97 F-bombs before the opening credits...welcome to "The Franchise"
That door that Jim Bouton opened when he wrote "Ball Four" in 1969, the classic expose about life in Major League Baseball?
"Showtime" just blew it off the hinges.
It's no secret that baseball players aren't milk-drinking rubes who say "Golly!" when they strike out or kick a double-play grounder. And, if that's news to you, I suggest you steer clear of the new Showtime series on the Florida--oops--I mean, Miami Marlins.
"The Franchise" is another in the ongoing series of all-access reality shows that dot the sports landscape these days, a not-so-subtle knock-off of HBO's "Hard Knocks". And, like the series it's trying to clone, "The Franchise" ain't for apple-cheeked eight year olds unless they just happen to be Teamsters as well. I missed season one which followed the San Francisco Giants. I'm guessing this Atlantic-based version is saltier than it's Pacific predecessor.
Manager Ozzie Guillen drops 97 F-bombs in his season-opening address to the team. How do we know? The team owner is shown punching a clicker each time another falls out of his skipper's head. He probably had to see the trainer afterward for a cortisone shot in his over-used digit.
Guillen is the star--the self-professed truth-tellin' manager who never let common sense get in the way of a good quote. He came to the Marlins via a trade, part of the franchise's off-season re-purposing that saw them build a new stadium, trot out a new logo (with matching threads) and land a pair of All-Star caliber players in Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.
We see the front office in action as it deals with it's first Guillen-induced crisis--Ozzie is caught in print saying, "I love Fidel Castro" which in South Florida is not unlike saying "I'm hot for Adolf HItler" in Jerusalem. A PR crisis ensues and Showtime cameras catch it all--"The Franchise" is, if nothing else, truly all-access.
You see the players party and preen, you see them sulk and swear as the team goes through various hot and cold streaks. You're in the GM's office as he makes the call that lands Carlos Lee via a trade with the Astros, a deal done as the Marlins are busy beating the Brewers in a see-saw battle at Miller Park. Making the trade even more poignant is the fact that the Marlin who stroked the game-winning homer, the struggling Gaby Sanchez, gets sent down to the minors right after the last out to make room for Lee on the roster.
And, you're there to see it all.
Voyuerism as entertainment isn't new, it's just one of the hottest trends in television right now. Awkward is the new funny, and reality is the new drama. Plus, it's cheaper to produce than a genuine show with a script and actors, sets and travel costs. And, we seem to have an endless appetite for it.
As a baseball fan, I love the feel of "The Franchise" and never thought that it was feeding me a line. You'd be naive to think they're showing it all, but it's a lot more than most fans ever could imagine witnessing. For that alone, it's must-see for any adult seam head.
I do mean "adult", as "The Franchise" keeps a consistently salty tongue right up to the end credits when hard-hitting Logan Morrison is on screen cursing a blue streak about not having a bigger part in the show, demanding a new agent, and poking fun of the various grips, producers and other techs whose names are rolling past his face.
And, I couldn't help but wonder what Commissioner Bud Selig was thinking as he watched. I know he's a fierce protector of the game and it's image. I also know he's a very shrewd marketer. I'm wondering if he was at all the slightest bit conflicted by what he was seeing as that door that was being blown off it's hinges, or if he was smiling contently as those credits rolled by and the s-bombs flew.
After all, it's not 1969 any more. You bet your f---ing ass it's not.