This is not only the best movie ever made about ice hockey but also one of the best ones about the declining rustbelt of the 1970s, making its own way through any broke and moribund industrial cities. The Charlestown Chiefs are a minor-league, low-grade team in a Pennsylvania town with the largest mill, employing 10,000 workers, being due to close, killing off the economic base of the town. Coach and player Reggie Dunlop (stared by Paul Newman) knows that this may be the final season of his team and goes to war with champion sleazebag Strother Martin, his own manager, to try and unearth the team’s anonymous owner. Meanwhile, he and the team resort to showbiz tactics in order to score some ink and build up their name, hiring the Hanson brothers, and making sure that there is a good punch-up or 10 in every game.
The 1988 baseball movie of Ron Shelton is mainly known these days for first introducing the liberal Hollywood couple Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. This is an indication that this movie does not follow the usual trajectory which characterizes most US sports stories. In fact, in Bull Durham, the mechanics of baseball don’t really matter at all and the most unusually important thing is the unfairness of sport, as suggested in its love-story subplot that perhaps a good relationship is the best success.
Kevin Costner plays the role of “Crash” Davis, an experienced player who was brought in by the Durham Bulls to train the undisciplined but talented Ebby LaLoosh (stared by Robbins). Davis’s job is raising his game, a task which is shared by baseball groupie Annie Savoy (stared by Sarandon), an older woman that adopts LaLoosh as her lover. Between them, a love triangle ensues, although Susan Sarandon keeps us guessing as to whom Annie will eventually choose.