WAIW Salute: Tia Ayers, ROTY Aficionado

Thursday, June 4, 2009

WAIW Salute: Tia Ayers, ROTY Aficionado

. Thursday, June 4, 2009

Earlier this week, we ran the hilarious short that takes us to the magical world of Whatif, and explores where the real life Henry Rowengartner would be today.  If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend watching it.  It will be the most momentous seven and a half minutes of your life since 9 months prior to your birth.  As part of our continuing coverage of ROTY, we asked a few questions to Tia Ayers, the writer, director and muse for the short.   Now, this would’ve been quite the boring story; however, she was kind enough to actually answer them as well.  Tia’s credentials are nothing to sneeze at, so we put on our journalist hat (as opposed to the normal, dumb-blogger hat we typically sport nowadays) and pretended to be a credible.  Read the full interview after the jump.

WAIW:  First of all, can you provide us some background on who you guys are, where you are based out of, and any other shameless promotions that you can think of?

Tia Ayers:  I'm a stand-up comic, writer and director who recently moved to Chicago, but I grew up in L.A. I co-wrote a Lifetime movie that aired in 2008 called "Mom, Dad & Her." (Editor’s Note:  This stars Jan from The Office.  Despite it being dramatic in nature, I can only hope that the title is fit into the film and Michael comes out of nowhere with a killer “that’s what she said.”) I also worked in reality television as a story editor on "The Girls Next Door" and "High Maintenance 90210" for E! as well as "Beach Patrol" for Court TV.

In addition to performing stand-up comedy, I make short films with my sister Shannon Ayers for our website, Babies From Heaven.  

WAIW:  Everyone I have shown the Rowengartner short to has loved the clip.  How did you come up with the idea and who are the stars?


TA:  Last June, actually exactly a year ago this week, when I was still living in L.A.,  I was at a party and struck up a conversation with a comic named Josh Cheney from Chicago that transplanted to L.A., who I had met a few times before. Josh had been at a Dodgers-Cubs game at Dodger Stadium earlier that day. As we talked more about Chicago and baseball, I couldn't help but think that he looked like a grown-up Henry Rowengartner. A few days later, I started thinking about Henry Rowengartner and where he would be today. I realized that he'd probably be around the same age as Josh. So I asked him if he wanted to do a short film/documentary about where he is now. He was interested so I started working on it.

Matt Taylor, who plays Mac Diamond, is an actor that I've worked with a lot.  He is also originally from the Chicago area and loves Chicago sports teams. He also is a great improviser so I wanted to work with him again.


: ROTY seems to have struck a cord with people, though it is really quite bad.  What do you think the draw of this movie is?


TA: I think the movie strikes a cord with people because it's sort of the epitome of the American dream. I think every kid who plays baseball dreams of doing it professionally. The first "pro" game I ever went to as a kid was an Iowa Cubs game in Des Moines, Iowa (my mom is from Des Moines). I remember thinking that I wanted to be a pro baseball player one day - I was pretty disappointed to find out that girls don't play pro baseball. Then you combine that with the Cubs history as reputation as lovable losers and it just adds to the fantasy. I think the fact that Henry's entrance to Wrigley totally mirrors Dorothy's entrance to Emerald City just goes to show that this movie is almost dream-like. Yes, I have many problems with holes in the story, but all in all, it's just supposed to be a feel-good type of movie. 


WAIW:  Certainly there are some issues with the plot.  When we first talked about ROTY on the site, the comments section had quite the debate concerning some of plot holes of ROTY (such as Henry not knowing the head coach of the Cubs and the owner of the team not knowing how much a hot dog costs).  What are your thoughts on these and have you noticed any other glaring errors in this otherwise sound plot?


TA: Henry not knowing the head coach is silly but maybe there's an explanation. Maybe Henry doesn't recognize him because they wear ball caps and he never got a close look at his face. He's probably never seen the manager out of uniform so he doesn't place him? Also, for a guy named Sal Martinella, the manager doesn't look that Italian. Weird that they would send out the general manager and not a scout. 


