Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Greatest Sports Movies in the History of the World (Part 1)

When I think of sports movies, I often times think of the absolutely atrocious ones first.  Any Given Sunday, The Replacements, and Balboa are a few stink bombs that I can think of off the top of my head.  I know if I spent a little more time on it however, the list would be far greater.  The reason for this is that Hollywood is not composed of sports minded people.  Think about it, how many athletes at your old high school were also the leads in the school play?  How many of the movie industry’s leading men top 5’7 or weigh in over a buck seventy-five?  How many of the best directors watch Pardon the Interruption on a daily basis?  How many starlets could tell you the difference between a wide receiver and a tight end without thinking about what goes down in San Fernando Valley?  I’m going to guess the answer to all those questions is somewhere between zero and very few.  As a result, we have to suffer through movies like The Scout and Sunset Park in hopes that we find that rare needle in a haystack like Hoosiers.
All hope is not lost though.  On rare occasions, someone strikes gold and restores our faith in the sports genre.  In these instances, I am like a kid in a candy store because two of my favorite hobbies, sports and movies have perfectly combined into one.  What follows is my take on the greatest sports movies of all time.  It is supported by personal opinion, childish ramblings, and gratuitous use of not so good analogies.  Box office numbers, script analysis, awards, film critic reviews, and other facts were not taken into account for fear of sounding biased.  You’re Welcome.     

10.  Rudy

Good Despite Notre Dame Factor
I can’t believe that I am putting this in my top ten due to my proclivity for hating everything about the Notre Dame mystique and for how much most Domers annoy me.  Yet the story of Rudy, if you take the University of Notre Dame out of it and sub in say…………any other school, is a good one.  An undersized, un-athletic, and unintelligent kid beats all odds to play (well, mostly run scout team) for one of the most storied college football programs of the 20th century.  He does this through sheer guts, determination, and his magic hobbit powers (Wait no, that’s a different Sean Astin flick).  In doing so, Rudy is able to inspire all white, 5’8, hundred and nothing linebackers, that their dreams of playing D1 college football could in fact be a reality for a solid thirty seconds, if they are able to get enough people to feel sorry for them and if they are willing to let their brains get beat in on a daily basis.
The Hollywood FactorFrom what I heard, Dan Ruettiger was a typical, annoying, overbearing walk-on, who everyone on the team actually despised.  Even Joe Montana (a key member of the team that Rudy played on), claimed that Rudy was considered a joke, as opposed to the inspirational figure that the movie makes him out to be.  Hollywood decided to portray “Rudy” in a different light, but we all know what the real Rudiger must have been like.  He is the guy who probably went one hundred and ten percent during half-speed walk-throughs to make the starters look bad.  He is the type of guy who would dive after a ball that he had absolutely zero chance of getting (mainly because he is a half step too slow) in hopes of having some praise dropped on him from a coach or two.  And he is most definitely the guy who wore Notre Dame Football gear EVERYWHERE he went both during his college years and forty years after so that everyone would know that he played for the Irish.

The Vaughn and Favreau angleWithout this movie, John Favreau and Vince Vaughn (who had a small role) may have never met and we would not have the privilege to see one the greatest comedies of all time, Swingers.  We also may be without one of the most underrated comedies of all time, The Break-Up.  Who knows, maybe without this chance meeting on set and without the success of Swingers, the career of Vaughn takes a completely different path, leaving him as a slightly coked up extra in LA as opposed to an extremely coked up leading man who gave us Old School and Wedding Crashers.  Both the movie and narcotic industry just wouldn’t be the same without Rudy, and thus why it was able to sneak into the top ten.

If you like football, improved race relations, and thirty-year old actors playing high school kids, than this is the movie for you.  Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Herman Boone is one of the greatest fake coaching performances in the history of the Cinema, just behind Gene Hackman in Hoosiers and the late James Gammon in Major League.  Avon Barksdale (better known as Wood Harris), ranks right up there with Charlie Sheen for his performance as Julius on the “Wow, I bet that guy could actually play in real life” list for actors.   An added plus to this movie is that I think most men who watched it at the time struggled mightily with their desire to be a prophetic versus their aversion to not wanting to sound like total creeps.  Let me put that another way.  I guarantee that if you watched this movie with a group of guys in 2001, the following conversation took place at least once. 

