According to this movie, the little black kids of America owe all their sports knowledge, acumen, physical skills and inspiration to the white man. That's because in "Hardball," the white man, no matter what his physical or intellectual limitations, is always capable of teaching little black kids something, because little black kids don't have mentors of their own, given that according to Hollywood, their elders are apparently usually in a gang or otherwise occupied.
Such is the case in the Chicago projects where there's nobody around to coach some of the little black kids until Conor O'Neil (Keanu Reeves) is roped into it by a buddy. Conor is a complete failure as far as life is concerned: he's gambled away everything he owns, drinks too much, and even has goombahs on his ass trying to collect from him. Conor is one wrong turn from being beaten to death.
Fortunately, such personal limitations don't matter much when it comes to teaching black kids how to play baseball. In fact, all they need is for that one white guy to show up so that they'll stop fighting amongst each other and realize the true importance of the word "team." Which brings us to "Hardball's" next guileless stereotype: No matter how bad things get, white people always know the meaning of the word "team"; black people in the projects don't have the slightest idea what the word "team" means until a white guy shows up to teach it to them.
The only thing Conor really teaches his team is how to show up, which is apparently key to winning in sports as in life. Even though he's an imbecile, Conor convinces teacher Elizabeth Wilkes (Diane Lane) that he's worth kissing (and probably marrying if we are to extrapolate correctly) simply by showing up. "Hardball" follows in a long line of "let's teach the down-and-out kids how to play a sport" movies beginning with "The Bad News Bears." Perhaps one day the black kids will find that there are actually black people in their neighborhood who can teach them things. Then again, since there are barely any black people in Hollywood who aren't changing trash can liners, that's doubtful.
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