What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is not on my list of essential films.
NOTE: This installment of Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies is being done as part of something called the Midsummer Dream Blog-A-Thon being hosted by the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Since this is such a different topic for such an event, and since Dreams is a very different film, it only seems fitting to make an alteration to the usual format for installments in this series.
Dreams does not have a single plot; as such it doesn’t have sub-plots double-helixing around the main one. Instead it takes on a episodic feel by telling the tale of eight separate “dreams” as seen by what is ostensibly a surrogate for the real Akira Kurosawa; he’s often seen wearing Kurosawa’s trademark hat.
Just like Kurosawa, I am also known for wearing hats, largely because I have a large, bald head. Just like Kurosawa, I also have vivid dreams, but not because I’m a genius on a level with the legendary Japanese film maker; there a reason why he has three entries on my list of essential films. In my case, the cause is likely to be an as-of-yet undiagnosed chemical imbalance. In any event, as a blogger who deals in strange comparisons my dreams are undoubtedly far more bizarre than most. In other words, thanks to the works of Kurosawa and the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, you’re about to get a glimpse into the psyches of a legendary director and some non-descript keyboard jockey.
Dreams is basically eight separate “shorts” woven together a few overlapping characters and themes…usually but not exclusively revolving around man and his relationship with nature. But because this is a sports-centered series, the hidden sports analogies will come in comparisons between Kurosawa’s dreams about nature and mine about the world of sport.
The similes are far closer than you might think…
By the way, you can see all the contributors to this blog-a-thon here:
Kurosawa’s Dream: Sunshine Through the Rain
Sunshine Through The Rain is a cautionary tale of a young boy being told by his mother to stay home on a day when rain falls while the sun is still shining. The mother tells the boy that foxes (kitsune) hold weddings weddings during such weather. She adds that kitsune have such a disdain for being seen; so much so that death will be visited upon anybody who does.
Being a curious boy, the boy ignores the warning and ventures out into the forest. Naturally, he spots the kitsune wedding. Fearing death, the boy runs home only to be met by his mother at the front door. She tells him one of the kitsune beat him to the house. She then shows him a tantō knife left by the kitsune and offers a choice. The boy can either beg forgiveness from the kitsune, or he can commit suicide. The dream ends with the taking the tantō and setting off to the home of the kitsune.
J-Dub's Sporting Analogy Dream: My Reign Over the Hall of Fame Brings Sunshine
In my dream, the kitsune are represented by the Baseball Writers of America. Instead of protecting secret weddings the writers are foisting their silly faux morality on the Baseball Hall of Fame by refusing to vote for players they deem to have violated their so-called “code.” Former pitcher Curt Schilling becomes the boy from Kurosawa’s dream; he’s ignored the warnings and has continued to espouse his political beliefs, which agree or disagree have run him afoul of the BBWAA kitsune.
But Schilling took the boy’s decision to a whole new level. Instead of begging for forgiveness, he asked to be left off the Hall of Fame ballot in his tenth and final year of eligibility. This is where in my dream I take on the role of the mother, but instead I take the tantō knife and slay the BBWAA kitsune by shining the light on it’s hypocritical bullshit “code” and establish a correct means of getting the best of the best into the Hall of Fame.
Kurosawa’s Dream: The Peach Orchard
This dream takes place on the day of Hinamatsuri, a springtime doll festival. The same boy from the previous dream encounters a girl in his house who is dressed all in pink. She leads him outside to the place where a peach orchard owned by his family once stood. Once there, living dolls begin to appear which represent the spirits of the fallen peach trees.
The dolls berate the boy since it was his family which felled the orchard. But at the same time, the dolls also sense the boy’s remorse, he never wanted the trees to be cut down. The dolls perform a ritual dance Etenraku which causes the orchard to re-appear, along with the girl in pink. The boy runs after the girl, but she and the orchard vanish, leaving only the sprout of a single peach tree in her place.
J-Dub's Sporting Analogy Dream: The Draft Pick Which Bore Bitter Fruit
You can credit this one exclusively to the world of fantasy sports. If you’ve ever played fantasy baseball, football, et cetera, you’ve been through a draft. Anybody who has participated in a fantasy draft made a pick which haunts them…invariably because it’s net effect was clear-cutting their team to the stumps like Kurosawa’s peach orchard. Now, at this point, there are some who have been in a fantasy baseball league with me who are conjuring a vision of a guy named Ron Gant…these people know who they are.
But true tale here is that of Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr. For the first few years of my tenure in this particular league, “The Kid” was the exclusively the property of another owner. For those years I coveted a player who was arguably the best in the game, so when the owner who had him left the league, I pounced.
