This week we're going to change things up a little and talk about entertainment based on sports rather than sports themselves. So, what is your favorite sports movie? Why?
A loaded category, full of movies that are fully about sports (Rocky,Bull Durham) or tangentially about sports (Victory, Rocky IV, Die Hard? Probably Die Hard).
For me, it's still Hoosiers. Sure, there's a corniness to it, and at times a slight racism (notice how many of the rival teams are black, and just how lillywhite Hickory is). But the story of redemption, of David and Goliath, of team over individual, and the acting itself resonates again and again. It's seldom the case where teams that shouldn't be on the same court as other teams not only get to play those teams, but get the chance to beat them.
Hoosiers captures that, and in a way that isn't colored by patriotism, or politics, or professionalism, or anything else. It's just kids trying to beat other kids, where no one's the bad guy, but the underdog wins. It's a nice story, and it's my favorite sports movie.
I took a few film classes in college during which I studied some of the most seminal works ever committed to celluloid. Battleship Potemkin, M, Citizen Kane, Rear Window, the Seventh Seal. Based on that foundation, you'd think I could do better than Happy Gilmore.
But I'll never forget my dad taking my brother and me to see this idiot-fest back in ‘96 while my mom hosted a baby shower. I was 10 years old and developing a taste for goofball humor, already a hardcore Simpsons and Monty Python fan (I still thank my parents for not shielding me from this sort of salty, character-building humor during my formative years.) So Happy Gilmore came at the right time for me. Granted, it was a forebear of bro-comedies that dominated the 2000s, but it predated the exhaustion of Adam Sandler's "lovable hothead" character. So it was still acceptable to appreciate a Sandler film, especially one as low-budget as Happy Gilmore.
But for my money, the peripheral characters are what fortify Gilmore: The wooden-handed Chubbs, the hyperbolically destable Shooter McGavin, and Virginia Venit, played by Julie Bowen who apparently doesn't age. God, that dream sequence where she's holding beer pitchers while wearing black lingerie made me feel...things. Ben Stiller's psychotic senior home orderly Hal L. is a minor role of legend. And a few stellar cameos--namely Bob Barker and an incredulous Lee Trevino--round out a perfectly stupid, quotable and, dammit, lovable film.
Oh, and it's about golf.
Let me establish this. I know absolutely nothing about hockey.I like the sport, and I'm learning about it from a friend during this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. But, being a southerner through and through, hockey is relatively foreign to me. However, I must say that my favorite sports movie has to be Miracle. Being the patriotic American that I am, I love anything that involves us kicking another country's ass in anything (especially the defunct Soviet Union). I was 11 the first time I saw this movie but I got absolute chills when Coach Brooks asked his team who they played for and Mike Eruzione responded, "I play for the United States of America!" Some people may find it corny and cliche, but that's the exact attitude I look for in a player. Play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.
And of course, we can't forget the most memorable hockey game in United States history! I'm not for pre-game speeches, real or Hollywood. But Coach Brooks speech before the game started kinda got me, "This is your time. Their time is done. It's over. I'm sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Screw ‘em. This is your time. Now go out there and take it!" That singular speech really encapsulates the general attitudes in the United States at the time with the Cold War still going on.
So yea, it's kinda cheesy at points, but honestly what sports movie isn't a little cliche? No matter how many times I watch Miracle it gives me chills.
Raging Bull is my favorite movie I can think of that is sports-related. This film is more about family conflict and aging than sports per se, but it's a powerful movie, one of those dramas that frequently makes you viscerally uncomfortable. You literally get sick to your stomach and want to stop looking but can't as you watch Jake's life deteriorate into mediocrity as he allows his jealousy and resentment to consume a promising career. Like other Scorsese films, Raging Bull is brilliantly shot, especially the boxing scenes. And of course you've got great performances from the classic duo of De Niro and Pesci in this movie.
I know that there are probably better sports movies out there, but my favorite has to be The Sandlot. A lot of the reason for that is the strong sense of nostalgia that the movie evokes for me. Part of that nostalgia is because I watched it and loved it as a kid, long before I actually loved sports. But (for me at least) The Sandlot is great at pushing the right buttons to make you long for whatever your childhood equivalent of playing baseball with the other kids in the neighborhood was. It's a story about a bunch of little boys being idiots and getting into trouble, but it's also a story about someone being accepted into a new group and having that one really great friend that changes their whole life. That's a story that a lot of people can relate to and putting it against the backdrop of a kid learning about and falling in love with baseball is perfect.