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Field of Dreams Is Not About Baseball

Field of Dreams Is Not About Baseball

"What?"
"What are you grinning at you ghost?"
"If you build it...he will come."
"Oh my God.."
"What, what is it??"
"It's my father..."

Thus the above three simple questions launch the viewer into the greatest father-son moment in cinema history, a stirring portrait of love and redemption some 30 years in the making, a moment whose realization required faith in the impossible and the ability to forgive and ask forgiveness, a moment that sure as the sun will rise tomorrow causes even the most stone-faced of men to weep like babies.

Given away of course by the now infamous "If you build it" line, the moment is Ray Kinsella reuniting with his father at the end of the 1989 Kevin Costner classic Field of Dreams, a heartwarming tale of Hollywood magic that in my humble opinion is more about the relationship (or lack thereof) between Ray and his father than it is about baseball. Field of Dreams is my favorite movie of all-time, and I am one of the aforementioned men who is proudly moved to tears every time I see the film, without fail.

Field of Dreams is a must see for all men, and is best viewed in a father-son setting if at all possible. Sons, if your father is still alive and you have not yet watched Field of Dreams with him, I urge you to do so before it is too late. Fathers, I demand the same; ask your son(s) to watch Field of Dreams with you and reap the benefits of the magical healing powers found within. Even for the father-son relationships that have navigated through smooth seas, there is still a lesson to be learned and tears of joy to be shed. A father-son relationship is a special part of this journey we call life, perhaps one of the most special parts, and Field of Dreams is both a catalyst for healing a damaged father-son relationship and a powerful reminder of the value of this alliance for those fathers and sons who enjoyed and still do enjoy a healthy relationship.

I first watched Field of Dreams with my father in the early 90's, and it quickly became my favorite movie and has remained so since that time. I am fortunate to fall into the latter of the two aforementioned father-son relationship categories, and I enjoy a great relationship with my dad. It hasn't been perfect over my 32 years - relationships never are - but it has been quite good, and Field of Dreams is a reminder of how fortunate I am and how thankful I am that I had and still have a great relationship with my father. I will someday watch Field of Dreams with my son, and it is my hope that he fully understands its meaning and true power. 

No, Field of Dreams is most certainly not about baseball. The sport certainly plays a large role in the movie; it is what tore Ray and his father's relationship apart and what ultimately healed their relationship in the end, but it is the father-son story that increasingly steals the show as we follow Ray throughout the movie. The voices...or noises I should say...while they drove him to build the field and allow Shoeless Joe and the other Black Sox to be able to come back and play, in the end we see that ultimately the voices led back to Ray's father, and the healing that takes place in that final scene as the culmination of Ray's faith and quest to build the field.

"Ease his pain."
"Go the distance."
"It was you..."
"No Ray, it was you."
"My God...I only saw him years later as he was worn down by life. Look at him. He's got his whole life in front of him and I'm not even a glint in his eye. What do I say to him?"
"Why don't you introduce him to his granddaughter?"
"Hi."
"Hi."
"I just wanted to thank you folks for putting up this field...letting us play here. I'm John Kinsella."
"I'm Ray...My wife Annie. This is my daughter Karen. Karen this is my........this is John."
"Hi John."
"Hiya Karen."
"Well, we're gonna let you two talk. I mean all if these people are gonna come we got a lot of work to do. It was very nice meeting you."


As we are led into the final scene, we see the healing start to take place...but said healing is certainly not yet complete. Ray had a chance here to introduce John Kinsella to his wife and his daughter as his father, yet he hesitated and instead introduced him as John. Throughout the movie we are told bits and pieces of Ray's story, about how playing baseball got to be like taking out the trash and the pressure his father put on him to make it to the Big Leagues as John never did. I have no doubt many men out there have similar stories and can certainly relate! We are also told what Ray said to his father as he left home at 18, a wound inflicted on John that Ray could not take back nor apologize for as his father died before he could do so. We are told that Shoeless Joe was John's hero, and as Ray left home he told his father:

"I could never respect a man whose hero was a criminal"

As many fathers can understand, respect in general, and certainly respect from a son, is something we strive for, and as a side note I believe this is interwoven into our DNA from a Biblical standpoint. Consider that in Ephesians 5 Paul commands husbands to love their wives...but instead of commanding wives to love their husbands, he commands them to respect their husbands instead. Respect and admiration are powerful motivators for men, and I do believe that men yearn for respect more so than they desire love.

