The 4th of July is almost here, which means it's time for a long weekend of BBQs, beers, baseball, beaches, and some other fun adjectives that start with the letter b and are reminiscent of summer. In my opinion, July 4th weekend is hands-down the best weekend of the year, and I always look forward to it immensely. And since most of us will be away from the computer for much of this week as we are out enjoying time with friends and family, I thought I would pay my respects to the holiday a little early by kicking off a series I have had rattling around in my head for a while now, a series I'd like to call "Casting the Patriots." Over the course of the next few weeks (and maybe longer, depending on what kind of response I get and how lazy I'm feeling), I'm going to be re-casting some of my All-Time favorite movies using members of the 2013 Patriots. And while there are certainly movies out there that pay homage to the 4th a little more directly than the one I'm about to break down, I don't think there is a movie that better represents the humor, innocence, purity, and magic that comes with being a kid in the summertime than the 1993 classic "The Sandlot." For my money, there aren't many better sports movies out there, and since 2013 marks the 20th Anniversary of the film, that gives me all the more reason to kick off the series with it.
Below is a list of the movie's main characters, a brief description of each (along with a link to a picture for those who don't remember that well or have the awful awful misfortune of having never seen the movie), followed by who I think is the New England Patriots equivalent.
Scott "Scotty" Smalls. Smalls is the new kid in town, a shy, unassuming nerd who is struggling to forge a relationship with his new stepfather. Inexperienced and completely clueless about the game of baseball, Smalls has been an outcast for most of his life. It isn't until he meet Benny Rodriguez, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, that he finally starts to figure out life, gain some confidence, and come into his own. Smalls doesn't have the pure talent to amount to anything as a baseball player, but he tries hard and brings a lot of value to the Sandlot. He eventually goes on to be a beloved playcaller for his local sports team.
New England Patriots equivalent: Tim Tebow. Tebow is the new kid on the block, rejected by the rest of the world and just trying to fit in wherever he can. His new head coach is a little prickly, and so it can certainly be intimidating as he tries to prove himself worthy. Luckily, he got the chance to meet a once and future legend who is willing to take him under his wing, show him the ropes, and get him in good with the rest of the team. He's the young, inexperienced, naive little boy we all used to be - except that he's in his 20s and much richer than us. As soon as Tebow is out of football, he'll be able to look forward to a great life as a beloved Florida sports media figure.
Benjamin "Benny the Jet" Rodriguez. Benny is the oldest, wisest, most attractive, and most mature of the Sandlot kids, and the one everyone looks up to. He is a baseball fanatic and is known particularly for his speed and incredible accuracy. Benny the Jet takes Smalls under his wing and molds him from a nobody into a somebody over the course of one short summer. Benny the Jet performs legendary feats of strength and speed as a youth and goes on to have a long, successful career as a professional athlete. As he gets older, there are those who say that the Jet has lost a step or two, but then he throws it right in all their faces by stealing home.
New England Patriots equivalent: Tom Brady. An absolute layup right here. If there is a more accurate movie character comparison than Benny the Jet and Tommy B, I'd like to hear it. Until they somehow manage to combine Braveheart, Rocky, Rudy, The Natural, Rambo, and The Terminator all into one movie, it's going to be Brady and Benny all day long. Tommy B would have gotten the nod as the Jet even if Tebow hadn't come into the fold, but with the kind of selfless mentoring he's doing this summer, it makes even more sense. Brady is a living legend, the best player the Patriots are likely to ever see, and is the unquestioned heart and soul of the team.
Hamilton "Ham" Porter. Ham is a bit of a wildcard who isn't afraid to get loud, act crazy, or show off. A big guy, he is a good power hitter on the team and he hits his fair share of home runs. Ham is also responsible for introducing us to one of the most perfect lines in movie cinema history when he says, "You're killing me, Smalls!," and his antics make him one of the most beloved characters from the film. Ham goes on to become a pro wrestler, wrestling under the moniker "The Great Hambino."
New England Patriots equivalent: Rob "Gronk" Gronkowski. The names almost even fit together. I could 100% see Gronk fitting right in with the Sandlot crew, playing catcher, talking trash, crushing S'mores, stealing chewing tobacco from his old man, and just pounding home runs. Gronk is loud, he's a meathead, and he never shies away from antics, but he's also a phenomenal football player and one of the most lovable oafs there is.
Michael "Squints" Palledorous. Squints may look like a nerd, but don't let the glasses fool you; he's a good ballplayer and can tell a good story with the best of them. He's also a bit of a pervert and has a pretty big crush on a much older woman. Squints eventually gets the girl, grows up to buy the local pharmacy, and ends up with nine kids, enough to field an entire starting baseball lineup.
New England Patriots equivalent: Robert Kraft. If only Antonio Cromartie played for the Patriots; he would be a lock here. However, that just isn't the case, and so the next best choice here is Bob Kraft. Kraft is the classic story of a quiet yet intelligent guy who grows up, buys the local franchise, and ends up batting significantly out of his league when it comes to girlfriends. Good for you, Mr. Kraft, you just keep on living the dream.
Alan "Yeah-Yeah" McClennan. Yeah-Yeah is a bit of a wise-cracker, and is known for starting a lot of his sentences by saying "Yeah-Yeah", hence his nickname. Yeah-Yeah eventually gets shipped off to military school and goes on to become one of the founding fathers of the sport of bungee jumping.
