You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Zen of Bobby V

"The Zen of Bobby V" is an entertaining film on the colorful Bobby Valentine, a former major leaguer who has made a place for himself in the alien baseball culture of Japan.

With: Bobby Valentine. (English, Japanese dialogue)

“The Zen of Bobby V” is an entertaining film on the colorful Bobby Valentine, a former major leaguer who has made a place for himself in the alien baseball culture of Japan. While there’s plenty to celebrate in this sprightly docu by tyro student helmers Jonah Quickmire Pettigrew, Andrew Jenks and Andrew Muscato — and the articulate, eccentric and ultra-accessible Valentine is a filmmaker’s dream — it is his interaction with his new Asian homeland that makes this docu, which aired May 13 on ESPN2, so enjoyable.

Valentine’s checkered career in the States is briefly summarized, with emphasis on his leading the Mets to the 2000 National League pennant (followed by a last-place 2002 season) and his genius for offending the front office. Valentine enjoyed a brief stint managing Japan’s Chibe Lotte Marines early in his career, but this initial expatriate escapade didn’t stick.

After being fired by the Mets, Valentine returned to Japan in 2004 and has remained ever since, despite offers from Major League franchises to return to the U.S. Docu, following Valentine and the Chibe Lotte team over the 2007 season, illustrates why Valentine has chosen to stay in Japan.

Valentine shares with Japanese fans and players a selfless dedication to the sport that has all but vanished from American baseball — and makes the manager the unquestioned authority in the locker room. At the same time, the Japanese carry this respect to what other countries might deem civilized extremes. After a loss during which followers weep and tear at their hair, the fans then solemnly turn and pay homage to the rival winning team.

Somehow Valentine’s flamboyant, outspoken personality dovetails perfectly with the frenzied yet ritualized decorum of Japanese sportsmanship, while his openness to the culture — learning the language, eating the food, greeting the people wherever he goes — makes him extremely popular in a normally somewhat xenophobic country. Filmmakers trail along after Valentine as he cycles around the countryside, past signs for hamburgers and beers named after him. Valentine speaks out about the necessity of stopping the attrition of top Japanese players to American teams.

Helmers Pettigrew, Jenks and Muscato also catch their hero posing for endless endorsements, tirelessly fulfilling his interactive role as baseball icon. Given Valentine’s utterly cozy relationship with Japan, filmmakers could retitle their perfectly turned puff piece, “Found in Translation.”

The Zen of Bobby V

Production: An ESPN presentation of an ESPN Original Entertainment/Throwback Pictures production. Produced by Daniel Silver, Connor Schell, Andrew Muscato. Executive producer, John Dahl. Directed by Jonah Quickmire Pettigrew, Andrew Jenks, Andrew Muscato.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Pettigrew, Jenks, Muscato; editing, Pettigrew, Jenks, Muscato; music, Chad Kelly. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Encounters), May 3, 2008. Running time: 86 MIN.

With: With: Bobby Valentine. (English, Japanese dialogue)

More Film

  • Bo Burnham34th Film Independent Spirit Awards,

    Bo Burnham Wants 'Eighth Grade' Star Elsie Fisher to Direct Him

    Bo Burnham won his third award in three weeks for “Eighth Grade” at the Spirit Awards and said he wants the film’s 15-year-old Elsie Fisher to direct him. “I’d love to work with Elsie again,” Burnham said backstage after winning the Best First Screenplay trophy.  “She wants to direct so I’d love to switch roles [...]

  • Nicole Holofcener: 'Can You Ever Forgive

    Nicole Holofcener: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' Director Was Cheated Out of an Oscar Nomination

    “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” screenwriter Nicole Holofcener offered a blunt assessment of the lack of Academy Awards recognition for director Marielle Heller, and women directors everywhere. “I feel Marielle was cheated and I feel badly about that,” Holofcener said backstage after winning a Spirit Award for screenplay with Jeff Whitty. Holofcener was originally attached [...]

  • Stephan James as Fonny and Brian

    2019 Indie Spirit Awards Winners: Complete List

    The 2019 Independent Spirit Awards took place on a beach in Santa Monica, Calif., with Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” taking the top prize for best feature along with best director for Jenkins. Ethan Hawke and Glenn Close took the prizes for best male lead and best female lead, respectively. Bo Burnham took [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Hated It! How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Gripe About the Oscars

    Watching the Academy Awards telecast, then grousing about it the next day, has become a hipster parlor game — it’s what the Complete Oscar Experience now is. The complaints are legion, and we all know what they are, because we’ve all made them. The show was too long. The host bombed. His or her opening [...]

  • Boots Riley arrives at the 34th

    Boots Riley: Spike Lee Yelled at Me After 'BlacKkKlansman' Criticism, But We're Good Now

    “Sorry to Bother You” director and musician Boots Riley, who wrote a scathing criticism of Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” for its positive representation of law enforcement, said that he and the “Do the Right Thing” auteur are good now. But it took some time (and drama) to get there. Last year, Riley called Lee’s Oscar-nominated “BlacKkKlansman” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content