We can see then how deeply Ray's words must have wounded his father, and I cannot imagine the pain John felt the rest of his life knowing that the final words he heard his son say to him before he left home, and ultimately the last words Ray said to him before John died, was that he did not respect him. It is in this context that the final scene plays out, and finally we see the healing take place as Ray steps up to the plate and...

"You catch a good game."
"Thank you. It's so beautiful here. For me, well for me it's like a dream come true. Can I ask you something? Is this Heaven?"
"It's Iowa"
"Iowa?"
"Yeah."
"I could have sworn it was Heaven."
"Is there..is there a Heaven?"
"Oh yeah...it's the place dreams come true."

If you build it, he will come.
Ease his pain.
Go the distance.

The field is a dream come true for John as he is reunited with his son...and his eternal pain is nearly eased. As Ray ponders John's statement that yes, there is a Heaven, and that it's the place dreams come true, he looks around...first at his wife and daughter, then at the field...he realizes that his dreams are coming true as well. 

"Maybe this is Heaven"
"Well, goodnight Ray."
"Goodnight John."

Again...John. Ray cannot bring himself to say the words his father yearns to hear...so deeply needs to hear...and then the handshake. As the shot zooms in on the hands...the handshake of reconciliation of a father-son relationship gone awry...the handshake that millions of men yearn to feel and the handshake that those of us with fathers are thankful to have...in that very instant Ray seizes the moment and finally eases his father's pain, washing away 30+ years of hardship with the words that every father longs to hear...As John begins to walk away...

"Hey, Dad?.......You wanna have a catch?"
"I'd like that."
 

 

A quote from Gehrig Taylor in the YouTube comments section sums up this scene beautifully: 

"Lost my dad when I was 14 now I am 48 and I still wish I could have a catch with him, just one more time. I have played pro ball but nothing will ever take the place of a catch with my dad. Tomorrow is the anniversary of his death. 4/4/81. I will always love you."

Sons and fathers alike, I urge you to watch this movie together as men, and as you do, you will experience that special bond that is a father-son relationship. It is a bond that runs deep in our DNA as men, a bond that touches the very core of masculinity itself, and a bond that helps gives meaning to a life that may otherwise be fraught with pain and hardship.

On a side note, I decided to take a road trip to Dyersville, Iowa, in the summer of 2006 to see the actual Field of Dreams movie site. The house, the corn, the field...all are still there, and to say that it is a special place is quite the understatement. It is a Mecca of sorts for Field of Dreams fans, and as fate would have it, I just so happened to make my pilgrimage to Field of Dreams on the VERY DAY that Kevin Costner made his first trip back to the field since filming the movie in 1989. I had no prior knowledge of Kevin going to the field that day, I just happened to show up. Yes, that is to say then, Kevin Costner pitched batting practice to me in Dyersville, Iowa, at the Field of Dreams movie site in 2006. To top it off, everyone who made the trip that day was treated to a showing of the movie that night, on the field, via a huge blow up screen in the outfield. To say it was a magical night is another major understatement; to say that I never cried more in my entire life is as accurate a statement that has ever been uttered from the lips of man.

You can watch the video of me at Field of Dreams in 2006 below. Speaking of father-son relationships...be sure to view the 4:20 mark. Kevin is pitching BP to a young boy in a wheelchair, wrought by an unknown disease that leaves him unable to walk or use his arms. The boy's father helps his son swing the bat...then wheels him to first base after making contact with the Costner delivery. Perhaps more so than Ray and John's story in the movie itself, this moment of real life father-son love sums up the theme of the movie perfectly.


"Is this Heaven?"
"It's Iowa"
"Iowa?"
"Yeah."
"I could have sworn it was Heaven."
"Is there..is there a Heaven?"
"Oh yeah...it's the place dreams come true."

 

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