Overview: A short-form documentary detailing Will Ferrell’s effort to support Cancer for College. HBO; 2015; TV-14; 50 minutes.
Cancer for College: Craig Pollard was a college baseball player at USC with aspirations to play Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, his career was cut short when he was diagnosed with cancer. After Pollard persevered and beat the disease, he founded Cancer for College, an organization that provides college scholarships to cancer survivors. Craig Pollard was also Will Ferrell’s fraternity brother at USC. Pollard and Ferrell have remained friends and with Ferrell’s support, Cancer for College has awarded scholarships to over 1000 students over the years.
Take Me Out To The Ball Game: Ferrell Takes the Field details the duo’s latest effort to raise money for Cancer for College. During Spring Training 2015, Will Ferrell set out to play ten different positions in a Major League game in one day. This feat is possible, as four Major League players have done it in history, but with Ferrell’s lack of athleticism and skill, there would obviously have to be some arrangements and special circumstances. To achieve this he played the ten positions for ten teams in five separate games across the Cactus League in Arizona. Ferrell’s exploits served a dual purpose, as it was also a way to honor Bert Campaneris, who in 1965 was the first player to complete the feat of playing all nine positions in one game. That being said, Ferrell had a limited amount of time to get to each of the five games, and was only able to play an inning or two at each before traveling to the next. He suited up, played a half an inning on the field, then was traded to the opposing team and played the next half inning at a different position. Ferrell didn’t get too much action as he only had two balls hit at him all day and had only one at-bat as a DH for the Chicago White Sox. He did manage to foul a ball off against Major League pitching. Not bad, Ferrell.
With Ferrell, There is Always Comedy: Ferrell had serious intent and a noble mission with this spectacle, but it is still rooted in comedy. Interspersed between each of the games, Ferrell makes fun of himself, shares hilarious stories about his childhood baseball memories, and jokes around with his kids and teammates. Some of these moments are laugh-out-loud funny; just imagine Ferrell telling a story about being a kid at the ballpark and having his first urinal trough experience.
Overall: The central conceit of this publicity and filmic exercise is destined to upset self-important, old-school sports fans. Case-in-point, NFL icon and general cliché factory John Madden has already publicly spoken his distaste for the entire project to KCBS in San Francisco. Madden described Ferrell’s efforts as having displayed “a lack of respect for the game and what players have to do to get where they are.” A strong indictment, considering Ferrell played a minimal part in a few meaningless spring training games in an effort to raise money for charity. And maybe that’s the most useful takeaway from Ferrell Takes the Field. Sports can be dramatic, moving, and inspirational, but they should also be fun. And they can be both at once. Ferrell Takes the Field is a great example of the latter.