If you have been watching postseason baseball, you know that Springsteen’s “Land of Hopes and Dreams” has been a staple on TBS’s coverage. Many of Springsteen’s diehard fans do not like the fact that their favorite singer has been commercialized in this way, but Posnanski cannot get enough of the Boss and baseball. Here is a taste of his recent column:
“Land of Hopes and Dreams,” I think, is kind of a longer version of the “BUT TIL THEN” theme. The song is not about arriving in that land of hopes and dreams. It’s about getting there. Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine. And all this darkness past. That’s the hope. That’s the dream. But the song ends before the train arrives. The song is about how to get through today, now, while big wheels roll through field where sunlight steams. We do it by sticking together. We do it by moving leaving behind regrets and sadness, by taking in some of the sunshine. We do it by believing.
In other words, the song has nothing whatsoever to do with baseball — certainly the words don’t. But I think Caryn is right, I don’t think it’s the words that make the song good. It’s the music. It’s the hopeful backbeat. It’s the choir singing. It’s the saxophone. I’m sure a lot of people at this point DESPISE the song. I understand that. But I love it. I hear baseball in it. Springsteen is a baseball fan. He played baseball in high school, he shows up at Yankees games pretty often, his friends say he talks baseball often. He’s written other songs that were more directly about baseball … well, one in particular. He wrote “Glory Days,” which features that friend who was a big baseball player back in high school — though I’ve never particularly liked that song, not least for his use of the noun “speedball.”* He also wrote “The Angel,” where baseball cards poke through the spokes, but I’m not crazy about that song either.*I will say I have had numerous Springsteen experts explain why speedball works better than fastball in that particular case. I don’t really remember the reasons, which probably gets at the heart of how I feel about that argument, but I do remember they were adamant.
I once heard the great director Martin Scorsese talk about how the key to using music in a scene is to make certain that words DO NOT match up to the scene. That is to say, you don’t want to want a song about dancing playing in a scene about dancing. You don’t want a song about killing playing when there’s killing going on. The connection between scene and song should be deep and ineffable. If you think about the best musical scenes in Scorsese movies, this really is true — think about how that scene in “Goodfellas” soars, the one where the piano part of of “Layla” plays and the camera follows the murderous wreckage after the Lufthansa heist. The two have nothing to do with each other. But now, when I hear Layla, I feel that chilling scene. Scorsese heard it in the music.
That’s how I feel about “Land of Hopes and Dreams.” I hear baseball in there. I can’t really be more specific than that, probably because it’s just what I WANT to hear. The thing I like about baseball is that it’s there all spring, all summer, into the fall, every day, sometimes awesome and sometimes boring, and there’s always tomorrow. Look at this postseason. We had those wild-card games, neither one particularly good, though the Cardinals Braves game gave us the infield fly rule to talk about and argue about. Then we had those four division series, and they were amazing, extraordinary, we had Oakland refusing to yield until Justin Verlander pushed them out, we had the heroic 40-year-old Raul Ibanez come off the bench like something out of the movies, we had the Cardinals come back from oblivion again, we had the Giants take three straight in Cincinnati to come back from the brink, it was thrilling and bumpy and wild.