English romantic poet and literary critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge is credited with coining the phrase “suspension of disbelief.”
The term describes the requirement a work of fiction places upon a theoretical audience member or reader to willfully accept as truth certain fantastical or implausible elements contained therein.
This aesthetic imperative enables us to become invested in alternate realities we know to be false, and use the shadowy truths and broad archetypes we find so appealing in fiction to simplify the dizzying complexities of our own empirical reality.
Now, let’s be honest: Major League is as far-fetched a film as they come. The parallel universe created here—familiar to us because it speaks a well-known language of baseball, complete with well-known team insignia—provides the framework for the ultimate underdog story.
Fueled by the multiplication of unlikely events, the narrative pays the debt that every suffering baseball fan believes he’s owed.
But in a much larger sense, it follows the blueprint drawn up by the deepest desires of humanity.
We take tremendous comfort in the story because it expands the limits of what Man, even in his most wretched state, is capable of.
The elevation of the lowest common denominator empowers the human imagination to reach heights untalked-of and unseen, fulfilling our eternal hope that the lives we lead eventually break loose from the shackles of mundane monotony we’re so accustomed to wearing.
Prince Hamlet tells us that fiction holds the mirror up to nature; and so it does.
But fiction also increases our appreciation for the beauty of nature’s most improbable realities.
The 2010 San Francisco Giants were branded as “misfits” and “outcasts” early in their playoff run. Against all odds, they became World Champions, triumphing twice over teams they weren’t supposed to beat.
The formula is familiar. The Cleveland Indians in Major League provide a bare-bones model for misfit champions that our own beloved Giants flesh out.
Only when we move from the fictive to the real, we transform our implicit contract of “suspended disbelief” into the power of “sustained belief.”
So let’s get started, shall we?