Up For Grabs (2005, Mike Wranovics)
In 2001, while America was still in shock from 9/11 and pretending to be unified at home, busily wondering why the rest of the world hated us, two guys in San Francisco set out to show everyone. Barry Bonds hit his 73rd regular season home run, setting a new record. One fan, Alex Popov, caught the ball. A different guy, Patrick Hayashi, ended up with the ball. And since this is America, the first guy sued.
Up For Grabs is the story of two guys and a ball. This documentary follows the court case and media hoopla surrounding that 73rd home run ball, and pokes fun at sports fanatics while examining our obsession with material possessions, celebrity, and litigation.
I’ve always thought grown men in sports jerseys look like fools. I’m a sports fan who never wears a jersey to a game and doesn’t collect autographs, but even so, I can appreciate the attraction of owning a piece of history. I can also understand the attraction of the money to be made by selling that piece of history. But this documentary shows the lengths that people will go to, not just for the ball itself or the money involved, but for their 15 minutes of fame–“Thank you, Andy Warhol,” someone wryly remarks at the beginning of the film.
Interviewing witnesses to the catching of the ball, local sports media, and of course the litigants themselves, Hayashi and Popov, Mike Wranovics has crafted a thoroughly amusing documentary, even for non-baseball fans. Indeed, it might be easier to laugh at these guys if you aren’t a baseball fan. Otherwise, you might have to answer tough questions like “How far would I go to get a record baseball? Would I bite some guy in the leg?”
By the end of the film, it’s clear that everyone involved is tired of the drama, even the participants, one of whom makes the ludicrous claim after the suit is settled that “It wasn’t about the money, it was about history!” Wranovics clearly has more sympathy for one than the other, but there are no heroes in this piece–not even Bonds, who barely appears. Perhaps now, years later, Popov and Hayashi can look back and laugh at themselves, their headline-grabbing antics and sour attitudes, because other people sure will. In as sports-mad a city as Denver, one should be able to find plenty to like about “Up For Grabs.”