New England Patriots equivalent: Zoltan Mesko. Mesko is one of the more unassuming players on the Patriots, but the more you hear about him, the more of a character you realize that he is. Apparently he is a lot of fun to hang out with, is always cracking jokes, and doesn't back down from a friendly challenge. And while I don't know what his relationship to bungee jumping is, I do know that oftentimes punters will train with bungee cords attached to their legs to add leg strength. So there's that.
Kenny DeNunez. DeNunez is the team's pitcher and probably the second best player on the team after the Jet. He's a straight shooter, a fast talker, and fiercely loyal to his friends. DeNunez eventually goes on to play minor league baseball for a period before devoting himself to spearheading a little league organization for inner city kids.
New England Patriots equivalent: Devin McCourty. McCourty is an extremely talented player who has always done everything asked of him without so much as a second thought. He was a four down player in college, he plays multiple positions as a Patriot, and never thinks twice about his role, just so long as he can help the team. McCourty is a no-nonsense, all-business guy who represents one of the best pure athletes on the team. McCourty is also involved in several charitable organizations, including a foundation that helps children afflicted with sickle-cell disease.
Bertram Grover Weeks. Bertram is also something of a nerd, but unlike Squints, he is much more low-key. He plays hard, keeps his mouth shut, and is never one to start any trouble. Bertram ends up getting really into the Sixties, and nobody ever saw him again.
New England Patriots equivalent: Nate Ebner. Ebner remains something of a mystery, and there's definitely a chance that, after this summer, nobody will ever see him again. But that doesn't change the fact that he's a no-nonsense, hard hitting, lunchpail player who flies under the radar and shows up every day.
Timmy and Tommy Timmons. Timmy and Tommy are brothers, and they are fairly inseparable. Timmy is the older brother, and Tommy, as the youngest member of the Sandlot, constantly repeats everything Tommy says. Both brothers go on to become architects and make millions when they invent the strip mall.
New England Patriots equivalent: Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. The Patriots' RB duo is a perfect match here; the larger, more powerful Ridley does the bulk of the work, and Vereen comes in as the shiftier, more elusive back that can also catch passes out of the backfield. It's tough to talk about one without at least mentioning the other, and while they aren't superstars, they are most certainly a vital part of this team. Ridley and Vereen may not go on to become architects, but they represent one of the better 1-2 punches in the NFL and will hopefully be mentioned in tandem for several years to come.
Hercules, aka "The Beast". Hercules is a massive English Mastiff who lives behind the Sandlot where the kids play baseball. Known by the kids as "The Beast", he greedily hoards any ball hit over the fence. Although the kids think he's mean and evil, it turns out he just likes keeping the balls and is defensive about them. Really, he turns out to be a gentle giant, and at the end he's considered their mascot.
New England Patriots equivalent: Vince Wilfork. Huge, ferocious, and completely dominant, once Big Vince falls on the ball, there's just no way that you're getting it back (unless, of course, you'd like to challenge his wife Bianca for it). And while Wilfork is a force on the field, he's a big, cuddly teddy bear off the field and one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. Those who don't know him well stay away lest they get eaten, and Lord help you if you rub him the wrong way, but for the most park Wilfork is a great guy who is very, very good at his job of getting to the ball. Wilfork is also probably the only person on the team that Tommy B can outrun, which lends itself well to the legendary "Pickle the Beast" chase scene between Benny and Hercules.
Bill. Bill is Smalls' stepfather, and he has something of a rocky relationship with his stepson. The two actually share a great deal in common, but Bill's gruff demenor and stern outward appearance make him somewhat standoffish throughout the movie. However, Smalls eventually learns that Bill is a good man, a devoted husband, and a loving father - just as long as you give him a chance and appreciate just how hard he works to build and maintain a family. Bill even ends up teaching Smalls how to throw.
New England Patriots equivalent: Bill Belichick. I mean, come on - the names are even the same. Everyone is quick to dismiss Belichick as cold, unfeeling, uncaring, and bad-tempered, but the fact of the matter is that he is a great coach, an amazing mentor, a shrewd businessman, and a strong leader. And while it may take a while for some players to warm up to him, he has the power to turn careers around, build reputations, and win ballgames. You can hate him if you want to, but he's actually a pretty great all-around guy.
Mr. Mertle. Mr. Mertle used to play professional baseball in the Negro League during the Babe Ruth era, and was a good friend of Ruth himself. He would have gone down as one of the all-time greats had a stray pitch not hit him in the head and blinded him. Mertle has something of a reputation as a grumpy old man, and perhaps the meanest that ever lived, but in actuality he has an incredibly kind heart, as was discovered by Benny and Smalls when they approached his door in an attempt to recover the Babe Ruth signed baseball that Smalls hit over the fence.
New England Patriots equivalent: Pepper Johnson. A former linebacker turned coach, Johnson has been with the Patriots for over 10 years now as a coach and defensive coordinator. A very solid player in his time, Johnson was a 1986 second round draft choice who was a member of the Super Bowl XXI and XXV winning New York Giants teams under coach Bill Parcells and assistant coach Bill Belichick. Johnson finished his career with 25.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 14 interceptions, and over 1,200 tackles. He is now seen as a somewhat harsh, but otherwise fantastic coach who has been a key member of the Patriots staff since he joined the squad.
So there you have it: the 2013 Sandlot.
Are there any movies in particular you would like to see me cast the Patriots in? If so, leave them in the comment section, and I'll see what I can do!