As for the owner not knowing how much a hotdog costs, it just goes to show how he's been letting his nephew have too much control. That and the idea that doesn't pay attention to money and doesn't realize how much the fans are being robbed. I also got the feeling that he suffered from a bit of dementia. 


Having watched this too many times, I have also noticed several other errors / holes / oddities. 

  • When Henry's mom tells him to go do the laundry in the first act: He goes downstairs, loads the laundry and has a fantasy moment where he pretends he's pitching. If you notice, he's actually throwing the socks into the dryer, not the washer.

  • When Chet the Rocket Steadman throws his arm out at the end of the last game in the movie: He's holding his arm and is unable to throw home. So he runs home and tags the runner to get him out. If you watch the scene closely, you'll see that he either falls right on the same arm that he hurt or collides with the runner. I haven't watched it in a while, but he would have been in so much pain, I don't think he would have been able to get up. Then when he sits down and Sal tells him, "I'm saving you for the play-offs." Chet then tells him that he let the arm go. Instead of showing concern for his arm or getting him a doctor, Sal says, "Will you at least wait till next year before you take my job?" Seriously?! That's what's on the manager's mind right now? Martinella really thinks that a pitcher with no managing experience at all is capable of taking his job? And just because Steadman is this beloved player doesn't mean that he's qualified. Was Ryne Sandberg up for manager when he retired? If Chet was going to be offered a job, it would be pitching coach. And he'd probably start in the minor leagues. A better line would have been, "I'm looking for someone to replace Brickma. You interested?" 

  • The floater? Come on, Heddo would have hit the crap out of that ball.

  • Soooo ridiculous that when Henry rips the tape off his glove and sees that it was his mom's that he is not only able to spot her in the stands, but that they are able to hold a conversation with each other despite all the screaming fans. They're practically whispering, yet they can hear each other.

  •  Jack Bradfield was a jerk, but Mary did sign the Yankees contract. How did they get out of that one?

  • The final game is for the NL East title (which I know would still have been Chicago's division in 1993) but I'm very curious to know how it was possible for them to go on and win the NLCS and the World Series without Steadman or Rowengartner. Maybe there should have been a sequel about those amazing series and how they got through them.

  • The epilogue of the film has Henry back playing little league. How is this possible? Henry already turned pro. It's not like LeBron James could leave the NBA and decide to play college ball next year. If Henry's team wins the league title, I hope the other teams/coaches bring the issue to the little league board and have them stripped of the championship. 

  •  In the beginning when he suits up for his first pro game, his uniform and hat doesn't fit him. They wouldn't have got his measurements beforehand?

  • Not sure if it's a rule or not but at one point Martinella sends Steadman out to talk to Henry on the mound. I've never seen a player not in the game sent out to talk with the pitcher. Does anyone know if this is allowed?


I won't get into the balks and delays and all that during the last game. I think everyone has probably thought about or discussed that to death.

WAIW:  Wow.  People have gone into less detail for their dissertations.  How many times have you had to watch ROTY?

TA:  I have seen the movie waaaaay too many times. I remember seeing the movie at the theater when it first came out. Then I probably watched the movie (or parts of it on TV), two or three times. After I decided to make the short, I think I watched it by myself twice. Then I got together with Josh and Matt and the three of us watched it together about three days before we shot the short so I could point out things that I wanted them to discuss and they found some things to riff on too. I kind of scripted it like a Christopher Guest movie. Going into it, we knew Henry's attitude would be someone who is kind of sick of talking about his life on the Cubs, but at the same time desperately holding onto it because it was the greatest few months of his life. We also had the radar gun and Henry's training (tripping on baseballs) planned out. But other than the opening and voice-overs by Mac Diamond, there was no set script.

After we shot the short, I had to import clips from the film into my editing program. Because I had some problems with that I ended up seeing the last half-hour of the movie an additional 4 or 5 times. I was sick of it.


