A story straight out of Hollywood

Scene: Interior of Hollywood producer’s office. A loud beep comes from his desk.

Hollywood producer: Yes?

Secretary: The next struggling young screenwriter is here to see you, sir.

HP: Send him in.

The door opens, and a young man in slightly wrinkled suit clothes enters. His eyes are a little red, and he has noticeable bags under his eyes.

Struggling young writer: Hello, sir. Thank you for seeing me.

HP: Always happy to help a struggling young writer such as yourself. We’re always looking for the next blockbuster idea.

SYW: I think I might have a couple, sir. They’re sports movies.

HP: Hmmm. Not the first thing I want to hear, but I’ll give you a chance. Let’s hear the first one.

SYW: (a little nervously) All right. Here we go. Picture the most storied franchise in baseball, with one of the top players in the franchise’s long history replete with Hall of Famers….

HP: Wait, the hero plays for the superstar squad? That doesn’t make sense. Shouldn’t the story be about the underdogs, overcoming adversity and overwhelming odds to knock off the No. 1 team?

SYW: But that’s what makes this story different. The team might not be liked by everybody, but the hero is almost universally respected. And he’s closing in on a milestone of 3,000 hits, which no one else in the history of the franchise has ever reached —

HP: What? No one in the history of the franchise has ever gotten 3,000 hits? Is this a fantasy story? Sci-fi?

SYW: No, seriously. But the player is on the downside of his career. His skills are starting to diminish, he’s not hitting the way he always has. The manager is still hitting him leadoff out of respect, but people are saying he should be dropped in the lineup or replaced. Then he gets hurt just a few hits shy and has to go on the DL, building the suspense further.

HP: (flipping through the story SYW has brought) Suspense? Everyone knows he’s gonna get it. The injury’s minor, and it certainly doesn’t threaten his career. All it does is drag it out longer and make it more excruciating for everyone.

SYW: Let me finish. He comes off the DL, and his first few hits are mostly little nubbers, nothing to prove he’s still got much left in the tank. Then just two hits shy of 3,000, he leads off an afternoon game with a single and then, in his second at-bat, golfs a 3-2 pitch into the stands for a home run and his 3,000th hit. He finishes the game 5-for-5, the last hit being a game-winning single in the bottom of the eighth.

HP: (staring at SYW) … Uh-huh. … Look, kid, nobody’s gonna buy this crap. And sports movies often don’t do well across the board, especially internationally. So let’s just —

SYW: Wait! My second story is about soccer, the most popular sport in the world!

HP: Well, that would almost guarantee a bomb stateside, but could really help the worldwide numbers where we make most of our money anyway. OK, kid. One more chance. Let’s hear it.

SYW: OK. It’s the Women’s World Cup —

HP: WHAT?!? Stop right there. Women? C’mon, kid, there’s only one “Bend It Like Beckham.” And we’ve already been pitched the story about the 1999 U.S. women’s team winning the cup on home soil with the penalty kicks and the chick ripping her shirt off after scoring the winning goal. Can you beat that?

SYW: Maybe. It’s not the final, though. It’s just the quarterfinal.

HP: Now that’s just a blatant ripoff of the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team.

SYW: No, this isn’t a rag-tag group of kids who aren’t expected to win. This team might be the best in the tournament.

HP: Another favorite??

SYW: Hear me out. The women lose their last pool play match in ugly fashion, forcing them to play their arch-rival in the quarterfinal just to reach the final four. A team they lost to in the last Cup, 4-0.

HP: Sounds like hockey again….

SYW: Anyway, the team grabs an early lead, but the officiating seems to be going against them and they can’t build on their 1-0 lead. Then the rivals are awarded a penalty kick for a takedown in the box, with the offender being sent off with a red card. Now it’s 10-on-11 the rest of the way.

The goalkeeper makes an amazing save on the penalty kick, but the refs make a controversial call to give the rivals another chance at the penalty kick which they make. Now it’s tied with our heroes down a player. They make it to overtime, but give up a goal at the beginning of overtime, and now it’s even harder for the heroes to come back.

HP: Go on, go on….

SYW: Somehow the heroes keep coming, even as everything seems to be going against them. The rivals are stalling, faking injuries, doing everything they can to run out the clock and turn the audience against them. But that only adds extra stoppage time at the end of the second overtime, and the heroes use those couple of extra minutes to score a miracle goal and force penalty kicks, which they win with another amazing save by their keeper.

HP: … Look, kid, I like you. But the only reason people bought a story like “Miracle” is because they’ve seen video of that game from 1980 ever since.

The soccer team is down a player, and they win? … Nah, something like that could never happen. Come back when you’ve got stories that are a little more believable.

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