Creep or Prophet #1:  “I know this is going to sound weird, but in about ten years, Coach Yost’s daughter is going to be sooooooooooo hot.”

Creep or Prophet #2:  “Dude, I was thinking the exact same thing, but thought you guys might think I was a pedophile if I said it out loud.”

Creep or Prophet #3:  “Well, we still do think that, but the thought definitely crossed my mind as a well.”   

As it turns out, the transformation of Hayden Panettiere from child star to Hollywood’s latest “it” girl in a matter of seven years, made all of you look like modern day Nostradamus’s.  But that doesn’t take away from the fact that you still look like poor mans’ Roman Polanskis as well.
Struck by Lightning Twice?:  The thing that always bothered me about Remember the Titans was the fate of star linebacker Gerry Bertier.  Towards the end of the movie, Bertier gets hit by a car and is paralyzed from the waist down.  You end up feeling absolutely sick to your stomach, even as his team rallies around him to win a state championship.  Then, a bombshell is dropped on you in the “Where are they now?” portion of the credits.  Not only was he paralyzed in high school from a car accident, but ten years later he was in another car accident and was killed by a drunk driver.  Talk about a guy who couldn’t catch a break.  That’s kind of like getting the chicken Pox twice or following up kidney disease with a dose of Pancreatic Cancer.  Pretty sure he would have traded in that Virginia state football championship for a chance to walk again and surely for a chance to live again.

This is the ultimate guy cry movie.  If you can honestly say that you did not shed a tear during this movie, then I can honestly say that you have no soul.  Brian’s Song is the story of the relationship between the late Brian Piccolo and legendary Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers.  This movie does not get a whole lot of fanfare, but it definitely belongs in the Top Ten.  If you have not seen it, I suggest you do so immediately.  If there is one thing I know, it’s that I love Brian Piccolo, and after watching this movie, I’d like to think that all of you would love him too

Am I HomerI used to think that my affinity for Brian’s Song was due to my love for the Chicago Bears.  That statement is partially true, because in all reality, they could have made a movie about the life of Bears punter Brad Maynard, staring Corey Feldman, and I probably would have thought it had Oscar potential (both for best picture and a best actor nod for Feldman).   After I forced my college buddies who had never even heard of the movie to watch it though, I realized that my biases did not get in the way of my judgment.  Their laughter, tears, and praise indicated to me that it was truly an upper echelon sports movie.

This movie taught us two things.  One, we learned to love the phrases “Show me the money”, “You’re my ambassador of Kwan”, and “You had me at hello.”  Two, we realized that Tom Cruise was not a complete wack job yet (yet being the operative word) and that he had at least another four years before completely falling off the deep end and earning that title.  While technically, this movie doesn’t  belong under the category of sports movie because let’s face it, it’s more of a love story with some sports mixed in. It is included on the list because of the true to life character that is Rod Tidwell.  Cuba Gooding clearly did his research before filming, probably spending quality time with the likes of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, or whoever their mid-nineties prima donna wide receiver equivalents were.  Like Ocho Cinco of today’s real NFL, Tidwell was able to straddle the line of being hated and being adored better than anyone the real or pretend sports world has ever seen.  While audiences hated everything that Rod stood for, they couldn’t help but pull for him and in the end, he finally gets rewarded and shown the money, leaving moviegoers walking away happy.

Who was the Casting DirectorKi-Jana Carter made the most famous “we thought this guy was going to end up being a whole lot better than he really was” cameos in the history of sports movies.  While I understand that he was a big name at the time, the Matt Millen like foresight looks pretty funny watching the movie fourteen years later.  It would be like seeing a guest appearance of twenty year old Tiger Woods on an re-run of 7th Heaven with Revrend Cambden trying to teach his kids the importance of family values or it could maybe reach the ironic status of your son or daughter watching a sixteen year old Brittney Spears speak about the importance of saying no to drugs in an outdated video that they saw in health class.  Each of these, in hindsight, would pale in comparison to Ki-Jana being the poster boy for “star in the making” that he is made out to be in Jerry Maguire. 

