles could defeat the mighty New England Patriots, the NFL’s crown jewel franchise. One could hardly blame someone for believing New England would win the game. Patriots QB Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft were making their eight Super Bowl appearance together. Who would bet against the golden boy and the hoodie? Their dynasty had seemingly no end in sight.
But the Eagles put an end to the Patriots machine. Philadelphia’s offense moved the ball at will against the Patriots defense, as they gained 538 total yards of offense and scored 5 touchdowns. The most dazzling and gutsy of those touchdowns was a 4th down touchdown when Eagles TE Trey Burton tossed a touchdown pass to QB Nick Foles to put Philadelphia up 22-12 in the waning moments of the first half.
But the Patriots didn’t stay down for long, as Tom Brady led three straight touchdown drives in the 2nd half, including a 4 yard TD pass to TE Rob Gronkowski to put New England up 33-32 with 9:22 left in the fourth quarter. Tom Brady did what he does best: lead a comeback.
But the Eagles had one last hurrah in them. Back-up QB Nick Foles then led the Eagles on 14 play, 75 yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a controversial 11-yard touchdown catch to TE Zach Ertz that took nearly 7 minutes off the clock. They inexplicably left Tom Brady too much time on the clock, however, as 2 minutes and 21 seconds remained in the game. If you remember the endings to Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII, XLVIX, and LII, you know how this movie ends.
But in a twist most movie executives would reject, the Eagles defense, which had been torched for most of the game and allowed New England to gain 638 yards on offense, made the big play to save the game. Eagles DE Brandon Graham sacked Brady and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Philadelphia DE Derek Barnett. Eagles rookie kicker Jake Elliott then made a 46-yard field goal to put the game out of reach.
After countless choke-jobs throughout the franchise’s history, particularly under the guidance of Andy Reid, it’s ironic a descendant of Reid’s coaching tree, Dough Peterson, was able to coach the Eagles to victory. He put together the perfect game plan: play ball control offense to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands, take shots down the field, and call every single “special” play every team has in their playbook, en route to the Eagles first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Back-up QB Nick Foles, who had considered retirement just years earlier after bouncing around the league as a journeyman and having lost his love for the game, played the game of his life. Foles threw for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns and caught another one to earn Super Bowl MVP honors. Make no mistake, this is still Carson Wentz’s team, but Foles rose to the occasion and played a huge role in Philadelphia’s victory.
As improbable as their victory was, maybe we shouldn’t have reduced the Eagles success down to one player, QB Carson Wentz. Wentz was having an MVP season before going down with a season ending injury, but the Eagles proved why they were one of the best teams in the NFL this season with their magical postseason. This team is built to make another run at the Lombardi trophy, but the city of Philadelphia, whether it is still standing or not after the partying and rioting takes place, will enjoy this victory and remember it for generations.
The city of “Brotherly Love” loves playing the role of the underdog, having built a statue of the fictitious Rocky Balboa from the Rocky franchise, and the Eagles embraced this role during the postseason. If their victory in Super Bowl LII proves anything, it proves every dog has its day, even the Eagles and the city of Philadelphia.
The least hyped Super Bowl in recent memory awaits.
This postseason in the NFL has more than made up for an otherwise lackluster regular season. It took us a while to get here, and some of it was agonizing to sit through, but we have arrived to the NFL season’s final destination: Super Bowl LII in the freezer known as Minneapolis, Minnesota.
For the 4th time in five seasons, the NFL’s big game features the number one seeds from each conference: the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Many predicted the Patriots would be here at the start of the season. Despite a lackluster defense and even minimal signs of sure to be MVP 40 year old QB Tom Brady slowing down, New England once again ran through most of the AFC. Sure, they were in a dog fight in the AFC Championship game where they were without star TE Rob Gronkowski for an entire half due to a concussion, but even a game Jacksonville Jaguars couldn’t kill off the Patriots machine. Heck, not even alleged in house fighting between head coach Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady, and owner Robert Kraft over who was supposed to be Brady’s successor, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, and Brady’s cult-ish training guru, Alex Guerrero could stop New England from making it to an NFL record 10th Super Bowl, the 8th among this regime.
