I am a huge fan of documentaries, but I’ll admit, I’m not a sports person. I mean, I’ll have a great time at any game, but I’m not a follower of sports. Most names and starts will be completely lost on me, but massive names like Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, and Jackie Robinson are ones that will always resonate. So why is it that I’ve never heard of Yogi Berra? In fact, most of my friends and family had never heard of him, and after watching “It Ain’t Over” at the Lavazza IncluCity Festival, I hope that changes.
Before I begin with the film, let me say how much I actually enjoyed how the distillery had been transformed for the festival. From free food and drink samples, free live music, to a chance to explore Hamilton watches, it felt well-organized and well-thought-out. I was however taken aback by two things:
1.) Tickets had to be exchanged for wristbands on the third floor of a building that didn’t appear to have an elevator which can cause a MAJOR problem with accessibility
2.) While setting up seats, one of the organizers loudly asked high school volunteers, “Why is everything a disaster today?!” When literally the seats were just a little too far apart. I’m not saying that running a festival is easy, but viewers see everything, and the overall experience can also play a part in the viewing experience. I will also say, it was an unpleasant moment when our wireless headphones, which connected to the film’s sound, all of a sudden stopped working, but the film kept going. It was only a couple of minutes, but it was near the start of the film, so I felt that I missed some important details about the story. The people around me were also not happy, but once the sound was fixed and we started diving into the film, all was forgiven.
Back to the film itself. Let me start off by saying that, as a non-sports person, this film did an excellent job in telling the story of Yogi Berra, an incredible human being and baseball player, and lead off with the same question I had, “Why is that more people haven’t heard of Yogi Berra?”
Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1925, the son of poor Italian immigrants Lawrence “Yogi” Berra began his baseball career with the New York Yankees in 1946. He went on to become one of the greatest catchers in history, winning 10 World Series championships (and he had the rings to prove it). Berra later managed the Yankees and the New York Mets, becoming just the second manager to lead his teams to the World Series in both the American and National Leagues. One of Yogi’s gifts to the world is his “Yogi-isms”, simple phrases that actually said a lot, like the incredibly famous “It ain’t over till it’s over” and “I didn’t really say everything I said.”
Buy why Yogi? Well turns out when he was getting serious about baseball, a friend said he resembled a Hindu yogi while waiting to bat.
It amazed me that Yogi volunteered to enlist in WW2 efforts, and was there for the Invasion of Normandy, a pinnacle point of the War. After he came back home, he was then signed by the Yankees, but no one took him seriously at first because he didn’t look like the “All-American” Player. Yogi silenced them with his talents at bat, and later as a catcher. He also worked well with his pitchers, most notably helping Don Larsen achieve a rare perfect game in the 1956 World Series. This man was clearly a legend.
The film went on to explain that Yogi’s fun character and his Yogi-isms may have led him away from being recognized by the public as a baseball legend. In fact, it is believed that the character Yogi Bear came from Yogi Berra, but when Berra tried to sue he was stopped because “he didn’t trademark his name”. Actor Billy Crystal, friend of Berra shared something that Yogi once said to him, “I am not a cartoon”.
The one thing that really struck me about Yogi however was his kindness. He was a supporter of the first black baseball players like Jackie Robinson when the colour barriers broke in baseball, not only being kind to them but being friends with them too. He was also an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, which is incredible when you consider what time periods Yogi lived in, and where/when he grew up.
The film did an absolutely incredible job highlighting a mighty man, one who began fading into the background. Thankfully, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the USA.It is through moments like this that will see the rise of Yogi’s name again, alongside this documentary.
This film is more than a baseball movie, it’s a blueprint for living life. Forgive others, accept all, try your hardest, and have fun in life. I feel really privileged to have seen it, and to have done so in the open air of the Distillery District. I would recommend two things: 1.) Go see “It Ain’t Over” wherever possible and 2.) Buy a ticket to the IncluCity Festival, it’s a wonderful experience and definitely worth the ticket price.
Watch the trailer for It Ain’t Over below
To check out the full schedule for the ICFF Lavaza IncluCity Festival, click the link here
[Review and photography by Shan Fernando]