In Dazed and Confused, director Richard Linklater follows a group of teenagers during an unremarkable last day of school in 1976. The movie has no plot, barely any conflict, and certainly no resolution. And the acting is pretty terrible despite a cast of future stars (Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey). The movies succeeds in really only one respect - the details of the time, space, and personalities are portrayed in an authentic and compelling way. Linklater was clearly a baby child of the 70s. The music, the clothes, the speech, and the mannerisms are all pitch perfect. The only thing you don't get from the movie is a contact high. While the movie has no central characters, the mentoring relationship between Mitch Kramer and Randall "Pink" Floyd illustrates a passing of the torch theme from one generation to another. Kramer, played by Wiley Wiggins who has a disturbing tendency to touch his face every five seconds, is graduating from middle school and is framed as the next cool kid. Floyd plays football, Kramer plays baseball. Floyd oozes unrealized potential. During one scene, the head football coach barks at Floyd warning him that "he's in need of a serious attitude readjustment," and "watch out for another crowd you're running with, don't think I haven't noticed." Kramer symbolizes the next hope. The athlete who will win it all while doing so gracefully.
One of the first "events" of the movie is the annual hazing of graduating middle school students by the high school seniors. Essentially, the seniors find any graduating students and beat the crap out of them with a paddle. The newly minted freshmen try their best to avoid a beat down. The first "action" scene of the movie follows a group of freshman as they drive away while being pursued by a group of seniors in their truck. This isn't a car chase scene out of the Fast and the Furious, but it's fun nonetheless. Eventually, the freshmen make it back to their parents just barely escaping trouble. But you never feel the freshmen are safe. And eventually a group of seniors manage to catch Mitch Kramer and give him a severe beat down.
Tonight, Brian Matusz made his first start after coming up from AAA. Recently, the Orioles have questioned his off season work out commitment, while he questioned their coaching. His most recent AAA start was an excellent complete game shut out. Matusz showed a lot of promise at the end of last season and Orioles fans are looking for a little bit of that magic to return. Unfortunately, Matusz didn't come out strong. His fastball looked weak again (upper 80s). And his control wasn't there. But he managed to get through the first inning without any trouble. Despite the good results, a feeling of doom seemed to lurk around the corner.
In the bottom of the second inning, the A's managed to slap Matusz around a bit. Without great control or velocity, his fastball was hitable and his off speed stuff wasn't fooling anyone. Matusz gave up 3 runs and he was lucky. With two outs, Coco Crisp hit a flyball to center and Adam Jones made a great throw to the plate. Wieters caught the ball and made an unbelievable sweep tag. Inning over, further damage prevented. Unfortunately, more damage was around the corner for Mitchy er Matusz. In the bottom of the third, Josh Willingham blasted a Matusz pitch to deep left center. Afterwards, Willingham asked Matusz to sign his paddle but Matusz passed.
After being tortured and harassed, the freshmen want to get a little revenge. In a carefully orchestrated trap, the freshmen lure O'Bannon, the ultimate bully played by Ben Aflleck, into a space where they dump a bucket of paint on him. Score one for the freshmen. In a separate subplot, Kevin Pickford is planning a mega party at his parent's house. The keg is coming and everybody's invited.
Some dude named Guillermo Moscoso started for the A's. While Matusz put the O's in a 3-0 hole, the O's fought back slowly. Josh Bell drove in a run in both the third and fifth innings. And Vladimir Guerrero doubled in Adam Jones in the fourth. After six innings, the score was 4-3 with the O's trailing by one run. Matusz even looked good for a short period of time. His fastball was still in the upper 80s, but his control was better and he was mixing his pitches better even if these pitches were Jamie Moyer like. But with three innings left, there was room for hope at this point. Moscoso has a history of being perfectly mortal, and JJ Hardy has been superman lately.
Unfortunately for Pickford, the man delivering the keg shows up early and attempts to a deliver a keg to Pickford's dad. The parents sense an impending party and decide to stay home for the weekend. With the party off, the scene shifts to the recreation parlor where everybody gathers to figure out what's next. Here, Matthew McConaughey as Wooderson utters some of the most memorable lines in movie history including, "Alright, alright, alright," and "That's what I like about high school chicks. I get older, they stay the same age." Some of the other characters decide to play mailbox baseball which gives an opportunity to Mitch Kramer to earn his cool stripes among the seniors. Eventually, everybody decides to resume the party at the "moon tower" (aka a sparsely wooded area). At first, everything is looking good.
In the bottom of the seventh, Matusz retires David DeJesus and Kurt Suzuki. With 2 outs and light hitting Cliff Pennington coming up next, the O's looked like in a good position to keep the game close.
While there is no real climax in Dazed and Confused, the most tense scene occurs when a mean badass named Clint decides to pick on not so mean Mike. Clint is smoking some weed with his buds while Mike innocently comments, "Somebody is smoking some reefer." This sets off a tense confrontation where Clint nearly gives Mike a beat down until Randy Floyd intervenes and saves Mike. Mike stews all night and eventually decides to punch Clint under the theory that after one punch, somebody will jump in and save him. Unfortunately, Mike's theory didn't pan out as Clint pummels him after MIke landed one good punch. Eventually Floyd breaks things up but the damage has been done.
Matusz gives up a single to Pennington and Jemile Weeks before Buck Showalter pulls him for Troy Patton. Unfortunately, Patton couldn't stop the damage. He gives up hits to Coco Crisp and Hideki Matsui before Chris Jakubauskas comes in and finally ends the inning. Unfortunately, the game was basically done. And to put the final nail on the coffin, the A's scored another run in the 8th giving them a 5 run lead.
You can't have a teenage movie without a bit of angst and lament. Randy Floyd mutters, "If these are the best days of my life, shoot me now." But there is an undercurrent of optimism. As the nerdy redhead opines, "The 50s were boring, the 60s rocked, the 70s oh my god they obviously sucked. But who knows, maybe the 80s will be radical." The movies ends early the next morning as Wooderson and others head into the city to buy Aerosmith tickets.
The one bright spot lately, and I use bright loosely, is Robert Andino. While he's certainly not a person who should end the search to replace Brian Roberts, he has played decently lately and deserves credit for that. He drove in another run in the 9th, but unfortunately, Andrew Bailey finished off the O's. Game over, A's win.
Overall, Dazed and Confused follows a meaningless day in a mostly meaningless year of meaningless meaninglessness (thank you A's Nation). Today's game was part of that narrative. But there are individuals moments of joy in such a quotidian existence. Whether it's that first night out partying with friends while experiencing your first beer buzz or watching Matusz strike out a hitter on a killer breaking ball; the joy of "piling on some pancakes after a night of beer drinking," or seeing Matt Wieters lay down an elegant tag, that's what we got and get to enjoy for now. The O's go for the series win today. Series wins are birdland.