Literally three hours after I took Griffey with the second pick in the first round, I glanced at the television to see my new star outfielder blowing out his leg rounding third base in a spring training game. Griffey never really recovered from that injury during that season; what was supposed to be a 300-point player proved to be worth less than 30. He only occasionally appeared to be healed, only to re-aggravate it in brief visions as the girl in pink who became the lone sapling of a peach tree only to morph into a bat deserted in a cob-web covered rack.
Kurosawa’s Dream: The Blizzard
The Blizzard is another tale of a mystery female figure appearing to lure the subject of the dream. In this case, four mountain climbers are hopelessly lost in a cataclysmic snowstorm. Exhausted and their spirits broken, one by one they they give in to the snow; virtually guaranteeing their deaths. Eventually even the group’s leader surrenders to the elements, but at that moment a figure from Japanese folklore appears. A woman known as Yuki-onna, she attemps to convince the group leader to accept the inevitability of his own death. But he refuses and while doing so, he comes out of his hallucination only to realize the storm has subsided and the climbers are only steps away from the safety of their camp.
J-Dub's Sporting Analogy Dream: The Snow Job
On this subject, the main take-away I gleaned from two semesters of college psychology was that dreams are simply your ever-day experiences run through the jigsaw of your psyche which sub-consciously re-assembles them as a puzzle left to interpretation by 19th-century Austrian psychoanalysts enamored with a completely different kind of “snow.” But he could only come to his conclusions on dreams after decades of consuming the psychobabble of countless scores of people.
That’s how I can take in The Blizzard and dream The Snow Job. It’s all about something shared by one of our frequent guest columnists and my far-too-many years in management. Whether it’s being the general manager of a minor-league hockey team or occupying an office in a Fortune 500 “SuperCompuSoftTechWare”-type place, both Joe McGrath and I were faced with the scourge of salary negotiations.
No matter what, everybody always wants more. The problem is they don’t always deserve it, and NEVER understand when they don’t. That means McGrath and I lived through scenes like this all the time.
Whether you’re dealing with a French-Canadian goalie or an Indian software developer, It’s nearly impossible in the heat of the moment to reason with somebody you’ve just told isn’t worth what they think they are. That’s why as the “boss” in that situation, you have little choice but to take on the persona of Yuki-onna to persuade them into something they don’t want to accept.
After dealing with people on that level, both McGrath and I can understand why Freud needed to spend his weekend inhaling an entire Colombian mountainside.
Besides, I never said I passed those two semesters.
* –Apologies to Virginie Pronovost if my translation is off…high-school French was a long time ago 🙂
Kurosawa’s Dream: The Tunnel
Another aspect of being in a position of responsibility over others is compassion. Effective leaders must walk a balance between achieving their assigned objectives while understanding the effects of their decisions on the people who must bear their brunt. Leaders who lack compassion for the people in their charge do so in their own short-term peril and virtually guarantee their long-term failure.
Kurosawa’s dream The Tunnel takes on the most extreme example of this; that of a front-line military commander. At the end of the Second World War, a recently discharged company commander of the Imperial Japanese Army is walking home along a lonely road at sunset when he encounters a large concrete tunnel.
At the tunnel’s mouth is a decidedly unfriendly dog, complete with snarls and barks. Despite this, the company commander traverses the tunnel met by the ghost (yūrei) of Private Noguchi, whose eyes are blackened and his face is blue. Even though Noguchi died in his comannder’s arms, Noguchi does not realize he is actually dead.
Instead, Noguchi keeps pointing to an illuminated house on a distant mountain claiming it is his family home. Noguchi finally accepts his commander’s word of his own death, and while he is distressed at the idea he will never see his parents again, Noguchi re-enters the tunnel.
A young lieutenant then leads an entire platoon from the tunnel. They come to a halt in front of the commander; like Noguchi, they all have black eyes and blue faces. Like Noguchi, he also tells them they are all dead, and he also takes the blame for their deaths by sending them on a suicidal attack. The platoon does not respond, and the commander salutes them as they turn on his order and march back into the tunnel.
Finally coming to terms with what he has done, the commander falls from his own grief, but is quickly brought back to his feet by the menacing re-appearance of the angry dog.
J-Dub's Sporting Analogy Dream: Getting Buried In Detention
Kurosawa’s company commander is the “poster child” for the leader who has no regard for their people. Despite the fact there’s hardly a comparison, between the Second World War and junior high school in Southern California in the early 1980s, I can’t think of a better tale of a better example of the sheer needlessly assholery of Kurosawa’s company commander getting his come-uppance than I tale from my own youth and a certain physical education
troll teacher. I covered the tale of Mr. Brzenski story in a previous installment in this series, but it’s relevant here in my role as “the angry dog;” one who wasn’t going to wait to see if that pot-bellied jerk-off would eventually get his for every kid he bullied who went on to having a much better life than he ever could have.
