I’ve got a hot heart for Stove League: Review

I’m really not into sports. I don’t know the rules, the teams, the people. The only times I’ve screamed for a game were the 2010 Olympics when Canada’s mens hockey won against our USA neighbours, then when the Toronto Raptors took home the first NBA championship for the country. But baseball? I’ve only seen 2 hours of one game on TV. Nonetheless, Stove League had me caring about a baseball team for the first time in my life.

The drama ran its standard length of 16 episodes, one hour each. But for some unknown reason, it felt short. I was confused when it was over, not because the ending was strange or terribly crafted, but because I wanted more. And I wanted more not because of dissatisfaction with the ending, but I wanted more because I didn’t want to let go of Dreams yet.

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More and more, Korean dramas produced in part, and distributed, by Netflix have been converting to a season model. Endings are left wide open for the possibility of more. While Stove League did not follow through on that trend, I believe it’s the first drama to air in the recent years to actually deserve, and warrant, a second season.

All the bows were tied but I wanted to see more of Dreams. The cast had convinced me to root for every single one of them, even Lim Dong Gyu whom I had spent the first 10 episodes resenting. I wanted to see what the future would bring for them and how they would continue to conquer their trials.

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I hope one day in the future, you won’t have to smile with pursed lips anymore, Baek Seung Soo.

We can’t talk about the drama without talking about Manager Baek, whose face is the only one on the poster. Nam Goong Min was an impeccable choice for this role. He is versatile and has picked his fair share of strange and not easily likeable characters, but yet has the ability to make them feel like a friend. As Manager Baek, he was stoic and reserved in his expression, but his eyes told the whole story. And his character’s transformation taught me a lot about trust and not assuming responsibility for everything in life.

The second outstanding performance for me was Kwon Kyung Min, the CEO, portrayed by Oh Jung Se. I saw him for the first time in When the Camellia Blooms, where he expertly portrayed a petty, useless, narcissist. In this drama the cards flipped, and he convincingly transformed himself into man with lots of anger, but no dignity. His redemption arc was quick, but instilled a deep satisfaction. While I hated his character’s actions, more than anything I had wanted his revenge.

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I haven’t felt revenge this sweet in a long while. Good for you Kwon Kyung Min.

This drama certainly did not change my life, but I would recommend it to anyone who loves a story featuring a character who is insanely good at their job. In Stove League, you don’t just get one, you get 20 of those characters.

On the poster for Stove League, the tagline says “이것은 야구 이야기가 아니다,” meaning “This is not a story about baseball.” And it isn’t.

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Beautifully exemplified by the second training game against Vikings that Dreams tossed in order to help Yoo Min Ho overcome his Yips.

It’s a story about how people’s hearts will burn with passion when they have to fight for what they care about. It’s about how your best work is done when you refuse to settle. It’s about trusting your teammates, learning to be vulnerable, and standing up for the weak and powerless.

Some people may balk at Stove League not having a romance narrative, but it explores a kind of love that will unite an entire nation. And that to me is a worthwhile story to tell.

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