There are a lot of great sports movies but the one I’m going to tell you about isn’t one of them. The one I want to talk about is a nice, warm film called “Trouble with the Curve”. It stars Clint Eastwood as a veteran baseball scout who has always had an eye for great players in the making but now his eyes are failing, and he is having trouble.
He and a lot of other scouts are watching a prospect who is supposed to be the next great hitter. But as bad as his eyes are, the Eastwood character can tell that the player can’t hit a curve.
The truth is that when life threw him a terrible curve, when his wife died and left him alone with a six-year-old daughter, he could not cope.
That daughter grew up to be a beautiful, brilliant attorney played by (a radiant) Amy Adams, who has never been whole because of what her father could not give her emotionally. That was the curve she couldn’t hit.
Justin Timberlake plays a scout who was a former baseball player who threw his arm out when a team made him pitch too much. The curve in his life was getting injured. He’s now a scout who hopes to be a sportscaster. But he never recovered emotionally from what happened.
As these lives intertwine, the metaphor of trouble with the curve deepens.
In baseball, the curveball is a type of pitch thrown with a characteristic grip and hand movement that imparts forward spin to the ball, causing it to dive as it approaches the plate. From a hitter’s perspective, the curveball will start in one location, usually high or at the top of the strike zone, and then dive rapidly as it approaches the plate. The most effective curveballs will start breaking at the apex of the arc of the ball flight and continue to break more and more rapidly as they approach and cross through the strike zone.
There was once a debate on whether a curveball actually curves or is an optical illusion. In 1949, Ralph B. Lightfoot, an aeronautical engineer at Sikorsky Aircraft near here, used wind tunnel tests to prove that a curveball curves. On whether a curveball is caused by an illusion, Hall of Famer pitcher Dizzy Dean said: “Stand behind a tree 60 feet away, and I will whomp you with an optical illusion!” Curve balls are real, though they do play tricks on our eyes and minds.
So in Baseball, a curveball is a pitch thrown with a strong downward spin, causing the ball to drop suddenly and veer to the side as it approaches home plate.
In life, a curveball is defined as something which is unexpected, surprising, or disruptive.
Things come at you in totally unexpected ways.
If anything is certain about life, it is that you should expect to be thrown curveballs.
I don’t know about your life, but I feel like I’m thrown curve balls every week. They can be little things: This thing in the house breaks, there is some huge expense I never expected. Then there are the bigger things: some- thing is going on with one of my kids or grandchildren, someone calls me out of the blue with a big problem, I have to change my schedule because of an emergency.
Hitting a curveball can be tricky but we have to hit curves all the time.
If the curveball analogy is that it says that something came at you that was not expected, the truth is that good batters have a good idea of what’s coming — they expect the curveballs.
How do I know to expect curveballs in my life? We Jewish people have been thrown curves for thousands of years. So Judaism teaches us to be realistic about life. Saying that the curve balls are illusions does not help us face what is coming at us.
As we think about the new year in front of us, as we think about our lives on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we reflect on the messages of our Machzor, our High Holiday Prayer Book, and the Torah. And in the weekly cycle, we will soon be finishing the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Torah, in which we are given laws that face up to real situations. There are a lot of laws that say: If this happens or if that happens or if these people try to do this to you, here’s what to expect and here’s what you should do about it.
You’re about to cross the river and go into the Promised Land.
This is a way of saying: You’re facing a future in your life that will bring all sorts of new situations.
And the High Holidays say: We’re entering the new year. Judaism does not present a Pollyanna picture of the future. We are reminded, in very clear and strong terms, what will happen to us if we do not face up to them.
We cannot pretend that life is going to give us easy pitches to hit.
There will always be curve balls; they are not just optical illusions.
But if we think about our lives, if we’re ready for all the things that will be thrown at us, if we expect curve balls, we will be able to hit them right out of the park.