Ray’s mission is admirably selfless until the end. His dad instilled the gospel of Jackson in him, but building the field isn’t about honoring his father; it’s about doing right by a phenomenal baseball player who arguably got a raw deal from Major League Baseball. If you’ve seen John Sayles’ excellent “Eight Men Out,” you know that the White Sox players’ intentionally lost the World Series out of contempt for owner Charles Comiskey’s miserly ways. It was about the money.
When Ray and Jackson first meet, the latter waxes poetic on the pure joy of the game before concluding that he would’ve played “for nothing.” This dovetails with Ray’s actions; he’s not doing this for profit, he’s doing it because The Voice’s invocations keep paying off in miracles great and small.
Ultimately, Ray discovers that he is making amends to his father, which is why dudes have a good cry everytime they watch “Field of Dreams.” But did Ray do anything wrong? We know that he was at loggerheads politically with his dad, but if the latter was a Vietnam War-supporting Nixonite, Ray’s antipathy was fairly well earned. Now that we’re living in a time when brainwormed Americans are rabidly supporting authoritarian politicians, Ray’s regret feels somewhat misplaced.
Peter Travers panned “Field of Dreams” for being Reagan Democrat hokum, an apologia for the protest era, but Ray isn’t doing this for the man he shut out; he’s yearning for the man he never knew. When he sees the fresh-faced incarnation of his father (Dwier Brown), he’s awestruck. “He’s got his whole life ahead of him, and I’m not even a glint in his eye.” Ray risked everything to build this field, and he’s been gifted the best version of the man who raised him.
There is an icky capitalistic element at play via Terence’s suggestion that Ray should charge visitors twenty bucks to watch the purest form of (pre-desegregation era) baseball, but you figure the other greats will find their way to the field. On the whole, Robinson cuts through the political and appeals to our better angels, and how wonderful it felt to sit in the stands of a ballpark with your dad before this unremittingly cruel world wrecked everything.