Major League ELT
25 years ago a film came out. It was the type of movie that changed lives. It was the type of movie that told us about life, about winning, and about losing. It was the type of movie I watched numerous times and memorized the quotes to. If I hear such a quote now it brings a smile to my face and makes me believe the speaker/writer is a person worthy of respect and surely worth listening to. That movie, of course, was Major League. I am not sure if everyone reading this needs to rush off and watch the movie, but it probably wouldn’t hurt. I don’t think one needs to be a fan of “Colonial Cricket” to follow this post, though. At least, I hope not. Those very familiar with the film might enjoy this list of 15 things you might not know about Major League.
Below I shared some quotes from the movie and valiantly try to match them to some thoughts on ELT. Sorry (not sorry) there are some swears and not very professional stuff below. There are also some potential **spoilers** for a 25 year old movie.
I think this could also be a nice little blog challenge as well. The steps are as follows.
1. Choose a movie.
2. Choose some quotes from that movie. (IMDB works well and supplied all the quotes below) and apply them to teaching and learning and stuff like that.
3. Share it with me and I will link it here.
[Update/Note: In the comments some folks have shared quotes from other movies in the comments. This is also excellent and fun so please feel free to share some quotes and what they might mean for English language teaching.]
This is not the first time I have used this format for a post. The previous time was for “The Big Lebowski.” I was thrilled when the incomparable David Dodgson wrote a post with Monty Python quotes.
From the 2014 collection here is a lovely Breakfast Club inspired post by David Mansell over on Anne Hendler’s blog.
What follows is some quotes from Major League and my ELT related thoughts.
(Please note: Major League II never happened)
Rick Vaughn: What’s that shit on your chest?
Eddie Harris: Crisco.
Eddie Harris: Bardol. Vagisil. Any one of them will give you another two to three inches drop on your curve ball. Of course if the umps are watching me real close I’ll rub a little jalapeo up my nose, get it runnin’, and if I need to load the ball up I just…
Rick Vaughn: You put snot on the ball?
Eddie Harris: I haven’t got an arm like you, kid. I have to put anything on it I can find. Someday you will too.
For me, this quote is all about energy and aging, two things that come to my mind from time to time, especially when I am in my rocking chair trying to plan my next lesson. Now that I have been in this game for 15 years and I am now seeing myself as a cagey veteran and occasional junk-ball pitcher I think it is important to find tricks to keep energy up for when it is truly needed. What comes to mind immediately is things like making the most with just a bit of material and not relying on the ability to be at the front of class firing fastballs for extended amount of time.
(Note: I am not advocating putting snot or Vagisil on worksheets.)
Forget about the curve ball, Ricky. Give him the heater!
While we can make a case for saving our energy and resources and everything sometimes we need to go with our best stuff and not worry about mixing it up. Use your best ideas now and worry about tomorrow when it comes. Don’t worry about keeping people off balance, just do all you can now.
Harry Doyle: That’s all we got, one goddamn hit?
Assistant: You can’t say goddamn on the air.
Harry Doyle: Don’t worry, nobody is listening anyway.
A lot of what we are allowed to do in class depends on who is watching and what they (stakeholders?) expect. So, sometimes a little bit of cussin’ is not such a bad thing, depending on the audience. This also might mean situations where the admin is a little more clueless and/or hands-off the teacher is afforded more autonomy. Some of my best teaching and training experiences have come when nobody was listening anyway.
Come on Dorn, get in front of the damn ball! Don’t give me this “olé” bullshit!
Sometime you just got to get stuck in. For me this means getting in there and dealing with language. I think a lot of time as teachers it can be all too easy to focus on other issues and avoid the nuts and bolts of language. We can’t always avoid this, even when the finer points of language might seem charging bulls and blistering groundballs from time to time. I think I am talking about something akin to what Jim Scrivener might call “getting your hands dirty” in teaching.
Harry Doyle: Monty, anything to add?
Harry Doyle: Monty, anything to add?
Colorman: Ummm… no.
Harry Doyle: He’s not the best colorman in the league for nothing, folks!
The nameless colorman was perhaps aware that sometimes the best thing we can say is nothing. This can create more room for students to do the talking.
Roger Dorne: See, I’ve got it right here in my contract. It says, “I don’t have to do any calisthenics that I don’t feel are necessary.” So what do you think about that?
Contracts don’t always mean the same thing they do in places that are not home. My best advice for those teaching abroad is to find out exactly how important and valuable contracts are in their new context before expecting that the contract is anything more than just a starting point. The answers might surprise and shock you. For me it is always a matter of costing it out and being aware of how far beyond the contract I am willing to go. I am am not sure how useful cries of “It is not in my contract!” are in various countries around the world. I think Lou’s response might be typical in many places.
(You are really going to want to go ahead and click on Lou’s response if you don’t know what it is.)
Harry Doyle: Just a bit outside. He tried for the corner and missed.