The Eagles were a dominant force this season under the guidance of 2nd year QB Carson Wentz. Wentz and the Eagles looked unstoppable at times, as he threw 33 TDs and finished 2nd in the league in that category. He was first in the league at the time he suffered a torn ACL, MCL, and LCL, a devastating blow that led many, including myself, to believe the Eagles were done. But the Eagles embraced something they hadn’t considered the entire year until the NFL Playoffs: the role of the “underdog.”
Enter back-up QB Nick Foles, who was on his way to being a superstar QB with a 27 TD to 2 INT season with the Eagles in 2013 before bouncing around the league and pronounced done after failing to secure a starting job. Foles has filled in nicely this postseason, throwing for 598 yards and 3 TDs, and could be on his way to earning another starting job this offseason. The Eagles defense has also proven itself to be a main factor in their success this season, as their fourth ranked defense during the regular season has allowed only 17 points in two postseason games. The Eagles have proven they are more than their superstar QB by embracing their “underdog” status, and are a great team firing on all cylinders heading into Super Bowl 52 despite crushing injuries.
2 Weeks ago: 1-1
While there has been a lack of buildup to “The Big Game” due to being played in an icebox known as Minneapolis, Minnesota, Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz’s injury, and the prevailing notion the Eagles don’t stand a chance against the mighty Patriots, this will be a close game. The aforementioned Eagles defense is good enough to keep them in the game, and with offensive talent like WR Alston Jeffrey, RB Jay Ajayi, and TE Zach Ertz, the Eagles definitely boast better talent and position players. Had Carson Wentz been under center for Philadelphia, the Eagles would prevail and win their first Super Bowl in franchise history after a legacy of agony, defeat, and underachievement. But the most important position, QB, is dominated by this year’s MVP and perhaps the greatest QB of all time: Patriots QB Tom Brady. Throw in head coach Bill Belichick getting an extra week to game plan and prepare for an opponent, and you have to like the Patriots chances to hoist a 6th Lombardi trophy, a “Predicta-Bowl” result if there ever were one.
Every year, the month of January not only bestows upon us mostly awful films studios have no confidence in, but also awards worthy films finally getting an expansion in their releases after weeks of playing in limited theaters. Such an example of awards worthy films finally getting an expansion in their release is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film has become a critical darling this awards season, having already won Golden Globes for “Best Motion Picture-Drama” and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama” and has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, including “Best Actress” and “Best Picture.” Considering the hype machine surrounding the film and it’s timely subject matter, the film should be one that not only stands-out as one of the best films of 2017, but one that will stand the tests of time, right?
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri sees Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) dismayed by the lack of resolution from the town of Ebbing, Missouri’s police department regarding the case of the murder and rape of her daughter. In order to get the police’s and the town’s attention, she rents out three billboards on a road nearby the town that read “RAPED WHILE DYING”, “AND STILL NO ARRESTS”, and “HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?”. Mildred then faces backlash from the town and its police department, particularly from alcoholic racist police officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), and the pancreatic cancer stricken police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), all in the name of seeking justice for her daughter’s rape and death.
Much of the hype surrounding the film is due to Frances McDormand’s performance as a “Rosie the Riveter” dressed, older white woman not afraid to speak her mind. This of course also includes her cursing up a storm and being unapologetic for who she is and for what she is doing. McDormand has always been a terrific performer, but because she’s not a sex symbol in any way shape or from, she is somewhat forgotten in Hollywood circles. Her performance in Three Billboards serves as a reminder she’s still a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and is definitely worthy of the awards buzz she has received this awards season that she hasn’t received since winning the “Best Actress” Oscar for her role in Fargo.
