Tie-In Terrors

It's A Marriage Made In Hell The L.A. Dodgers And The Fox Network.

By Tom Danehy

IF YOU LIVE long enough (and see enough movies) you can find an analogous movie scene for just about anything that happens in life. The only difference between people is whether their scenes generally come from films by Penny Marshall, Steven Spielberg, or Quentin Tarantino. And if it's Spielberg, is it the cutie-pie E.T. Spielberg or the heartbreaking, Oprah-as-big-as-Reggie-White Color Purple Spielberg? As far as I know, hardly anybody is the eaten-by-a-dinosaur-while-sitting-on-Porta-Potty Spielberg.

Some scenes are so gut-wrenchingly on target they cut across all societal lines and form a slender thread, the likes of which bind us together as a people. Such is that one scene in the wonderful family movie The Longest Yard, the up-lifting tale of a cutthroat band of hardened criminals who take on a team of sadistic prison guards in a bloody football game, while transvestite cheerleaders do Diana Ross impressions on the sidelines.

Danehy They sure don't make movies like that any more.

Anyway, during the Big Game, the prison-guard linebacker Budanski is the target of an impish prank on the part of the criminals, led by Burt Reynolds in the role which marked his transition from the actor who appeared in Deliverance to the star who made Cannonball Run. The criminals run a play where they let Budanski through the line, whereupon Reynolds hits him right in the groin with a bullet pass.

Budanski staggers back to the line of scrimmage. Sure enough, the Mean Machine runs the same play again and Budanski collapses in a heap, not breathing.

Now, that's funny.

For those few of you out there who don't immediately see the connection, we're Budanski, plodding along, expecting the game to be played fairly. The Mean Machine is major league baseball, a collection of deviants and slimers who pose as the Good Guys. The football, I guess, represents a baseball.

It would have been nice to find a baseball movie from which to draw this analogy, but all baseball movies are about God and stuff (except for Bull Durham, which has Kevin Costner thinking about Susan Sarandon, who thinks about God and stuff). That leaves us looking elsewhere for reality, such as in movies about prison-guard football teams.

Which sorta brings me to my point. I'm part of this huge group of people who used to love baseball, but now can't stand it. Like millions of other people, I loved baseball as a kid, but now see it as a game ruined by greed, a complete lack of loyalty, and a sport whose house is in complete disarray. We one-time fans have been hit in the groin by strikes, canceled seasons, the designated hitter and Albert Belle so many times, we're through.

Still, there was always one thing which kept me from severing all ties to baseball--my beloved L.A. Dodgers. I grew up with them, suffered through their numerous second-place finishes and reveled in their championships.

Much more importantly, the Dodgers were always a rock of decency and consistency in a sea of disgusting behavior. They had the cleanest ballpark, the lowest ticket prices, the best organization top to bottom, and with very few exceptions, they were always competitive.

As long as the Dodgers remained the Dodgers, there was hope baseball could pull itself back from the brink. But now even those hopes are being dashed. The Dodgers are for sale.

This itself is bizarre. There's an old joke that says the way to make a small fortune in baseball is to start with a large fortune. Not so in L.A.--the Dodgers have always been a license to print money. By most estimates, the O'Malley family, which has owned the team for decades, had an annual income in the tens of millions from the franchise.

Infinitely more distressing is the fact that the team is being bought by the Fox Network and its owner, Rupert Murdoch. It's like that beer commercial. "Murdoch: Australian for 'jerk.' "

The Dodgers will never be the same. When you bring together two polar opposites, the classless one will always drag the other one down. The inevitable tie-ins are going to be gross.

I can see them now. A TV series about a nice Japanese baseball player who came to America and got toughened up by the mean streets of L.A. Working title: Nomo: Mr. Nice Guy.

Maybe they'll try to rename the team the Beverly Hills 90210 Dodgers. Naw, geographically improper. That's a shame, really, since most of the actors playing teenagers and twentysomethings on the show were actually born about the time the Dodgers moved to L.A. in 1957.

Being something of a conspiracy buff, I believe this deal has been in the offing for quite some time. I also believe Rupert Murdoch is really L. Ron Hubbard, but that's a story for another time.

Fox has been setting things up for a while now. Look at the evidence:

• Fox has two prime-time animated series, one entitled King of the Hill and the other in which the main character is named Homer.

• Fox has this painfully low-rated series it refuses to cancel. Title: Sliders.

Is it a coincidence that the woman agent of X-Files and the longtime Dodger announcer are both named Scully? I think not.

In fact, I think poor Vin is going to have to change his Hall of Fame way of announcing. Pretty soon, when Mike Piazza gets a base hit, Scully will have to say. "Piazza gets a hit. Not just a single, a Livin' Single."

It's gonna happen, and soon. The tie-ins will be everywhere, and we'll all be the poorer for them.

Just wait until you open the TV Guide and it says, "Tonight on Fox: Babylon 5...Dodgers 4." TW

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