A few thoughts on The Tenth Inning

October 15, 2010 · 1 comment

While writing up the previous entry and reading the Forbes’ review of Ken Burns’ addenda, I was reminded that I wanted to add my two cents.

The Forbes‘ writer thought there was too much information crammed into too little time. In one sense I agree, but perhaps if less time had been allotted for certain segments, there would have been enough to go around. But overall, it seemed to me there wasn’t enough material to sustain the four hours for the two episodes.

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I thought too much time was spent on Barry Bonds, both in his pursuit of the single season and career home run records and his PED usage and not enough of the ramifications of steroids, etc. on the game. (Many reviews played up the steroids angle to such a degree, you would think it was the sole focus.) Sure, they covered the big boys — McGwire, Sosa, Palmiero, Bonds — but I would have learned more had there been discussion of the psychological decision-making process of the lower-echelon players, who felt they needed all the help they could get.

Some critics felt much time was spent with the “talking heads” from the first go-around: George Will, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Daniel Okrent, John Thorn, and others may have resonated with viewers who remembered them from the original and were comforted by their return, but new viewers might not hold them in the same esteem. The loss of younger fans has long been a concern of MLB; one would have thought more contemporary speakers and fresh faces such as Howard Bryant, author of the new Hank Aaron biography, to have been in order.

Other too-long segments featured the continuing success of the New York Yankees, certain to alienate a good chunk of the non-Bronx Bomber fans out there. I would have welcomed more on baseball’s return following Sept. 11 from a non-NY point of view. Remember: while New York took the brunt of the tragedy, it affected the nation as a whole.

I also would have been interested in a report on the escalation of salaries; the role of the Internet and blogosphere on the reportage and presentation of the game; and more coverage of international players who brought their game to the Major Leagues — Ichiro may have been the best and longest-lived, but he wasn’t the only one.

I don’t know the backstory of The Tenth Inning — why the producers felt the need for four hours instead of two or three; why they to slavishly followed the same format; why there weren’t more players interviewed (just Pedro Martinez and Ichiro). I’m guessing much of it had to do with economics/sponsorship.

When the original series was broadcast in 1994, there had basically been just one such documentary — Burns’ own Civil War opus — that had been so ambitious. Since then, the “Burnsian style” — the talking heads, the music (enough with the sentimental piano already), the panning across photographs and newspapers, and the video — has become commonplace.  The Tenth Inning comes at a time when any consumer of ESPN and the like have become so accustomed to video highlights and replays that it doesn’t have the same impact — or hold the same interest — as those old grainy black and white films from generations past.

All that said, I still chose to savor Burns’ latest offering; I don’t think we’ll have another helping again.

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  • Dennis Anderson

    Both parts of “The 10th Inning” are sitting in my DVR. I have no enthusiasm to hit “play.” Perhaps I will on a cold winter’s night.

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