For Love of the Game follows the on-again/off-again relationship between star pitcher Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) and journalist Jane Aubry (Kelly Preston). The entire relationship between the two main characters was one annoying Shit Test.
The title of the movie is appropriate for this book. Chapel wasn’t only good at the game of baseball; he had natural romantic game that enticed Jane into his bed after their first date.
They met at the side of the road after he noticed her car broke down. He exhibited plenty of humor, confidence, and helpfulness as he came to rescue the “damsel in distress.” After fixing her car, he offered her a daytime adventure by taking her to his baseball game. At the end of the date, over a romantic dinner, he asks how she likes to be kissed, to which she completely blushes and surrenders.
The next day, she wakes up beside herself, literally, because Chapel is getting ready to leave the hotel to go to work, telling her to stay for as long as she needs. He writes down his number on a postcard.
Welcome Shit Test.
Jane: What is this, a souvenir?
Chapel: It’s my number.
Jane: Billy, you don’t have to give me this. [False declaration of strength.]
Chapel: I know I don’t have to do this, but I wanted to. [He kisses her, quickly calming her down without judging her negatively for her sarcasm or doubt.]
They set a date for another month when he’ll be back in New York.
Jane: If you don’t show up, if you leave me standing in that bar, it’ll ruin this. [What “this” refers to, I’m not sure. This lady rarely makes sense.]
Chapel: Well, I guess I’ll just have to show up. [Sweet, direct response.]
A month later, she’s the one who almost stands him up at the bar. Finally, she shows up outside the hotel and piles shit upon shit with a seemingly senseless interrogation.
Jane: Billy Chapel!
Chapel: Why do you use both of my names?
Jane: So I know what I’m up against. I had a great time with you last month, it’s not that—don’t get me wrong, it’s just, I don’t mean to sound like anything or anything, but I don’t do that. I’m not saying anything about it, but I don’t do it, not since I was in college. [Not so articulate for a journalist.]
Chapel: What don’t you do?
Jane: I just…you know what. I think I should just go home. [Testing to see how badly he wants her there, and for what purpose.]
Jane: Because I just don’t “screw” like that! And I hate that word! It’s just that I don’t go to hotel rooms with men I don’t know. Billy, I can’t be a groupie.
Chapel: You’re not a groupie, Jane. You don’t look like one. You don’t act like one. I don’t treat you like one. [Another sweet, direct response, but finally he gets a bit flustered. Not that I blame him.] Wasn’t I a gentleman?
Jane: Yes, I know. But you pull up out of nowhere, you start my car, you make me laugh, and the next thing I know I’m at a baseball game that you win. It’s so surreal. Little boys buy cards with your picture on them.
Chapel: They buy those for the gum! [Great humor. She breaks and laughs.]
Jane: God dammit!
Chapel: God damn what?
Jane: I like you. [I would too after that wisecrack.]
Chapel: So what’s the problem?
Jane: I’m really not at all the person you think I am. And I think it would just be more fair for both of us, for me to just leave.
Chapel: Well, forget it. [At least he doesn’t say, “You crazy, bitch.”] They laugh. I mean, what’s the difference. I mean, what? What’s the difference between the real you and this other you?
Jane: The real me is plain, uninteresting, and hates sexy underwear because it’s really uncomfortable! [She wants to know he’s comfortable with her un-sexiness.]
Chapel: He laughs. All right, so the real you’s a bummer. [He’s not fazed.]
Jane: This can’t be what you were looking for from this evening. I mean, be totally honest with me.
Chapel: That day I fixed your car, Jane, I got lucky. [He gives her reassurance.] And maybe you got lucky too [and he asserts his value and lets her feel comfortable desiring him]. I mean, I know we don’t know each other so well, but that’s what I was hoping. I mean, we could walk, like—we could just walk.
Jane: She smiles. Walk? I could walk. [With his offer, he assures her she’s more than just a fuck-friend.]
Chapel: I mean, we don’t have to talk so much. [Nice one!]
And they walk to a romantic love song under the street lamps of Manhattan.…
They continue seeing each other, but not without more Shit Tests the size of icebergs. When Chapel meets Jane’s teenage daughter, she also gives him Shit Tests to find out where he stands with her mom. Shit Tests are hereditary!
However, throughout their relationship, he passes many Shit Tests except for the ultimate one: he never gives her a solid commitment.
Throughout the entire movie, she continually admits her fears of getting involved with a man she perceives as a player—a baseball player committed more to the game of baseball than to the game of love with her.
She constantly tests his priorities.
His obsession with baseball is a constant source of insecurity for her. Finally, after five years of this shitty relationship, she announces, teary-eyed, that she’s leaving him, saying: “You don’t need me. You and the ball and the diamond, you‘re perfect. A perfectly beautiful thing. You can win or lose the game all by yourself.”
Notice how she didn’t ask him to choose baseball over her. She knew better, and that’s not what she wanted; his passion for baseball intrigued her. She simply wanted to know that she was a top value in his life.
Chapel could have avoided countless Shit Tests had he made her feel like she inspired him to become a better player, that he loved her as much—if not more—than baseball, and that he needed her because she nurtured his success. Making a woman feel like she’s a man’s muse will often secure her love and patience as he works hard at his career.
Next time you watch a movie/television show or read a novel, pay attention to the dynamics between couples. While Hollywood movies are often not accurate representations of real life, art generally imitates life, so you can be sure that Shit Tests are an indelible part of life.
Get more insight into the Shit Test with Survival of the Shittest by Olyvia Apple.