Trouble with the Curve: Just Keep on Swinging

Posted: July 29, 2013 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Drama, Sports
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CurveI was glad that John Perritt recently reviewed one of my favorite Clint Eastwood films, Escape from Alcatraz.  Hopefully, we at Reel Thinking will examine more of Eastwood’s classics through the lens of Scripture, since so many of his characters need serious redemption!  In his most recent film, Trouble with the Curve, the former mayor of Carmel, California yet again plays a crotchety old man–this time a baseball scout named Gus.  Still considered one of the premier scouts for the major leagues, Gus is getting older and his eyes are failing him.  What’s a scout without eyes?  This is one of several new curve balls thrown into his life.

Aptly named, the entire movie is really just a bunch of curve balls.  The new young management of his baseball team wants Gus to retire, setting up a last chance for Gus to prove himself by evaluating a talent in North Carolina.  This reunites him with his estranged only daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), who joins him to be his “eyes”–against his wishes of course.  Mickey has had all sorts of curve balls thrown at her, beginning with the untimely death of her mother and then being essentially abandoned by her father for much of her life.  Johnny (Justin Timberlake), another major character, received the curve ball of sports injury, being forced to the sidelines of baseball as a much-too-young scout.  And the list goes on and on.

Of course, the “surface” story really does feature a young, cocky baseball player who should be a number one draft choice, but he can’t hit the curve ball!  And there’s also a young pitcher who, because he can throw a curve ball, experiences his own miraculous “curve” in his life.  Without spoiling it for you, in many ways this movie is the opposite of a much better baseball movie, Moneyball.  Yet, even though everything resolves a bit to easily in Trouble with the Curve, it’s still worth watching in my book.

So underneath its surface plot, this movie is really all about how people respond to the curve balls “life” throws at them (actually, the very appropriate tag line is “Whatever life throws at you…”).  Again, without giving away the movie, Gus and Mickey and Johnny don’t respond well to their own curve balls for most of the movie.  They experience a whole lot of frustration and failure.  But, after swinging and missing many times, they begin to “see” the curve ball more clearly and hit it.  Even cranky old Gus, who claimed he couldn’t change his ways, has new eyesight for what’s important in life.

As sappy and as all that may sound to you, Trouble with the Curve presents a fairly realistic picture of life in this fallen world.  While we all desire easy pitches right “down the middle” that we can hit out of the park, we too often experience a series of seemingly “unhittable” curves.  In one sense, our responsibility as Christians is simply to keep swinging away!  But, unlike unbelievers, God has given Christians new eyes (by the Spirit) so we can see the curve balls more clearly, understanding how to best “hit” them.  And, to add to the analogy, only Christians understand that the pitcher on the mound throwing those curve balls into our lives is our Sovereign, loving God.  He’s not trying to fool us, hit us, or strike us out.  Instead, His gracious plan is to develop us into the spiritual batters who can respond to difficulty and suffering in a way that glorifies Him and advances His kingdom–and of course, sanctify us in the mean time.

As sinners, we all have trouble with the curve.  Praise God when He enables us to adjust the way we approach that troublesome pitch so we can just swing away with great grace!

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