Tom Hanks may have won back to back Oscars for his roles in Forrest Gump and Philadelphia, but it was his character of Jimmy Dugan that earned him the most respect from me.  Surprisingly, the baseball scenes of this movie were really well done and the whole concept of women’s baseball intrigued me throughout.  The national pastime paired with attractive women in short skirts had me wishing I was a draft dodging beer vendor or club footed Rockford Peach scoreboard attendant during the war.  Even man hating Rosie O’Donnell played a solid third base and was a perfect complement to Madonna’s less than ladylike approach to the game and the nightlife.
I pretty much enjoyed everything about this movie and thought it was both highly entertaining and educational.  It falls under the My Cousin Vinny and Shawshank Redemption category of movies I can’t turn off if I see them on TV.  Considering the fact that I think My Cousin Vinny is in the top five comedies of all time and Shawshank is a top five overall movie of all time, only ranking this movie number six on my list may seem a little low.  However, my argument would be that movies 6 through 3 are somewhat interchangeable.  Having to put them in order would be like Snoop trying to rank his favorite Hos or Drew Peterson trying to assign a grade to his best premeditated murder.  It’s impossible.  Therefore, League of Their Own comes in at number six for no other reason than it provided a perfect and unforced segue to a much needed and long overdue Drew Peterson joke.
IMDB flipped my world upside downFrom 1992 until about 2006, I thought both Dotties (old and young) and both Kits (ditto) were played by Geena Davis and Lori Petty.  I figured that they just had really good make up on to make them look old, because if you looked closely, they looked identical to the younger versions of themselves.  When I discovered IMDB (International Movie Database), I was absolutely shocked to find out that older Dottie was played by actress Lynn Cartwright and older Kit was played by actress Kathleen Butler.  Never before, during any other movie was there a similar situation in which I got duped in such a way.  While earlier, I took a shot at the casting director for Jerry Maguire for their Ki-Jana Carter gaffe, the casting director of A League of Their Own should be rewarded and recognized for finding such great matches for Davis and Petty.  What better way to do that, then give her (ELLEN LEWIS) a shout out on a world-renowned, globally read, and award winning blog like THE SOX MARKET.  Congratulations Ellen, and thanks to IMDB for providing me with this little nugget of information and also for helping me find Ellen Lewis’s name.

Stay tuned for movies 5 through 1 next week and don’t be afraid to vote on your favorite sports movie in the poll to the right.  If you are smart, you might be able figure out what will be in the top five.  If you aren’t smart, I hope you continue to eagerly wait in anticipation.


  1. Loved everything about it except of course your placement of Remember the Titans. That should be up there with Any Given Sunday as worst movies of all time. "left side. strong side. left side strong side" "na na na na na na na na hey hey hey goodbye" HORRIBLE!!! So CORNY!

  2. Good stuff, and thanks for commenting on my blog. God Bless.

  3. Ironically, I referenced A League of Their Own twice today! Such a classic...

  4. You've already blown it, my friend. "Jerry Maguire" should be #1. You'll probably sell out and choose the obvious (and boring) "Hoosiers," forgetting that you're from Illinois and the movie is about Indiana basketball. Love Gene Hackman, the rest of the movie is just too white.

    And leave Tom Cruise alone (I feel like the "Leave Britney alone" guy). If you're an atheist, then you can call Tom Cruise "a complete wack job." If not, then you are just as crazy as he is, with the belief in, you know, shit that isn't actually there. Don't be so predictable and lazy as to degrade one of the greatest actors of all-time, and certainly one of the most entertaining because you disagree with his religion - which is crazy, I admit, but in the same boat as the rest of them.

  5. BW, thanks for reading the blog. Apparently, I'm just not as big of a Cruise fan as you are. I will try to be less Lazy in the future and will be sure to make mental notes to make sure my next post meets your standards.

    1. In order to like "Hoosiers", you have to be from Indiana (Check)

    2. Movies about white guys are no good(Check)

    3. Calling someone a "wack job" means you are referring to their religion. (Check)

    4. I'm lazy (Check)

    I think I got it. Thanks for the advice.

  6. So glad you included A League of Their Own. Slightly disappointed that you left out one of the most well-know lines from that movie, "There's no crying in baseball!"