Sometimes we see what we want to see. Sometimes that is very far from the objective reality. We need to try to be as accurate as possible about what think we are seeing.
(I am not actually sure if Harry was seeing things in his own way or just being sarcastic or a homer or what.)
I’m not much for giving inspirational addresses, but I’d just like to point out that every newspaper in the country has picked us to finish last. The local press seems to think that we’d save everyone the time and trouble if we just went out and shot ourselves. Me, I’m for wasting sportswriters’ time. So I figured we ought to hang around for a while and see if we can give ’em all a nice big shitburger to eat!
Sometimes rallying around together as a group in the face of low expectations of outsiders can be great motivation. Quite a few times in my life I have been “stuck” teaching the lowest level and they worked their asses off and improved so much and showed they were capable of much more than had been expected of them. I am not sure if giving the world a big shitburger to eat is always the best and most healthy motivation but I believe it can work at times.
Jake Taylor: I play for the Indians.
Chaire Holloway: Here in Cleveland? I didn’t know they still had a team!
Jake Taylor: Yup, we’ve got uniforms and everything, it’s really great!
Sometimes I imagine I am Jake when I talk to non-teachers who seem befuddled that teaching English is an actual job. “Yep, we’ve got whiteboards and everything!” is what I feel like saying. Christina Rebuffet-Broadus has a great post on the question, “So is that your real job?” Much like the cute lady in Major League, people don’t mean any harm by it, but it still is not an enjoyable moment when such questions are asked.
Lou Brown: Nice catch, Hayes. Don’t ever fuckin’ do it again.
Sometimes an idea that works well and looks cool is not something we need to do again. This is an experience I have had many times. I want to try something a bit crazy and it ends up working well but I realize at some point I don’t need to do it anymore.
Lou Brown: Okay Vaughn. They say you’re a pitcher, you’re sure not much of a dresser. We wear caps and sleeves on this level, son.
Sometimes, you just gotta dress the part, son.
Rick Vaughn: I look like a banker in this.
Jake Taylor: Sorry, Rick, house rules.
Again, sometimes you just gotta dress the part. Sometimes there are house rules related to dress and other things. They might not make sense and they might not be what you want to follow but if you want to be there you might need to follow them. If you really don’t want to follow the rules maybe you don’t want to be there and that is probably good and fine for everyone.
Heywood leads the league in most offensive categories, including nose hair. When this guy sneezes, he looks like a party favor.
This is just a shoutout to fans of K0TESOL, nose and ear hair, Pete Vuckavich, Rusty Staub, and the intersection thereof.
Major League II bloody well did happen. I have the marbles to prove it. However, Major League III….
Mr Moist, your comments provided real life lolz. Thanks.
Hi Mike. Realise I’m not following your instructions re blogging, but a couple of quotes that resonated with me both as a (not very good) student, and later as a teacher, particularly in Asia where I was teaching very young kids with demanding parents:
I don’t think I want to know a six year old who isn’t a dreamer, or a silly heart. And I sure don’t want to know one who takes their student career seriously. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t even have a job. But I know a good kid when I see one. Because they’re all good kids.
FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF
Cameron: I don’t know what I’m gonna do.
Cameron: Yeah, but to do what?
Sloane: What are you interested in?
Sloane: Me neither!
Can’t help but think Sloane may have gone on to forge a career in ELT.
And of course, take a day off once in a while. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”
Would that be the New York Mets Rusty Staub, or the Montreal Expos? I know a bunch of Canadians in KOTESOL… otherwise not sure how Rusty intersects with KOTESOL (let alone Vuckovich!). 😉
Glad to see you’ll be presenting at KOTESOL’s national conference May 31 in Daegu, Mr. Mike.
Rob. This is a great series of questions and thoughts. I am sorry it took me so long to respond.
Vukavich is the key to figuring it all out. Staub is just a red Herring.
I LOVE this post! One of the best movies ever mixed with ELT. You’ve just made my day. 🙂
My favorite movie is Fight Club, and there are a lot of awesome quotes – most not relevant. Here are some I found kind of related:
“Now, a question of etiquette – as I pass, do I give you the ass or the crotch?” I think this when I’m squeezing between students’ desks.
“And then, something happened. I let go. Lost in oblivion. Dark and silent and complete. I found freedom. Losing all hope was freedom.” Related to Dogme?
“Worker bees can leave. Even drones can fly away. The Queen is their slave.” Poetry time.
“You met me at a very strange time in my life.” What every EPIK teacher should say during the first class.
“Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” What we’d all like to say (kidding?)
That was fun.
Anthony I loved the quotes here. Thanks so much for sharing them Over the past few months (sorry for the delay in responding!!) I have thought about the “You met me at a very strange time in my life” line so many times. It makes me laugh and smile all the time. This is great stuff!