The film also boasts strong supporting performances as well, most notably from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. Harrelson has always been an underappreciated actor in Hollywood, having seamlessly transitioned from his T.V. stardom in Cheers to being a leading man and character actor. Harrelson is able to sink his teeth into his role as an under fire police chief suffering from his own health issues, and churns out a performance worthy of his Oscar nomination for “Best Supporting Actor.” The man who steals the spotlight from him, however, is Sam Rockwell, another character actor who seems to have never gotten his due. His portrayal of a dim-witted, racist cop who eventually finds redemption is one of the best supporting character performances this year, and he is clearly the favorite to walk away with the Academy Award for “Best Supporting Actor” come the night of March 4th.
Despite the tremendous performances from the main actors involved, it feels like there’s something missing from the film. The film feels like it is building towards sending a message throughout, but it ultimately leaves audiences hanging. This lack of pay-off is extremely disappointing, and the ending will leave one with a sour taste in their mouth. In the wake of the “#MeToo” and “Time’s Up” movements currently taking the industry by storm, Three Billboards had the chance to make an impactful statement, but ultimately has nothing to say. Due to the lack of resolution, Three Billboards is easily the weakest film in the career of director Martin McDonagh, whose black comedies In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths are much better watches than this “made for awards season” fluff.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri definitely has its strengths. It’s once again clear Martin McDonagh is an actor’s director, as Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell all give very good and awards worthy performances. However, even with its timely subject matter in the wake of all of the controversy surrounding the film industry, the film ultimately doesn’t have a message to convey. Sure, it’s a showcase in acting, but Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri had a chance to be more, and ultimately settles for awards season pandering instead of making a statement.
Rating: 2 Stars out of 4. Pay Low Matinée Price.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Zeljko Ivanek, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, and Clarke Peters.
Director Guillermo del Toro has made a career off of his biggest obsession: monsters. From comic book films such as the Hellboy series and Blade II, to daring fantasy films like Pan’s Labyrinth, all the way down to blockbuster spectacle Pacific Rim, Del Toro has made a career off this once staple of Hollywood and has turned it into his specialty. While Pan’s Labyrinth received critical acclaim an numerous Academy Award nominations, it was shut out of major categories such as “Best Picture”, “Best Director”, and in the acting categories due to its status as a foreign film. Guillermo del Toro decided he wanted another crack at awards contention, and his latest monster flick, The Shape of Water, has been racking up all kinds of awards attention, including a Golden Globe win for “Best Director” for del Toro and 13 Oscar nominations. Does the film live up to it’s monstrous hype?
The Shape of Water sees Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a woman rendered mute due to an accident experienced during her infancy who communicates through sign language, as a janitor working for a secret government laboratory in Baltimore, Maryland during the Cold War. One day, the facility obtains a fish-like creature (Doug Jones) from a South American river, and it is kept there for observation and torture. Inexplicably, Elisa begins to bond with the creature, and must find a way to help the creature escape captivity with the help from her janitor friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer), her homosexual struggling advertising illustrator neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), and Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) before being caught by the power hungry Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon).
This isn’t your typical romance film as the synopsis above alludes to. If it weren’t for director Guillermo del Toro’s legendary status as a niche filmmmaker, this premise would’ve been laughed out of the building under any other circumstances. It literally features a woman, who communicates only through sign language, falling in love with a creature akin to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. But therein lies the beauty of The Shape of Water, it’s so gleefully bizarre and goes from broke, and somehow manages to communicate a common message in its own unique way. That message being we as a society only look at people at face value, and do not value a person farther than that, and those people (*or creatures for that matter) are largely ignored as it pertains to love. For a film with non-typical characters and an insane central focus, The Shape of Water is unique and succeeds as an anti-quintessential romance film.