WAIW:  Certainly more than your share.  Having seen it so many times, do you have a favorite moment?


TA:  Hmmm. It's hard to say a favorite moment. I think the lines that are really memorable just make me cringe over how bad they are. For example, I really hate the "funky butt-lovin" shout that the doctor makes when Henry breaks his nose. When the boys are at lunch and they see Becky and the Henry's friend George says, "Milk has sure done that body good", I groan.

I love the John Candy scenes.


The scene where Henry shoots the Diet Pepsi commercial is one of my favorite moments. The fact that those commercials were so popular and overplayed made for a funny observation on fads back then. If Henry Rowengartner had been real, I could totally have seen him being in one of those commercials, even though it would be completely ridiculous.


Also, I honestly think relationship between Henry and his mom is well done. Despite the corny scene at the end where they have that heart-to-heart during the last game, I think their relationship comes off honest, complex and well-developed. It's a kid's movie but you can see that there's some definite backstory and baggage in their storyline.


WAIW: Complex storylines, developed characters.  With so many great baseball movies out there, I’ve often thought about what my “fantasy” team would be, comprised solely of fictional characters.  Who would make your team?


TA:  Good question. (Editor’s note: OH YAAAA!) There are actually a lot of baseball movies I've never seen (Major League, Little Big League), and the ones that I have, it's been so long so I'm not good at this. But other than the players from the Rookie of the Year Cubs (Steadman, Rowengartner, Stan Okie i.e. Neil Flynn), I would have to include Montgomery Brewster and Spike Nolan (John Candy) from Brewster's Millions. Brewster's Millions is one of my favorite movies of all time. I think it would be a perfect double feature for Rookie of the Year. You have the Cubs connection (the only major league team Brewster ever played for was the Cubs), John Candy was in both films. Let's make that happen!

WAIW:  You mentioned that you are originally from L.A.  Given the dedication to a movie such as ROTY, I would have to assume you bleed at least a little Cubbie blue.  Are you a Cubs fan, and, if so, why?

TA: Yes, I'm a Cubs fan. Growing up, the games were always on WGN. Also I spent some of my childhood in Des Moines where the AAA team (Iowa Cubs) play, so I have memories of going to those games. Unless you grew up as a huge White Sox or St. Louis fan, it's hard for me to understand people that HATE the Cubs. I got to go to Wrigley Field for the first time last year and it was amazing.  My sister, Matt Taylor (Mac Diamond), his girlfriend and l flew in from L.A. to see a game. It just so happened to be the game that clinched the NL Central Title for the Cubs. I had chills running down my spine for the last three innings of the game. It was incredible - one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

WAIW: That was a great moment.  John was fortunate enough to be at that game also.  Of course, at that point, we all had dreams of a soon-to-be-won World Series.  What do you think will happen when the Cubs do finally win it again?

TA:  Funny you say that. I really thought it was going to happen last year. And after creating this whole Rowengartner Curse mythology, I was actually thinking about how it might hurt the short because one of the major things about my short is that Henry is convinced that the Cubs haven't won since 1993 (according to the movie) because he's not on the team. He says there's a curse on the Cubs and they won't win the World Series again until he's back on the time. Well, if the Cubs had won, his theory would have been proved wrong. So even though I was totally bummed out that the Cubs lost, the only saving grace for me was that it allowed me to build a case for the Rowengartner Curse. 


As far as what would happen if they won. It's bound to happen someday (look at Boston). I hope it does happen, but I think, especially for Cubs fans, it would be like living in a Bizarro World.

WAIW:  A Bizarro World that I want to be a citizen of.  Alright Tina, thank you so much for your time.  Before we end, any last plugs you want to give yourself?

TA:  In addition to the aforementioned short films that I write with my sister, I write for The Daily Blank, a Chicago-based satirical website. I'm also the Point Person for the Sports Section.

I also write a blog as Henry Rowengartner that chronicles his hopes and struggles as he tries to get back on the Cubs.


KD said...

That was fantastic. Thanks WAIW!

wolfie said...