For the full story, you should really follow the link, but the guts of the story are in this excerpt from the “Mister Roberts” installment of Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies:
In terms of being a sadist, Tomas dé Torquemada had nothing on Walter Brzenski. While there is no proof dodgeball was invented during the Spanish Inquisition, you know dé Torquemada would have appreciated it. One day, I noticed that the Brzenski version of dodgeball always seemed to end up with the big, jocky kids pounding on the weak nerdy and defenseless, and worse yet, he seemed to get his kicks off blowing his whistle every time some defenseless kid got blasted.
To this day, I don’t know what made me do it, but instead of sighting in on some poor bookworm, I wound up and rocketed my ball straight into Mr. Brzenski’s face, his whistle knocked out two of his teeth. Naturally, I bought some big trouble for that, but it was worth it. My “Mister Roberts” was gone, and I “Pulver”-ized the face of the guy who made that happen.~ J-Dub, Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies, Volume 29
Kurosawa’s Dream: Crows
To me, this is the strangest of Kurosawa’s dreams…for reasons I will get to in a bit. Crows centers on a young artist who is enamored with legendary Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. In his mind, this student of Van Gogh meets him in a field and travels to a world inside Van Gogh’s paintings. During this journey, he engages Van Gogh in which the Dutchman explains the secret of his self-amputated left ear. Stunned by that revelation, during the resultant distraction, the student loses track of Van Gogh and travels through a number of his works, ultimately finding him in Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Crows.
Pay attention to who plays Vincent Van Gogh…you might recognize this guy. He’s a “GoodFella.”
J-Dub's Sporting Analogy Dream: The Wet Duck Flies at Midnight
This is the part where we get to the reason why I think this is the strangest of Kurosawa’s dreams..If you know anything about Sigmund Freud and his interpretation of dreams, you also know that Freud boils down the meaning of a lot of stuff in dreams to sex. This one is 100% on my interpretation, because while Crows has nothing to do with “the deed,” the “art student” angle takes me straight to sex…largely because of my 6th-grade art teacher.
Even without the carnal attraction “Mrs. G.” was an interesting character. Along with her family, she escaped the communists when the fled East Berlin while “The Wall” we being built in 1961. By the time our pats crossed, she was an art teacher in her mid-20s who already had life experience of somebody thrice her age. Put that character in the stone-toned body of a former gymnast topped with a flowing blond mane and punctuated by a pair of “Cindy Lou Who” blue eyes all spoken with a “Marlene Dietrich”-type Teutonic torrent white-water rapiding over vocal cords precision-engineered for pure sex appeal.
The trouble was she also fancied herself a poet, and found a perfect…albeit captive audience with whom loved to share her works. Believe me, it took the gravitational pull exerted by the hormones of burgeoning pubescence to keep me from cutting off my own ears to stuff like “The Wet Duck Flies At Midnight.”
Kurosawa’s Dream: Mount Fuji In Red
For good reason, the Japanese have a “wary-at-best” relationship with nuclear energy. First, there was that little thing called the Second World War. Then there was their indulgence in building nuclear power plants all while making movies about monsters created by escaped radiation. Then there was the Fukushima disaster after the 2011 tsunami…which almost hauled this dream into reality.
Mount Fuji In Red is all about a nuclear power plant near the iconic Japanese volcano which is having a “melt down.” Crimson clouds or radiation fill the sky causing a mass exodus away from the plant. Out of this human tsunami, two men, a woman, and her two small children appear alone at the edge of the sea. The older man declares to the younger man that all the other humans have done a lemming-like march into the sea to escape the oncoming billows of radiation.
The older man goes on to explain which radioactive isotopes can be attributed to the color of the encroaching toxic clouds, then lampoons the foolish insignificance of such a delineation as they are all fatal. This leads to the older man leaping off a cliff to his death after the woman chastises the assurances of safety the people had been given as he is one of the people responsible for the “melt down.”
The dream ends with an ultimate scene of futility; a man is trying to shield the woman and her children from the toxic clouds by trying to fan them away with his jacket.
J-Dub's Sporting Analogy Dream: The Minnesota Meltdown
If you’re a fan of baseball’s Minnesota Twins, for a good part of the last two decades, you’ve either been given the impression…or worse yet…deluded yourself into thinking that team could contend for a championship. While this season is certainly not in that vein, the last “full” season in 2019 might be the perfect example. The Twins bombed their way to a division title on the back of 101 wins fueled by a single-season record 307 home runs. But as has too often been the case in the 21st century, the Minnesota Twins had their own “melt down” in their own personal graveyard known as Yankee Stadium.