It helps the film features terrific performances to make it believable. Sally Hawkins is very deserving of her Oscar nomination for “Best Actress”, as she gives one of the most poignant performances of the year despite barely speaking a word. Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer have made careers off of character roles such as the ones they have here, and they too deliver and are equally deserving of their “Best Supporting Actor/ Actress” nominations. One questionable omission from the Academy’s nominations list is Michael Shannon, whose performance as a barely human colonel ranks as the best of his career. Combine these performances with the skilled and artistic direction of del Toro, and you’ve got an art-house monster romance film that stands alone in its uniqueness.
Unfortunately for the film, it does suffer from narratives that don’t quite mesh together. While the Cold War setting allows for unique locations such as the lab, the city of Baltimore, and a movie theater playing classic films such a Cleopatra (*that allows for del Toro to showcase his adoration for old movies), del Toro doesn’t quite implement the setting to its fullest potential. As a matter of fact, it’s sometimes clunky. A plot involving Russians wanting information regarding the South American river creature could’ve been left on the cutting room floor entirely, and the film wouldn’t have missed a beat. Also, while its admirable del Toro wanted to incorporate themes of racism and homosexuality, those themes add nearly nothing to the film, and come across as forced rather than seamlessly implemented as aspects indicative of the film’s setting.
Overall, The Shape of Water is a welcome breath of fresh air to the awards season circuit. While it’s setting isn’t necessarily taken full advantage of, it makes up for this shortcoming with its terrific performances, artful direction, and heartwarming main narrative. The Shape of Water ranks as one of the better films to have been released in 2017, and its daring nature to stand on its own as an unorthodox love story is nothing short of admirable and inventive of the monster film genre.
Rating 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.
The Shape of Water stars Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Stuhlbarg. It is in theaters now.
It’s time for baseball to sleep in the bed they’ve made.
The Baseball Writers Association of America announced the players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Wednesday afternoon. The 4 players elected were Atlanta Braves lifer Chipper Jones, power hitter Vladimir Guerrero, home-run hitter Jim Thome, and pitching closer stalwart Trevor Hoffman. All players were legends, and very deserving of this recognition.
Two of the most egregious snubs from the list are 7 time Cy Young winner, Roger Clemens, and baseball’s all-time home-run champion, Barry Bonds. Neither received the 75% of “yes” votes necessary to qualify for induction, with Clemens and Bonds receiving 57% and 56% of the vote respectively.
It’s time for baseball to end the hypocrisy and let in all players who are worthy of the distinction whether or not they were linked to steroids. It’s pure hypocrisy for them to exclude such players, especially when the sport owes them for saving it.
Let’s flashback to 1994, when the owners of the MLB locked out the players, and a work stoppage ensued. The 1994 postseason was cancelled, and the strike leaked into the 1995 season with only 144 games being played. The MLB saw its attendance drop steeply by 20% during the 1995 season, and was the lowest attended season in decades. People were done with baseball. It was heading towards irrelevancy, much like the NHL and the MLS now suffer from today.
Then, something magical happened. The return of the home run, courtesy of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, the list goes on and on. Who could forget the home run race between McGwire and Sosa in 1998, where both players broke the long standing home runs in a season record set by Yankees great Roger Maris, with both hitting over 61 home-runs that season. McGwire ended up with 70 home runs, the all-time mark at the time, and Sosa finished with 66. Three years later, Barry Bonds broke McGwire’s record of home-runs in a single season by hitting 73 dingers. Baseball attendance skyrocketed to over 70 million in 1998 and to over 72 million in 2001, compared to the abysmal 50 million in 1995. As a popular Nike commercial once noted, chicks dig the long ball.
Years later, however, the now infamous 2005 book “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big”, written by baseball slugger Jose Canseco, exposed many of the famous aforementioned players as steroid users. Later in 2005, Canseco and McGwire were among 11 baseball players and executives subpoenaed to testify at a congressional hearing on steroids. McGwire said he didn’t want to talk about the past that day. Rangers and Oriels power hitter Rafael Palmeiro pointed his finger at the judges overhearing the hearing and claimed he had never used steroids. Years later, more damaging books and reports, including “Game of Shadows” and the “Mitchell Report”, implicated many more baseball players of using performance enhancing drugs during what is now referred to as “The Steroid Era.” The Baseball Writers Association of America then decided to make an oath in their boys club to never allow in suspected or admitted steroid users into the Baseball Hall of Fame despite these player’s historic accomplishments, labeling them as “cheaters.”
