Throwback Thursday: ‘The Bad News Bears’ rebels against modern sportsmanship

Since professional baseball season started this week, let’s revisit “The Bad News Bears,” an American comedy about a washed-up coach with a drinking problem and his team of middle-school misfits playing Little League baseball during the 1970s.

Back then, the coolest kid in seventh grade would ride a motorcycle and smoke cigarettes, fights were settled on and off the field, and a Rolling Stones concert was the coolest place to be on a Friday night. So many classic scenes in this movie would ignite national uproar if they happened today, which makes this film even more intriguing.


“Jews, ‘spics, n*ggers … and now a girl?!” -Tanner

Tanner’s outbursts manage to offend most of his teammates, who are either Jewish-American, Hispanic/Latino or African-American. In addition to offending his new female teammate, he refers to the remaining players as “pansies” or a “booger-eating moron.”

If a loud-mouth white kid were to say racial and sexist slurs as offensive as these, today’s society would eat him alive. But in 1976, Tanner’s disgust was received with a classic line and a killer curve ball from the Bears’ new pitcher Amanda Whurlitzer, “Grab a bat, punk!”


“You tried to hit him, didn’t you? Don’t lie to me! You tried to hit him.” -Yankees Coach

The arrogant Yankees are the best team in the league, and have been bullying the Bears all season long. In the highly-anticipated championship, the Yankees pitcher is hot shot Joey Turner, the coach’s son. He wants to strike out the Bears, not intentionally walk them. When Joey throws a high inside pitch, Coach Turner charges the mound yelling, then hits the young pitcher harshly to the ground in front of the entire crowd.

In this day and age, if a parent chooses to physically discipline their child in public, that calls for domestic violence and could warrant Child Protective Services to get involved. Today, a coach would be suspended and arrested for driving around with 10 kids piled up in his convertible – with open liquor in the car. And a coach forcing the kids to clean swimming pools and serve you martinis all day would not be acceptable either.


“This is a free country. Let’s be democratic, and take a vote.” -Engelberg
“God damn it, nobody’s vote counts around here but mine. Get your gear on, and get your fat ass behind the plate before I kick it up there. And the rest of you pansy-ass quitters, move your asses before I get upset.” -Bears Coach

Coaches are supposed to be supportive. And Coach Buttermaker does have his moments of genuine motivation with the Bears, but he also has intense moments of frustration. He wants to win and let the Bears have a chance to get back at the Turners and the Yankees.

If that means encouraging players to take a pitch to the back, cheatingly teaching Amanda to use Vaseline for better pitches or recruiting a juvenile delinquent to play on the team  ̶  that’s what Buttermaker is going to do. Second place is not in option in an era where there are no participation trophies.