Screenplay and Direction

by Ron Shelton



Discussion Questions

Scene 1: The Church of Baseball
1.Does Annie's reference to "the church of baseball" make any sense? In what ways might baseball be considered a religion? Is it simply blasphemy to do so, or could such a belief show respect for religion?

2. Why does Annie prefer "the church of baseball" to other religions?

3. What is Annie's house like, as the camera shows it to us in this scene? What character does her house have? Why does it reveal about her?

4. Annie claims that she imparts "life wisdom" to young baseball players, even "expanding their minds." Is this just a rationalization for her relationships with them, or does she teach them something, at least in the case of Nuke (Ebby Calvin LaLooch)?

Scene 2: Lesson Number One
1. Why can't Nuke hit Crash with the baseball?

2. Why does Crash's observation of "Ball Four" so infuriate Nuke?

3. Why does Crash advise Nuke not to think? a man who reads books "without pictures" give the advice not to think? Does Crash think about what he is doing?

4. How does this scene draw a contrast between the new pitcher and his catcher?

5. How does honor and pride come into play in this scene?

6. How does this scene hint at promising qualities in Nuke's character?

Scene 3: A Dubious Honor
1. What do Annie and Crash have in common? In what ways are they alike and different, as they become manifest in this scene?

2. Why doesn't Crash want Annie to tell the sports reporters about his record?

3. Why in Crash's view is Annie interested in Nuke? Is he correct?

Scene 4: Shaking off the Catcher
1. Crash blames Nuke for not being democratic in his style of playing. What does he means? Is Crash or Nuke the more democratic in his attitude toward baseball? To what extent is baseball a democratic or aristocratic game?

2. Should Crash have "given a gift" to the batter of the opposing team? How does his gift serve his team? What effect does it have?

3. Why does Nuke's pitching improve by the end of this scene? Does he understand what happens? Does Crash?

Scene 5: Respect for Oneself and Respect for the Game
1. Why does Crash not like it when people get the words of songs wrong?

2. What explains Crash's reaction to Nuke's singing? Is it merely because Nuke gets the words of the song wrong? Why is Crash angry at Nuke?

3. What does Crash mean by respecting the game? Why does Crash think that Nuke respects neither himself nor the game?

4. Crash says that Nuke's lack of respect for himself is his (Nuke's) problem, while his lack of respect for the game is his (Crash's) problem? Is it be possible to respect the game without respecting oneself? And vice versa?

5.How does Crash describe life in the majors? Is the life he describes attractive to him?

6. What effect does Crash's using religious images in this scene have (i.e., speaking of the gift the gods gave to Nuke, a baseball stadium as a cathedral, and the "ungodly" breaking balls of major league pitchers)?

7. Why is Nuke angry at Crash in this scene? Why does he say at the end that he wants Crash to show him how to throw a breaking ball?

Scene 6: Released
1.As Nuke is leaving for the major league, Crash gives him one last piece of advice–that he should be cocky and arrogant even when he is getting beaten, and that he should play the game with fear and arrogance. Nuke does not ask him toward what he should feel fear? What do you think Crash means?

2. What must Crash be thinking when he finds out that he has been "released," and will be replaced by a younger catcher? Does he appreciate the manager's recommendation to the baseball organization that Crash might be "might be a fine minor league manager some day"? Why, or why not?

3. Why does Crash join the South Atlantic League in Ashville? Is he just trying "to finish the season," as Annie says?

4. Why does he not tell Annie that he is leaving, but leaves only a note?

5. What does Annie mean by Nuke's lack of self-awareness? Why does she say it is a "gift"?

6. What does Annie mean when she says that Crash understands "about non-linear thinking"?

7. What does Annie mean when she says that baseball has "a spacious non-time kind of time to it"?

Paper topics

1. Crash's last words of the film are "I just wanna be." What does he mean? Is his desire consistent with his desire to be a major league manager?

2. Compare and contrast Nuke's desire for achievement with Crash's. What does each learn in the course of the film?

3. What has Annie learned in the course of the film? Why does she decide to "quit" at the end? Since she is quitting boys, she says, and not baseball, must she not have a different kind of commitment to baseball? What might that be?

4. Does baseball provide "magic cosmic truth" about "the fundamental ontological riddles of our time," as Annie says? Is Annie saying anything, or is the film simply illustrating that talking to Annie, as Crash says earlier, is like a martian talking to a fungo?

5. A baseball manager has to be a good leader. What qualities does Crash show in this film that would make him a good manager? Why does Annie think that he would be "great"?

6. Do Crash's qualities of leadership give him more in common with Henry V, Patton, or Willie Stark?

7. How does the film illustrate Rousseau's distinction between self-love (amour de soi) and selfishness (amour-propre)?

8. Does the film confirm or question Tocqueville's thesis that America produces so many ambitious individuals but so few with lofty ambition?

9. Does Annie's remark that "nothing will stop Nuke," and "the world is made for people who are not cursed with self-awareness," call into doubt her "trust" in the game of baseball? Does the film confirm Annie's view of who will succeed in the world, question it, or both?

10. Imagine that Aristotle and Jefferson were hired to review the film Bull Durham. Would they like it? What would they have to say about it? Would the film lead them to reconsider any of the ideas they presented in the readings in this unit?

11. At the end of the film, Annie attributes the following words to Walt Whitman, "I see great things in baseball. It's our game. The American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us." This view of baseball suggests that it is an institution worth preserving, even a political institution, understanding political in the broad sense of what affects the character of the people of a country. Are there ways in which baseball might contribute to "the perpetuation of our political institutions" by strengthening us against some of the dangers Lincoln warned us about?

Bull Durham Reading

Guide to Unit 2

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