30-for-30: Four Days in October

four-days-of-october-movie-poster

Release: Tuesday, October 5, 2010

[Netflix]

Directed by: Gary Waksman

In October of 2004 the Boston Red Sox became the first team in major league baseball to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series at the championship level. In that famous set they sent their BFF’s the New York Yankees packing, eking out two desperate wins at Fenway before making the dreaded trip to The Death Star Yankee Stadium for their signature final two victories.

Boston was able to carry their historic momentum into the World Series, making short work of the St. Louis Cardinals in a 4-0 sweep, tallying eight consecutive playoff wins and securing their first World Series Championship in 86 years. The Curse had indeed been reversed. But as some players noted in interviews at the time, something about defeating them Yanks felt more satisfying than receiving their rings. Director Gary Waksman certainly seems to agree. Their dominance in the World Series becomes such an afterthought here, making only a brief appearance in the form of a line of text slotted in at the end credits.

Though, it sort of makes sense for Four Days in October to play out as more of an underdog story than an encapsulation of their entire too-good-to-be-scripted postseason run. October 17, 18, 19 and 20 were the most pivotal of all, and they successfully encouraged the seething hatred shared between the two cities to peak at perhaps an all-time high. There’s a strong, prideful, cultural component to the film that may not be understood or that does not translate well to those who aren’t represented by the talking heads in this film — including Boston native and series creator Bill Simmons — but that which is integral to the experience. The real meat-n-potatoes of this rivalry is the tension underlining every pitch, every stolen base, every out, every controversial call.

On the matter of controversial calls (this really is a perfect segue): one of the pivotal acts, one of the defining moments of not only the series but of this film is the now legendary performance put on by Curt Schilling in Game 6, in which he pitched like a man possessed — or perhaps just in delirium from the pain he was in — against the Yankees, at Yankee Stadium, allowing only a single run in seven innings while his right sock turned red from blood loss following an impromptu medical procedure that allowed him to play. His heroic effort, along with some clutch homers from none other than David Ortiz enabled the Sox to best the pinstripes 4-2, forcing a decider and putting the Yankees even further back on their heels, heels that were threatening to give way at any moment.

The controversy? Four Days in October‘s original format runs fifteen-ish minutes longer than what you’ll find on TV now. The (six-year-old) film has been trimmed to fit within the hour block in an effort to accommodate live games that sometimes often run long. There are several episodes within 30 for 30‘s first season alone that fit within that time block, but few of them feel as obviously affected by editing as this. What’s worse, the nature of what’s missing from the final reel — a substantial amount of Schilling’s Game 6 performance — would have undoubtedly elevated the drama. It often feels cheap and lazy to criticize something based on stuff that’s not there or stuff you think you want to see included but no sports fan is going to say there isn’t enough material in this particular chapter of a storied rivalry to fill a time block twice as long. Or more.

Adding to the drama around the production is the acrimonious manner in which Schilling and ESPN parted ways earlier this year after the former pitcher (who had worked for ESPN for six years almost to the day) yet again engaged in what was deemed a social media no-no (particularly for employees who regularly appear on camera). He tweeted a rather radical political image that commented on North Carolina’s recent law changes regarding bathroom use for transgender people, a move that put the Worldwide Leader in Sports in a not-so-difficult position. They kinda had to fire him. There’s conspiracy, and fan paranoia can run rampant if left unchecked, and then there’s what can only be described as bad publicity. The re-cut version of the film aired after Schilling’s firing, and Schilling didn’t much appreciate it. Don’t you just hate it when things become overly political? I hate that Four Days in October slightly suffers because of these distractions.

Working with what we have here, there’s still plenty to become invested in, even if you’re not a believer in America’s pastime being a game that often lasts five hours long. The documentary features some truly compelling highs: Dave Roberts’ game-saving stolen bases; Ortiz’ walk-off home runs; A-Rod getting handsy with Bronson Arroyo (who could forget?). A good chunk of audience reaction and fan celebration — mostly the Red Sox faithful, occasionally a New Yorker with their mouth agape — is spliced in with soundbites from players and their little moments in front of the camera. The enthusiasm behind the scenes is genuinely contagious. If there’s one thing that isn’t missing in Waksman’s film, it’s the heart and soul of Boston baseball. This is unabashedly a film for those dedicated fans, and why shouldn’t it be. This really is a remarkable story.

Click here to read more 30 for 30 reviews.

Recommendation: Unfortunate that some extracurricular stuff comes into play here, but Four Days in October is nonetheless sufficiently exciting and recounts several of the defining moments throughout that stunning week in the postseason. Bostonians have this one set on replay every fall, while Yankee fans, I just don’t see making the effort to track this down, even if it is right there on Netflix. I don’t blame them. 

Rated: NR

Running Time: 53 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.beyondhe.com.au; http://www.foxsports.com 

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8 thoughts on “30-for-30: Four Days in October

  1. Pingback: A DSB Quick Thought: Congrats, Cubs! | digitalshortbread

  2. Damn man. I’m Aussie, so I know nothing about baseball. Don’t hate it, don’t love it, barely know what it is. But this story sounds so juicy I want to see it! Heh, your remark about certain fans not wanting to see this makes sense too

    I wonder if they’ll do a similar one about LeBron coming back from 3-1. No other team had done that in the finals, I’m pretty sure. Though there was no controversy of course…. just LeBron playing like he was possessed. As much as I hate to admit that 😛

    • Hey man no apologies necessary — I know next to zero about baseball myself and I’m in America! It’s America’s pastime. And I call myself a sports fan. But honestly I just don’t like the sport that much, it’s too slow-paced for me. Though I have been flipping back and forth btw some NBA action and this Game 7 between the Cubs and Indians tonight. There’s something different about this one, both of those clubs haven’t had success in decades. There’s a lot on the line.

      Four Days in October is a pretty good one but it lacks some insight due to political bullshit, which is unfortunate. I think it’s also one that more devoted baseball followers will get a bigger kick out of

      • Ahhh okay, yeah unless its a really well done story, the only ones I’ve been able to get into are the basketball ones. They should start doing ones on MMA, those I’d watch in a heartbeat!!

  3. Great write-up and I remember that entire post season. As I was reading your review the firing of Schilling by ESPN (which you touch on later) was right their in my mind. What a shame that they pruned much of his amazing pitching performance out. ESPN is pretty politically minded overall but this is an instance of history speaking. What he did in that game is fact and really had nothing to do with his later comments and/or firing. It really should be included.

    • It’s unfortunate this film is a product of the political nature of ESPN. Though I think they did the right thing by firing him, his behavior is a little icky. I don’t care about athletes so much that I hate them for their political/religious beliefs or whatever, and this isn’t a case of that. I docked several points off of this because the final product here is seriously affected by outside influence. I would have loved to see Schilling’s performance in that game more in-depth. It makes an appearance here and his teammates comment on it and all that but one can only imagine how much more of an impact this would have had if that game had more involvement in the narrative here. As it stands, a decent watch but nothing more (at least for me).

      • Yep, Schilling certainly didn’t help his case, but that is so unrelated from his incredible post season performances. Like you mention, imagine the impact if the full story was given the attention. The infamous bloody sock is pretty legendary.

        • It was crazy to me that he was pitching on that ankle. They give a good close-up of the aftermath of the surgery and it. was. heinous. I’m not even that devoted a baseball follower but I can appreciate how spectacular a performance his was. I mean, wow.

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