Before I stumbled across this song, my only familiarity with Buckethead came from a mention in South Park‘s Guitar Hero episode. While there are no lyrics, there’s no doubt this guy is one hell of a guitar player. I’m not sure how, exactly, he goes about naming his songs, though I probably would’ve never taken the time to listen to this one if it didn’t have “baseball” in the title. Buckethead just found himself a new fan, though, because I’ve listened to a couple more songs since listening to this one, and I’m hooked!
I rarely get to mention this here, because so little of the show ever touches on baseball, but I have been a huge South Park fan for many, many years. The show tends to direct its satire more towards politics and popular culture, rather than sports, but the makers did include one episode in its ninth season that revolves around Little League baseball.
Many of the boys from South Park play on the town’s Little League team, and “The Losing Edge” opens in the last moments of the final game of the regular season. The parents of both teams sit in the stands, cheering their kids on. The South Park boys, meanwhile, are spread out of the field in their defensive positions, moaning about how much they despise baseball. Token yawns miserably at first base and Butters is singing in the outfield to a ladybug, completely oblivious to what is going on with the game. Meanwhile, in the stands, Stan’s father Randy Marsh is drunk and picking a fight with a dad from the other team, which causes Stan to squeeze his eyes in embarrassment, even though it seems evident this isn’t the first time this has happened.
The boys win the game and begin to celebrate that their season is finally over so that, “We can start having fun again!” Their enthusiasm is quickly shot down, however, when they learn that because they finished with the best record in the division, they are now going into the postseason. Discussing their bad luck over celebratory pizza, Stan points out that the finals are sudden death elimination, and the boys agree to deliberately lose a game while making it look like they are trying to win.
What the boys did not count on, however, is that every other Little League team in the area also hates the game and wants to lose as much as they do. Each game, therefore, becomes a competition not to win, but to play worse than the other guy. The South Park boys, it turns out, are too good at baseball, and keep advancing through the finals.
Randy Marsh, meanwhile, apparently takes his Little League dad brawls seriously. Every game sees Randy stripping off his shirt at some point as he hollers at another dad, ending with him bloody, bruised, and getting led by an officer to a police cruiser. As he’s handcuffed and getting dragged away, Randy yells at the police, “This is America!” Because apparently, in Randy’s mind, American freedom includes the right to fight whomever he wishes.
No matter how much they try, the South Park boys cannot manage to lose a game, and suddenly they find themselves qualifying for the Colorado state championship, to be played at Coors Field. To make matters worse, they learn that if they win this game, their entire season starts over on the national circuit. When the South Park team meets their opponents, a team from Denver, Randy also gets to meet the Denver team’s dad brawler, a large and imposing man in a bat costume known as “Bat Dad.”
Randy is so intimidated by the Bat Dad, he resolves not to attend the championship game at all. The championship game gets underway, and the South Park boys are aghast to discover that the Denver team have become experts at sucking. (As a side note, every time I watch this episode, I cannot help but wonder: if the Denver team truly excelled at sucking, wouldn’t they have been eliminated long ago?) Just as it is beginning to look like South Park is going to lose their entire summer to baseball, Randy Marsh shows up with a beverage tray full of beers, calling out, “Denver sucks!” Before long, he and the Bat Dad are in each other’s faces.
I love the social commentary this episode provides. Obviously, the plot around Randy and his brawls is a hilarious poke at all the Little League parents who take the competition a little too seriously at that level, as well as parents who just can’t seem to be civil in public and make it all about themselves. As for the boys, I love the comedy created by turning the goal of the game on its head. The teams involved engage in reverse trash talking, telling each other things like, “We’re going down! We’re gonna get creamed!” Their attitudes reflect the ridiculousness of how we sometimes force our kids to do things that they hate just because it’s the socially accepted thing to do. Rather than squeezing kids into a box of having to play a particular sport or instrument or do some other activity just because we think they should, parents would do well to listen to their kids and take a moment to consider what they want.