Great post, Mike! Just so you know, during the Brewers/Phillies game tonight Uecker spent about a half hour reminiscing about Major League. Fact of the evening: Charlie Sheen was the most athletic cast member. (he had an 86mph fastball)
My”Major League” was “Wayne’s World.” Here goes:
Wayne Campbell: [to an old man in the neighboring car at a red light] Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?
——–We don’t just teach language, we help students discover how to use it in different contexts and with different people. Sociolinguistic issues are important!
Wayne Campbell: So, do you come to Milwaukee often?
Alice Cooper: Well, I’m a regular visitor here, but Milwaukee has certainly had its share of visitors. The French missionaries and explorers were coming here as early as the late 1600s to trade with the Native Americans.
Pete: In fact, isn’t “Milwaukee” an Indian name?
Alice Cooper: Yes, Pete, it is. Actually, it’s pronounced “mill-e-wah-que” which is Algonquin for “the good land.”
Wayne Campbell: I was not aware of that.
———Never underestimate the experience & knowledge of students. I work with beginning level adults now, and I can make guesses about their lives based on the little I know about them, but I can only scratch the surface because of language limitations. I’ve known students for months before finding out that they have amazing talents and knowledge (or sometimes dark and sad histories) I had never suspected.
Wayne Campbell: Well, that’s all the time we had for our movie. We hope you found it entertaining, whimsical and yet relevant, with an underlying revisionist conceit that belied the films emotional attachments to the subject matter.
Garth Algar: I just hoped you didn’t think it sucked.
————Pretty much my two conflicting thoughts at the end of every lesson.
Thanks so much for the comments. I knew I was onto something here with this combo.
The best rumor I have seen come out 25 years later i that Sheen was on steriods in order to strengthen up for the film. That makes a bit of sense perhaps. And maybe it explains the fastball.
That Wayne’s World scene is hilarious! I also love your sincere and excellent point attached to it. That is super important and somehow relates perfectly to Alice Cooper.
I told Anthony I had been thinking about “the weird time in my life” quote above for months. The same goes for the “I just hope you didn’t think it sucked.” That came to mind at the end of many lessons this term so I think i thank you for that. 😉
Great post – thanks!
“Red Belt” is a fight film, written and directed by David Mamet. It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mike Terry, a jujitsu fighter and teacher. Elegantly understated, with a script powerfully economical in its choice of language and accessible to students (thank you David Mamet), this ninety minute magical marvel contains a number of lessons for students and teachers. And a great range of fabulous fight scenes.
1. “A man distracted is a man defeated”. Lesson number one is all about objectives. As students we need to keep in mind why we are learning and as teachers the language we are teaching. Focus.
2. “There is always an escape. There is no situation you can’t turn to your advantage”. This tells us there is always another way we can express an idea or emotion, if lexis fails us. If we can’t understand, we can ask for repetition or clarification. If we can’t answer a question in an exam, maybe we can redefine its terms. We can improvise to survive in real life, like the fighters in the film. Mike is forced to fight outside his academy, where rules are respected, in a fight he doesn’t want and in which no rules apply. He has to fight on his betrayers’ terms. But he prevails.
3. “Everything has a force. Embrace it, deflect it. Why oppose it?” Students bring themselves and their lives to class. They are our greatest resource.
4. “Leave the outside outside”. Mike states this is the first rule of jujitsu and it’s good for any class. Related to 1.
5. “The black belt is symbolic. It’s just to keep your pants up.” Snowflake, one of the fighters says this to a new black belt, Joe. The red belt is awarded when the student is considered ready. It can’t be tested for. The same could be said to apply to collecting exam certificates/teaching qualifications.
6. “Is there some way I can help you?” As teachers we need to know who are students are in order to be able to best motivate them. They in turn can help us become better teachers. We need to ask for their opinions and suggestions. Mike has to confront the very lesson he patiently teaches his students – to never give up.
7. “You never know when you may be disabled.” Prepare, practise, establish a routine, get ahead, do it today because you never know when you are going to need your English!
8. “You gotta make it look real”. George, played by Ray Boom Boom Mancini, tells his fight crew, and also tells us that it’s never just a class. It’s real and as teachers we had better make it authentic for our students on every level.
9. “The fight is the issue.” Courage is being effective in the fight you don’t want to fight, or the class you don’t want to teach. Our most challenging classes are those from which we most learn. The test only begins at the moment we think the test is over and that we failed it. It is in that moment that real learning takes place.
10. “It’s alright. There’s no-one here but the fighters.” No-one in class is going to judge you. We’re all fighting for the same reason, to learn something, and we’re all fighting ourselves and our own limitations. In class, as in Mike’s academy, we’re safe, our classmates and our colleagues have got our backs.
I have found that teens respond well to this film. Possible follow up questions for class: Who in the film does work they never get paid for? Who betrays someone else and why? Who never lies? And the big one – how can we live a good life in a morally compromised world?
Wow thanks so much for the very thoughtful quotes and movie (and lesson) suggestion. Very cool and very much appreciated. I am terribly sorry for taking so long to respond.