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Tanner Boyle

July 8, 2017

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The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training hit theaters 40 years ago today. It was a haphazard sequel, a degradation, a mess. It was also, for me, pure joy. I wrote a whole book on it!

Because of Tanner Boyle, I’d argue that it might even have within it some lessons we could use today. For example, when everything is falling apart, what do you do?

Tanner Boyle knows. As I explain in my celebration of the film, he simply refuses to go along with the bullshit. Tanner Boyle resists.

In 1977, everything was unraveling. Families, hopes, econ­omies. What to do? Some drifted, others flailed. The over­whelmed president seemed to be aging at an alarming rate. Skylab, a dull echo of the space program’s earlier glory, circled the globe in a repetitive, empty progression toward the inevi­table disintegration of its orbit. Everyone stared at TV reruns.

Who wouldn’t capitulate if authorities in suits appeared and reported that time had run out? If they pointed to their watches and said, apologies, the game is over, please clear the field, who wouldn’t exhale and maybe grouse or grieve but then obey?

The climactic game in the exemplary film from an era of unraveling reaches this exact point. The Bad News Bears are waved off the plastic Astrodome turf by men in charge. Not all of the innings have been played, but the game was always really more of a product than a game, a Budweiser promotion jammed in the middle of a major league doubleheader, and the allotted time for this promotion has been exhausted. It is time, boys, to accept your inconsequentiality and give up and go home.

With varying intervals of hesitation, the Bears begin to comply. Toby, Jimmy, Jose, Miguel, Ahmad, Engelberg, Ronzonni. Even Kelly Leak, the previously untamable rebel, shuffles off the field to the dugout, passing the Bears’ new coach, his estranged father, Mike Leak, who argues with the umpires briefly, to no avail. Is this the beginning of the end for Kelly Leak? Will this capitulation in a time of unraveling be the first of many in a life that will in turn grow smaller and smaller as it goes on, the seeming infinity of roads once at Kelly Leak’s fingertips shrinking eventually to a repetitive strip of pavement from rental dwelling to wage-slavery and back, again and again until the final capitulation?

It might have been the end, for Kelly and for us all, if not for Tanner Boyle. The line score of the game on the giant scoreboard in centerfield has vanished. A message has ap­peared in its place thanking the Bears and their apparently victorious opponents, the Toros. The expanse of Astroturf is empty except for one small boy at shortstop.

“Hey, where’s everybody going?” Tanner Boyle yelps. Ev­eryone else has quit, but he’s holding his ground. I’ve watched The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training a lot, repeatedly, chronically. But I still get tears in my eyes when it comes to this. Is everything unraveling? Is it all over and done? Tan­ner’s piercing voice rings out in the vast sterile space of the Dome.

“We’re not finished!” he says.

2 comments

  1. Josh,🤣🤣🤣Tanner Boyle is a #GreatAmerican. He defended Lupus against the tyranny that was the 1976 Yankees, offering diplomacy first with his burrito, then with his fists.He then took on the whole 7th grade, his fearless leadership knew no bounds.Tanner also made Crud! happen….with little to no effort. It saddens me that his epic line from the original movie has been whitewashed for all future generations.It only exists on my old VCR copy. Thank you Josh, for shining a light on Tanner and everything he stood for. Sincerely,Derek Dust 

    Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


  2. Tanner Boyle…….an American Hero. Thanks Josh.



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