I Was Kelly Leak

Patrick J. Sauer
12 min readJan 28, 2021

This originally ran at The Classical in 2013. I dusted it off, updated it a bit, and present it here because I think it captures Mom, Dad and my childhood in their own unique ways. Thinking a lot on those days gone by.

R.I.P. to all three.

Down five runs to the Yankees, the Chico’s Bail Bonds Bears have loaded the bases with the anti-murderer’s row of Miguel, Ahmad, and Ogilvie. Up to the plate steps the center fielder, number three, the best athlete and baddest mother in the area, Kelly Leak. Opposing manager Roy Turner decides to go all Buck Showalter v. Barry Bonds and have Leak intentionally walked. Beloved crusty drunken Bears coach Morris Buttermaker screams, “You’re putting the tying run on first base, you imbecile…”

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I have no idea how many times I’ve watched Bad News Bears except to say that I know just about every line and still got a distant but familiar preadolescent tingle at the moment we first lay eyes on Amanda Whurlizer selling maps to star’s homes. The movie came out in 1976, when I was five, and while the Bad News Bears is not 100% kid-friendly, it’s clean if not-at-all-sober, and so I was allowed to watch it at a young age. Basically, I’ve been revisiting the Bears’ follies throughout my entire sentient life.

The Bad News Bears isn’t Goodfellas, Dr. Strangelove, or Apocalypse Now, other movies I’ve seen multiple times that deepen my understanding of what movies can be and do with each viewing. It’s a straightforward sports tale built around the underdogs: a fat kid, a gross eater, and a would-be tough guy with a major Napoleon Complex who ends up going head first into a garbage can. It has more in common with childproof junk like Little Big League than it does with, say, Sugar, but what it lacks in nuance it makes up for in heart, soul, public child abuse, and a truer-to-life ending than I’d ever wish for my own kid. Bad News Bears is a “classic,” not a classic.

But I love it, and I bet you do to.

Yes, Bad News Bears retains it watchability in part because it is a product of 1970s Hollywood. It’s dank and dirty and mean and wildly funny in a way that present-day studios, loath to offend any quadrant, would never let into, let alone out of, production. No movie today would ever get made with Tanner Boyle summing up his…

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