For the record, a penalty system for using performance enhancing drugs did not exist in the MLB until 2003, after the McGwire-Sosa home-run race and Bond’s history making year. During the 1998 home-run race, a jar of androstenedione was found in McGwire’s locker, who then admitted he used steroid as a precursor and went on to hit a then record 70 home-runs that season. McGwire was not punished until now, where he isn’t even listed on the hall of fame ballot.
Is it really cheating if there’s not a policy? The man admitted he juiced, and baseball did nothing. They gladly allowed him to go on to have his historic season, while selling tickets and merchandise at historic rates because he and others revived a dying game. They allowed Bonds, a suspected steroid user involved in the BALCO scandal, to break that record with 73 home-runs. The drug testing policy he is now found “guilty” of by the MLB and the BBWAA had only been in place for four years by the time he retired with the all-time home-run mark of 762. The same goes for other admitted or suspected steroid users such as Sosa, Canseco, Palmeiro, Clemens, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, ect. Baseball looked the other way and now doesn’t acknowledge their existence, let alone their accomplishments.
Yet, some suspected steroid users, such as Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell, and Mike Piazza, were all elected into the Hall of Fame within a year of each other. The commissioner of the league during “The Steroid Era”, Bud Selig, was also elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017. And let’s not get into amphetamine users, also known as “greenies”, who are in the hall. From Willie Mays all the way down to the original home run king, Hank Aaron, they were all linked as users of this performance enhancing drug. The BBWAA welcomed those players into the hall with open arms, dishonesty at its finest.
The BBWAA is essentially picking and choosing who they want to be in their boys club of silly plaques located in an area of Ohio people barely like passing through. At the same time, they are shunning those who participated in what they now consider baseball’s darkest age (*shouldn’t that be when African-Americans weren’t allowed to play?) from their super secret society. It’s absolute hogwash. Either acknowledge all of the greatest players who played at the highest level, or don’t have a hall of fame. It’s not called the “Hall of Favorites” or the “Hall of Preferences”, it’s called the “Hall of Fame”.
The sport reaped the benefits of Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, ect. for years and turned a blind eye when suspected performance enhancing drug use was involved, just like they did during the amphetamine era. Baseball raked in the money by selling jerseys, tickets, programs, and posters during “The Steroid Era”. They saw their once dismal attendance soar through the roof and breathe new life into a dying sport. The exclusion of accomplished players, particularly admitted or suspected steroid users, was made retroactively to appease baseball “purists” in name only like Joe Morgan, whose letter to Hall of Fame voters urging them not to vote for steroid users came across as a disingenuous middle-school girl passing a note to her friend to not like Becky anymore for the clothes she was wearing. The sport hasn’t given a dime back to all of those fans who bought jerseys, tickets, or cable T.V. packages for what they now conveniently label a “fraudulent” product. Their game would not be as popular today if it weren’t for these players and their “cheating.”
The time has come to abolish the antiquated voting system of the Baseball Hall of Fame and acknowledge all the game’s greatest players and record holders, not picking and choosing favorites like the cliques in Mean Girls. Barry Bonds is acknowledged by one of this year’s inductees, Chipper Jones, as “the best baseball player I’ve ever seen put on a uniform.” Roger Clemens won 7 Cy Youngs (*the most of all-time), won 354 games, and had 4,672 strikeouts. They’re arguably two of the best to ever take the field, and for a while baseball took advantage of their talent and supposed or even admitted drug use and parlayed it into dump-trucks of money and record attendance. You reap what you sow. It’s time for the plaques and the monuments to be made for these men, and for the hypocrisy of baseball to end.