2019 was just the most recent example of the mighty Twins’ bats fanning feebly at the radioactive clouds which is the New York Yankees complete ownership of them come the play-offs. Time and time again, The Minnesota Twins have spent a summer looking like a contender, only to plummet in the fall at the hands of the Godzillas, Ghidras, and Mothras in pinstripes.
Kurosawa’s Dream: The Weeping Demon
The Weeping Demon could almost be seen as the logical extension of the previous dream; it’s a tale of radiologically mutated humans inhabiting a post-nuclear apocalyptic world.
An “Omega Man”-like figure is wandering through a desolate, rocky landscape when he encounters a mutant sporting a unicorn-esque horn. The horned mutant explains tells the tale of how the apocalypse came in the wake of a nuclear holocaust which resulted in widespread extinction and mutation. He goes on to explain the horned humans are seen as “demons” because they cannot die, and at night their horns become excruciatingly painful, which causes them to emit demonic howls of pain. The “demon” warns the man to flee, but when the man asks where he should go, the “demon” tries to convert him; chasing him as he makes an escape.
J-Dub's Sporting Analogy Dream: The Injecting Demon
I’m well on record as being a skeptic of the “Chemical McCarthyism” of steroids in sports…but that’s a discussion for another time. The reality here is that players get suspended all the time for the illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs (PED), and it can devastate a team when it happens with a “star” who is essential to success. As a fan of the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles, the guy who keeps coming to mind is offensive tackle Lane Johnson.
This is a guy who would be one of the best offensive lineman in the league…except he’s been suspended twice for PED use. Not only that but when guys on “The Juice” try to get “clean,” the side-effects can include chronic muscle and tendon injuries…many of which require treatment with medically-prescribed anabolic steroids.
Heroin addicts call their version of this cycle “chasing the dragon.” Thanks to Akira Kurosawa, my nights are filled with visions of my team missing the playoffs because somebody was on a quest to become a mutant “Michelin Tire Guy,” then couldn’t escape the “injecting demon.”
Kurosawa’s Dream: Village of the Watermills
It only seems fitting to end with the most recent of my dreams. In Kurosawa’s Village of the Watermills, the theme centers on a quiet, stream-adjacent village where an entering visitor is greeted with the sight of local children placing flowers on a large stone. He meets the village’s elderly “wise man” who is repairing a watermill wheel. The “wise man” tells the visitor that the residents simply call it “The Village,” while outsiders have named it call it “The Village of the Watermills.”
Noticing the watermill, the visitor inquires about the lack of electricity in the village. The “wise man” tells him the villagers decided a while back to eschew modern technology; believing that modern convenience leads to pollution, and that the villagers would rather remain as they say “entirely at one with nature.”
He then asks the “wise man” why the children and the flower-covered stone. The story is that another visitor fell ill and died on that spot. The villagers dug a grave for him there, using the rock seen there now as a headstone. The “wise man” continues by saying it has become a village custom to lay flowers on that spot. As that story is being told, the sounds of a funeral procession can be heard nearby. But rather than being an exercise in mourning, the procession is a celebration of the deceased’s life.
After telling the tale, the “wise man” leaves to join the celebration, while the visitor places flowers on the stone while making his own departure.
J-Dub's Sporting Analogy Dream: Living Room of Statistics
Baseball fans are all about statistics. As a devoteé of America’s National Pastime, I’m no different. Just picture me in my my living room taking in a game and lamenting the idiocy of the new stats in baseball. First of all, I have a rule about people who quote a lot of numbers when it comes to almost any sport. They only come in two types…those who didn’t see the game or those who don’t understand what they are watching.
The new “StatCast” stuff exemplifies that. Crap like “launch angle” and “exit velocity” tell me nothing about whether a guy can play baseball; I’d rather see what he does with two outs and two runners on base when the ballgame is on the line. That’s the true test. I have no need to quantify how fast the ball was traveling when it left the bat. If it knocks the glove of the guy who tried to catch it…it was hit hard. Conversely, if it’s a bloop that dropped neatly between fielders, it’s still a hit.
However, if all it takes is some meaningless number to keep the village youth bring flowers to home plate, I’ll live with it. After all, nothing which doesn’t have the interest of youth has a future.
The Moral of the Story:
Dreams are always have more impact with the actual dreamer…especially if he’s a legendary director. If you’re a blogger…not so much 🙂
Check out Dubsism’s Movies and Blog-A-Thons page for a full schedule of projects past, present, and future!