Revisiting The Bad News Bears forty years later illustrates just how much the world has changed since 1976. Sure, Baseball is still America’s pastime and Walter Matthau is still old. No? He died 15 years ago? Sorry, Walt. You were an old, tottering man so long, I just thought you must still be hanging on somewhere mumbling to yourself. See – it is a different world.
I remember The Bad News Bears being one of my favorite movies as a kid – at least until Star Wars hit the screens and blew everything out of the water. I remember even thinking that Carmen was actually just the soundtrack to the film. But how on Earth was it that they even let kids watch this thing? Weren’t we more innocent then? Less bitter? Full of hope?
Instead, Matthau’s character is a drunk throughout the film – even when he turns things around and decides that he’s going to really try to do something for these kids, there is the moment when he grabs a beer from the cooler in his car (because that was just a standard feature of 1970s vehicles). He look at it and then throws it back in the cooler as if to say, “Not today! Things are going to change!”
Or, maybe it just wasn’t very cold. Letting go of drinking was just one step too far.
After all, this was a film where the kids get roped into doing coach’s job cleaning pools … while making him drinks,. Kids are swearing blue streaks in every scene … while Matthau drinks Coors after Coors. And even one of the sports superstars is a smoking, drinking, Harley-riding pre-teen with strong prurient interest in older women Then, finally, the film ends with a beer-drenched dugout celebration for the little leaguers and their coach.
Just in case it wasn’t obvious that this all takes place ‘before safety was a thing’, check out the pile-up in this convertible.
Finally, as the film ends during the awarding of the trophies for first and second place, the Bears get in some last minute smack talk to the team that beat them:
“You can take your apology, and your trophy, and stuff ‘em right up your ass!”
That’s tellin’ ‘em, kid.