The director of the bio-documentary “4192: The Crowning of the Hit King,” Terry Lukemire, responded to an earlier blog entry where I wondered aloud whether a film about Pete Rose could avoid any mention of the travails that have so defined Rose’s life for the last quarter century.
I was careful to point out that I hadn’t yet seen the film, which premiered several weeks ago, but alluded to a blog entry from someone who reportedly did.
Turns out that person was John Kiesewetter, a columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, who, it turns out, said really nice things about the movies in general but was flagged by the director for ... having noted that some rather important negative stuff had been left out.
This according to the blog at Cincinnati.com: The Enquirer’s John Kiesewetter calls it a “wonderful nostalgic replay of Reds history” in Rose’s glory years, but adds that “it doesn’t cover all the bases” – notably, the tumultuous years after Rose broke Ty Cobb’s hit record and was eventually banned from baseball for betting on the game.
The film’s producers say they wanted to create a “love letter to baseball,” something to remind baseball fans – especially young ones who never saw Rose on the field – about what a great player he was.
In my entry and later in my column in SCD, I stated that I didn’t believe such a story could be told in that kind of fashion without even some cursory mention of “gambling, corked bats, amphetamines or other controversies that surrounded Rose after his playing career ended.”
I was wrong, obviously. I’ll let the readers decide if the director is mad at me or simply sharply defensive after having been bombarded with criticism about his omissions rather than more properly praised for what he had included in the film. Lukemire's comments appeared below my Tuesday, Oct. 5 blog and will be run as a letter to the editor in the Nov. 12 issue of SCD.
And though I may not have made it clear enough, that was the principal reason that I didn’t believe that a filmmaker would go about telling Pete’s story in that manner. The concern would be that the positive story that Barking Fish Entertainment was striving so nobly to tell would get instantly lost because of all the howling about what was left out.
Even if you’re willing to concede – and I am – that Lukemire has a right to tell Rose’s story in any fashion he sees fit, it doesn’t banish any legitimate discussion of whether it’s a sound strategy in terms of eliciting reasoned critical review.
Hell, I’ll even concede his other point that vast legions of pundits have made a cottage industry out of pummeling Pete about all the negative stuff. On this I don’t feel a bit of guilt, since virtually from the beginning of my tenure here – interrupted by only a short period when I temporarily stepped off the bandwagon a bit – I have lobbied as best I could to urge that the “permanent ineligibility” ban be lifted.
There. I’ve said enough. I was kind of taken by Lukemire’s missive, since I think it embodies the kind of rabid devotion to Rose that has survived a fairly difficult two decades plus. I didn’t even mind the kind of exuberance that would seemingly include me in his characterization of “ignorant idiots.”
I’ve been called lots worse, and besides, I am convinced that the strident e-mail was a result of a likely avalanche of aggravation that had come his way by virtue of his choices about the direction of his film.
And I am going to somehow take his advice and actually see the film, though I hope to be able to engineer this without undertaking the truly drastic measure of buying a DVD player.
You see, for me, it’s still 1985.