Over the weekend, my girlfriend and I went to the movies to see the re-release of “The Lion King.” I’m beyond certain that we were the only non-parent adults in the theater. I’m sure I’ve seen the film between the first time I saw it and then, but I’d never really reflected on it.
Silly as it may sound, “The Lion King” will probably always hold a special place in my movie-going heart. Why? Because it’s the first movie I remember going to see in theaters. My dad took me, probably on a Saturday, to a theater that no longer exists (there’s an Apple store now!), and of course, I loved it. How could I not? It was a great, great film. Mostly, I appreciated the experience. I had a great time watching it because there was some excitement, good songs, and generally funny characters. Upon seeing it again this weekend, I appreciated it for the same things, but others as well.
As a mature viewer, I not only appreciated the experience of seeing the film, but appreciated that it was a remarkably well made film that would appeal to any member of the audience, regardless of age. What does this have to do with baseball? Shortly after “The Lion King” was originally released (1994), I went to the first baseball game I can remember going to. When I went to that game, I had a lot of fun. We had great seats, there was a funny guy sitting next to my family and me, and the Yankees won. It was the first time I went to Yankee Stadium and it was huge and beautiful and everything it should have been. But back then, baseball was just something fun I watched every once in a while and had fun doing so. I knew I enjoyed playing it, too, but I didn’t quite see into it the way I do now. Hell, how could I?
Like I now appreciate “The Lion King” for something beyond funny voice acting and catchy songs, I can appreciate baseball as something more than a fun pastime. Like I’m now able to analyze a film for more than its entertainment value, I’m able to see more deeply into baseball. And like watching a film, I can watch baseball from multiple perspectives. When watching from home, I can check on every fact, dig into every claim, look up every stat. When I’m at the game or listening to it in my car, I can not only enjoy the game, but see the intricacies of each movement and think along with the manager’s lineup or bullpen strategy.
When I sit back, I can enjoy both films and baseball without analysis. I don’t need to act the film critic when I watch every movie; I don’t need to be the stat-nerd during every game…but I usually play those roles. Why? Because I’ve matured as a viewer of both mediums. The attempt to understand them on deeper levels gives me endless enjoyment. While neither film nor baseball was ever as low as mindless enjoyment for me, both now give me a great sense of intellectual, social, and emotional fulfillment.
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